The New York City Board of Health approved the repeal of the city’s mandatory consent requirement for the dangerous, primarily haredi, oral suction circumcision practice known as metzitzah b’peh (MBP).
New York City Repeals Metzitzah B’Peh Informed Consent Requirement
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The New York City Board of Health approved the repeal of the city’s mandatory consent requirement for the dangerous, primarily haredi, oral suction circumcision practice known as metzitzah b’peh (MBP), Newsday reported. After removing the baby’s foreskin, the mohel (ritual circumciser), using his mouth, directly sucks blood from the baby’s bleeding penis.
MBP is an ancient health precaution based on a long-discredited medical theory from the Iron Age before the dawn of the Common Era.
MBP has sickened and killed thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of babies of the centuries and its dangers are noted in rabbinic literature beginning in the 19th Century.
Those dangers caused most Jewish communities to stop doing MBP.
But hasidic communities refused to stop (as did many Mizrahi/Sefardi haredi communities), and the dangerous practice is still regularly employed.
Modern medicine and antibiotics have been able to stop the maiming and death caused by MBP syphilis transmission an transmission of other diseases by MBP, but it has not been able to stop the transmission of Herpes Simplex 1 (HSV-1). HSV-1 is sometimes fatal in small children. It also causes brain damage and can maim children for life.
But instead of banning MBP – the city says doing so would force the practice underground and make things worse – the city mandated a signed consent from parents before MBP could be done on a baby.
The consent form, instituted by the Bloomberg Administration, noted the dangers of MBP causing may hasidim and many non-hasidic haredim to refuse to use it, and the city under Mayor Bill de Blasio did nothing to compel mohels (ritual circumcisers) and parents to comply.
Instead, the city decided to go to a voluntary education campaign in which a city-produced brochure on MBP would be given by healthcare providers to all new mothers in the Jewish community.
This became possible after de Blasio replaced many of the health commissioners with his own appointees.
The vote to repeal the consent form was reportedly nine in favor and one opposed, with one abstention.
Just days before he was elected in 2013, de Blasio promised a large Satmar hasidic voting bloc that he would repeal the informed consent if Satmar would vote him into office.
Update 3:02 pm CDT – Capital New York reported that City Health Commission Dr. Mary Bassett said it wasn't the city's job to protect the children. Instead, its job is only to educate the parents so they can make whatever choices they want:
"There's a difference between ensuring people have information to make an informed choice and the choice that people actually make," Bassett said. "It's our goal to ensure people have information at their disposal. The choice they make remains theirs. Parents are balancing their conception of a spiritual risk as compared to a medical risk and our goal is really to ensure they have information about the medical risk. We're incapable of directing that calculus."
Except that is not true legally or ethically. Government is mandated to protect weak and vulnerable citizens who cannot protect themselves, be they 8-day-old baby boys or 89-year-old nursing home residents. While the board of health primarily educates, it does not exclusively educate – it also passes regulations to protect public health and takes steps that sometimes include enforcement actions.
But when the steps that should ethically and legally be taken bump up against a powerful voting bloc a corrupt and spineless mayor is beholden to, the voting bloc wins and the kids lose.
A respectable city would ride de Blasio and Bassett out of town on a rail. But that is not likely to happen because very few New Yorkers care enough about haredi kids to do it.
Meanwhile, no one outside the closed confines of the de Blasio administration knows if the city has identified the latest mohel who gave HSV-1 to a baby or, if it has, if any enforcement action has been taken against him. Bassett won't say. De Blasio won't say.
And now that the new MBP protocol is in place it may not matter, because the inept (and arguably corrupt) de Blasio made a verbal deal with haredi rabbis that calls on them to find out who these infected mohels are and turn their names over to the city. But because nothing is in writing and because the deal is voluntary, haredi rabbis don't really have to follow it. And while that's just fine with Bassett and de Blasio, it shouldn't be fine with you.
Update 3:47 pm CDT – Gothamist puts the BoH's repeal of the MBP informed consent this way:
"…New York City is a safer place today for herpes-ridden mohels to put their mouths on young boy's freshly-circumcised penises, thanks to the Board of Health and Mayor de Blasio…"