Saturday, September 12, 2015

NYC Health Board revokes law requiring consent forms for Jewish male circumcision 

The New York City Board of Health voted on Wednesday to relax guidelines on a contentious circumcision practice followed in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, as Mayor Bill de Blasio wanted.

The board of health voted to repeal a regulation that requires parents to sign a form before the ritual, metzitzah b’peh.

This new decision from the New York City Board of Health reverses an old policy which had put health officials against the religious leaders over one of the most ancient traditions still in practice today. During the ritual, an individual, also known as mohel, performs the circumcision.

The vote to end the policy has been seen by some as a potential policy shift by Mayor de Blasio, who first proposed to terminate the consent form in February.

The city will now hand out pamphlets to parents highlighting the risks of the procedure, which has been linked to 18 cases of herpes in babies since 2000.

Health officials say that at least 17 babies in NYC have been infected with herpes since 2000 because of the ritual, and at least two have died because of it. Israeli doctors studying the herpes infection also believe it may be the cause of the noticeably higher number of learning disabled children in Hasidic communities. Once this was passed, many rabbis opposed the policy, saying it was an imposition on their religious rights, and told those in their community not to comply.

Rabbi Romi Cohn of Brooklyn told the AP he is happy the Board of Health overturned the requirement.

“Oral circumcision is part of our tradition”, he said by phone after Wednesday’s vote. “We’re confident that the right place to deliver sensitive educational information about medical risk is in a secular health care setting, either before or at the time of birth, where a health worker can deliver information to the mother and father”. “It is our core responsibility to protect the health of New Yorkers”, said Dr. Deepthiman K. Gowda of the board.

For example, Dr Lynne Richardson, who abstained from the vote, comments, “A very significant public health concern is served”.

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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