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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Fourteen babies have contracted herpes following MBP since 2000, according to city health officials. Two of those babies died, and two more suffered brain damage.

The health department issued its latest health warning related to MBP on January 28. An infant was diagnosed with a rash on his genitals five days after his circumcision. When cream failed to stop the spread of lesions, he was diagnosed with neonatal herpes and admitted to a hospital for treatment.

A health department spokeswoman declined to say whether a consent form had been signed in the most recent case or whether the infant’s parents had told officials the mohel’s name. “We are currently investigating the case and won’t discuss its details,” the spokeswoman said.

Health regulations stipulate that a mohel must keep copies of consent forms for one year. Asked whether the health department had ever requested that a mohel provide a copy of a signed consent form, the department spokeswoman said, “We are not commenting beyond what was in the [January] Health Alert.”

The ultra-Orthodox community vehemently opposed the consent form regulation when it was introduced in the fall of 2012.

The form asks parents to verify that they are aware that the city’s health department advises against MBP and that there is a risk of transmission of “herpes simplex virus infection, which may result in brain damage or death.”

The regulation was put on hold during its first few months, while a group of ultra-Orthodox organizations — Agudah, the Central Rabbinical Congress of the United States and Canada, and the International Bris Association — sought a preliminary injunction to prevent its implementation. The groups argued that because they do not agree with the information on the consent form, it violates their freedom of speech.

A district judge ruled against the injunction in January 2013, paving the way for the regulation to be enforced. An appeal is currently pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.


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