Consent form which acknowledges potential health risks is no longer required for those who perform the ultra-Orthodox Jewish ritual, which people commonly refer to as oral circumcision suction, the city Board of Health declared Wednesday.
The main objective of the city Board of Health was to renounce this policy that placed religious leaders and health officials in opposing camps over a tradition that is well know in the Jewish community and that dates as far back as over two thousand years.
Officials make sure that the information about possible health risks caused by the oral suction circumcision is put forward to the public, even if signed consent forms are no longer needed.
Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, said on Wednesday that the consent requirement turned out to be inefficient and thus people could do without it. She added that: “The Board of Health, from the start, aimed to ensure that parents had information so that they could make informed decisions.”
Each year a number of approximately 3,000 babies from New York City undergo the practice of oral circumcision suction, which is just a small number of NYC’s Jewish population. Metzitzah b’peh, the ritual’s original Hebrew name, requires the rabbi to suck the blood from the baby’s circumcision wound.
Health officials consider that since 2000 at least 17 cases of herpes in infants were linked to the practice, although not all cases were backed up by DNA testing. As a result two babies suffered severe brain damage and two others died.
In 2012, due to health concerns the Health Board was lead to authorize a requirement for signed consent forms either from the baby’s parents, or from legal guardians.
Rabbis were against the new consent form, saying that it was violating their religious rights. They refused to believe any connection between the practice of the ceremony and the spread of herpes amongst circumcised infants, arguing that before the procedure they thoroughly wash their hands and mouths and that they have even done herpes testing to make sure nothing bad would happen.
Rabbi Romi Cohn of Brooklyn insists that he has performed approximately 35,000 oral circumcision rituals and all of them were safe. He is happy with the decision of dropping the signed forms, saying that oral circumcision is an important tradition amongst Jewish people.
As of now brochures in English and Yiddish, containing additional information, have been distributed in large numbers of up 44 thousand printed and emailed copies across New York City, in order to raise awareness.
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