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April 15, 2013

Flawed Penn Haredi Circumcision Study Comes Under Fire As Agudah Court Brief Lies

Penn_logoThe two Penn Med Center for Evidence-based Practice members who did the study cited by haredi umbrella organization Agudath Israel of America in a court filing in support of its claim that there is no valid statistical information to back NYC's claims about metzitzah b'peh (the direct mouth-to-bleeding-penis sucking done by many haredi mohels after removing the baby's foreskin), are both Orthodox Jews themselves. In fact, one is closely affiliated with the haredi Philadelphia Kollel.

Penn_logo

In case you missed my exclusive report Friday afternoon, the two Penn Med Center for Evidence-based Practice members who did that study cited by haredi umbrella organization Agudath Israel of America in a court filing in support of its claim that there is no valid statistical information to back NYC's claims about metzitzah b'peh (the direct mouth-to-bleeding-penis sucking done by many haredi mohels after removing the baby's foreskin), are both Orthodox Jews themselves. In fact, one is closely affiliated with the haredi Philadelphia Kollel.

Not only that, the study is an internal practice review, was never published, is not peer reviewed and apparently was done in response to a request from Agudath Israel of America or one of their supporters.

And these two professionals – one an internist with no significant neonatal infectious disease experience and the other health policy researcher who is not a physician or an epidemiologist – did not declare their obvious conflict of interest.

Penn refused to release the study to me and to at least one other journalist who asked for it, and even physicians and researchers have been unable to get it.

But without going into details on how this happened, I was able to get a copy of the study – which is very flawed for the reasons I listed above and because it downplays the issue of lack of cooperation from families of HSV-1 infected Jewish babies and it completely fails to deal with the lack of cooperation from haredi rabbis and mohels.

(If you are required to cook one hot dog for each person occupying your back yard otherwise some of them could possible die or become ill, but no one will admit anyone is actually back there, your windows are all blacked out, your doors are boarded shut, and your house has been enclosed in a cone of silence, you're going to have a hard time cooking the correct number of hot dogs – but that wouldn't be your fault, would it? Agudah, Satmar and the other haredi groups boarded up your doors, blacked out your windows, covered your house in a cone of silence and refused to tell you how many people are in your backyard – and now they want a court to blame you for not knowing the precise number.)

You can read Penn Med's response to my questions about this and see the study itself here.

But Agudath Israel's misuse of a study it calls "independent" is truly atrocious and its lies about teh history of metzitzah b'peh-transmitted illnesses is even worse, as you can see from this small section from its appeals brief:

…One of the essential steps of the bris milah is metzitzah, during which suction is used to draw blood from the area around the wound. See Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat, at 133b. Traditionally, metzitzah is performed using oral suction, in a technique known as metzitzah b’’peh (““MBP””). Many prominent rabbinic authorities maintain that MBP is the proper, or even the only acceptable, way to fulfill the religious obligation. See SA 6-8.…

Lets be clear. These are lies Agudath Israel of America told to a Federal Court judge.

The Talmud makes it clear that that MBP is done for health reasons. Therefore, Jewish law should hold that MBP should not be done today because there is a large amount of evidence that it kills and maims babies – facts Agudah omits from its brief.

Past those lies of omission, Agudah also lied outright:

…MBP is performed around the world, and has been safely practiced for millenia. Mohelim are carefully trained to ensure that MBP is performed in a safe manner. Among other precautions, mohelim do not perform circumcisions if they are exhibiting any symptoms of the herpes virus, such as cold sores; they minimize the duration of the contact, so that it lasts only approximately one second; and they generally precede the procedure by rinsing their mouths with an antiseptic, which in the case of mouthwash has been shown to eliminate the herpes virus in the saliva even of individuals exhibiting symptoms of a herpes infection. See SA 6-7 & 9 n.2; see also JA 19 (Berman Aff. ¶ 20).…

Every statement in this small paragraph is either a lie of omission or an outright lie, starting with the fact that there is no organization that regulates mohels or supervises what they do. Some pick their noses and suck their fingers seconds before removing babies' foreskins; others wear gloves and have autoclaves to sterilize their instruments.

But the biggest lie is that "MBP…has been safely practiced for millenia."

In fact, rabbinic literature and secular accounts are full of examples of MBP killing babies. Here is a sample from the 135 years before penicillin became widely available. Please click to enlarge:

History of MBP Disease Transmission

Agudath Israel of America's entire appeals brief that contans the above lies and the repeated misuse of the Penn Med study as a PDF file:

Download Agudath Israel MBP Brief cites Penn Study

Comments

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Once again, your investigative reporting rules!

But the link you provided at the end comes up with a blank page.

> Not only that, the study is an internal practice review, was never published, is not peer reviewed and apparently was done in response to arequest from Agudath Israel of America or one of their supporters.

Should've been the first clues as to whether or not to ignore it.

Many "scientific" reports authored by "prestigious" academic institutions are not worth the paper they are written on. What matters is the quality of the science. There are so many people with highfalutin titles these days that it is hard for the curious punter to know who is really wise or not. Also, obfuscation is rampant. When important debates come up on various issues, some people will throw everything including the kitchen sink into the mix to confuse matters.

Re. MBP. I repeat...

It is very simple. It should be banned. It is a minhag not a mitzvot. If the health and safety of children is not what Judaism is about in 2013/5773 what is it about ?

Shmarya, you missed a great headline potential: "Penn penis study comes up short."

Yochanan Lavie –

Lol!

"Penn penis study comes up short."

Posted by: Yochanan Lavie | April 15, 2013 at 07:15 AM

Phenomenal !

Luke.

YL, you should write for the NY Post!

Thanks, fellas.

Philadelphia Kollel..... Why does this not surprise me at all.

Maybe you shouldnt read any study that argues with what you hold by? I mean, if there's a study that proves otherwise. Its for sure legit. And if it's like this one. It's automatically garbage. So much for your brains. Or lack thereof. For Christ sake

zs friend –

I think you need to look in a mirror. You are talking about yourself, not me.

Not at all. The reason I read your site at all is in order to be more objective and less subjective. The problem is that I find way too much hate, rather than objective criticism.

zs friend–

Perhaps you should spend some time studying up on conflict of interest declarations and on evaluation bias. Every scientist and physician I know who saw what Penn Med did with study is horrified. The general consensus is that the two researchers should be publicly reprimanded or fired – especially the internist linked to the Philly Kollel. You simply do understand how wrong these two are.

One cannot help but wonder, if the authors of this report that hold MD's were questioned by the state licencing authorities and/or the AMA, would they recant if their medical licenses were in jeopardy?

I'm fairly certain if your livelihood and all that surrounds that degree were in danger of revocation because of your allegiance to a group of pseudo-scientific neanderthals, you would make the decision to withdraw your name and credentials from this publication.

That would tell the story.

AK, they don't face state license being revoked, and the AMA has no power over doctors. What they do face is an ethical misconduct charge by the university, which could result in a reprimand, all the publications they've ever done to be deleted from the scientific literature, and they would lose academic rank, as well as extreme embarrassment in the academic and medical world. Medical and scientific journals would carry the story. As a byproduct, the penis sucking ritual will become big news in the medical and scientific world.

AK, I'm sure they will deny deny deny any wrongdoing. Being frum, lying will not be a problem for them. And no doubt, they will scream antisemitism.

Obviously he's not going to do that.

Mr Rosenberg, thank you so much for this awesome post. When I learned of the Penn "study", I smelled a rat, if only because the names of the authors were not revealed. Thanks to you, I know my hunch was correct.

What the two authors did was to misuse their connection to Penn's Centre for Evidence Based Practice to advance personal goals. In my view, that is grounds for dismissal.

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