January 22, 2013 – The Health Department established a written consent form that mohelim and others who perform direct oral suction as part of Jewish ritual circumcision are required to obtain from parents. The new rule is part of the Department’s ongoing effort to make parents aware of risk to infants of contracting herpes from the practice.
The City approved a new rule requiring consent in September 2012, but enforcement of the rule was suspended pending a legal challenge. A Federal judge ruled that the City can now enforce the rule.
“The City's highest obligation is to protect its children. It is important that parents know the risks associated with the practice,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said. “Parents considering ritual Jewish circumcision need to know that circumcision should only be performed under sterile conditions, like any other procedure that creates open cuts, whether by mohelim or medical professionals, and that direct oral suction poses a risk of serious infection with the herpes virus.”
Health Department investigations of newborns with herpes virus between 2000 –2012 have shown that 12 infants contracted the herpes virus when mohelim, or ritual circumcisers, placed their mouths directly on the child’s circumcision wound to draw blood away from the circumcision cut. Eleven of these infants were hospitalized, at least two developed brain damage, and two babies died.
The form is available on the Health Department’s website. Hospitals and healthcare providers have received information about the rule that they can provide to parents.