A 2-week-old infant died at Brooklyn’s Maimonides Hospital in September after contracting the herpes simplex virus Type 1 during the practice of metzitzah b’peh, otherwise known as “oral suction,” or the suctioning of blood from the circumcision wound directly by mouth. “The state has a compelling interest in protecting the health of children and needs to step in on an emergency basis to make sure this practice is halted immediately,” Marci Hamilton, a professor at Cardozo law school and an expert in church-state matters. “The DA should step in and this mohel should go to jail [for a felony].”
According to The Jewish Week, the DA is looking into this awful, unnecessary death:
Jerry Schmetterer, the spokesman for Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes, told The Jewish Week Monday, “Our Crimes Against Children Bureau is looking into this situation. I would not assume what any possible charges would be.”
How did Agudath Israel of America respond to news that another baby had died from herpes simplex 1 transmitted by metzitzah b'peh? ? Like this:
…David Zwiebel, executive vice president of the ultra-Orthodox umbrella group Agudath Israel, noted that in 2006, the New York State Department of Health and a “broad array” of Orthodox rabbis signed off on a Circumcision Protocol Regarding the Prevention of Neonatal Herpes Transmission.
“We have no information whether the mohel [in the new case] took the precautionary hygienic steps outlined in the DOH Protocol, whether an investigation was done to determine the cause and source of the child’s infection, or what any such investigation may have determined,” Zwiebel said. “Until we know those things, I think it is premature for us — or anyone, for that matter — to offer public comment.”
The state guidelines were the subject of heated controversy at the time they were signed, as doctors and other medical experts claimed that the practices they outlined — including requiring mohels to sanitize their hands and rinse their mouths with mouthwash — did nothing to guard against the transmission of the herpes virus. Indeed, even the city’s health commissioner at the time, Dr. Thomas Frieden, expressed serious reservations about the sufficiency of the guidelines.
In fact, the website of the city’s Health Department currently notes that “there is no proven way to reduce the risk of metzitzah b’peh” and that, while “a mohel may use oral rinses or sip wine” before performing the ritual, “there is no evidence that these actions reduce the spread of herpes.” The site also states that “[a] mohel who takes antiviral medication may reduce the risk of spreading the virus during [the ritual], but there is no evidence that taking medication eliminates the risk.”…