New York Fails To Enforce Consent Forms for Metzitzah B'Peh Circumcision Rite

2 More Infants Contract Herpes But No Sign of City Action

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By Paul Berger

Published February 05, 2014.
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It has been more than a year since New York City introduced a regulation requiring mohels to obtain written consent before performing a controversial rite that risks infecting infants with neonatal herpes.

The regulation put Mayor Michael Bloomberg at loggerheads with the ultra-Orthodox community. And it promises to be a headache for his successor, Bill de Blasio, who has said that he would maintain the consent form requirement.

Since the regulation was introduced, the city’s health department has warned of two cases in which infant boys contracted herpes following metzitzah b’peh, a rite in which the mohel places his lips directly on the circumcision wound to suck away blood. The most recent case was at the end of January.

Yet the city health department will not say whether it has ever enforced its own regulation by requesting copies of consent forms from a mohel. Nor has the city ever issued a warning to a mohel for failing to comply with the regulation.

A health department spokeswoman said the department has not warned or fined any mohels, because it “has not received a complaint about the failure to seek consent.”

That’s despite a case of neonatal herpes in the spring of 2013, in which health officials said the infected infant’s parents did not sign a consent form. In that case, the parents refused to name the mohel who performed the circumcision.

“It’s a real problem with the regime,” said Akiva Shapiro, a lawyer who represents several medical groups that support the city regulation. “There’s essentially no enforcement, and I’ve seen certain people in the community that practices MBP [metzitzah b’peh] thumbing their noses at the regulation for this very reason, saying it will never be enforced and it can’t be enforced.”

Rabbi David Zwiebel, executive vice president of America’s largest ultra-Orthodox umbrella group, Agudath Israel of America, said he had no hard evidence on compliance. However, Zwiebel added, “I’m guessing that the answer is, some mohelim are complying and some are not.”


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