New York City Rejects Info Request on Circumcision Parental Consent Forms

Refuses To Give Forward Details on Metzitzah B'Peh

Tradition? Rabbi Avrohom Cohn performs a bris at a synagogue in Brooklyn’s Boro Park. He says he performed the controversial metzitzah bpeh ritual, but did not get consent from the parents.
courtesy of avrohom cohn
Tradition? Rabbi Avrohom Cohn performs a bris at a synagogue in Brooklyn’s Boro Park. He says he performed the controversial metzitzah bpeh ritual, but did not get consent from the parents.

By Paul Berger

Published April 28, 2014.
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New York City has denied a second attempt by the Jewish Daily Forward to obtain information about consent forms gathered under a regulation that warns parents about metzitzah b’peh, a controversial circumcision rite.

The city also refuses to say whether such forms even exist.

A regulation that came into force at the beginning of 2013 compels mohels to have parents sign a health department form warning that mohels can transmit herpes to infants during MBP, as the rite is often known.

During the rite, the mohel places his mouth on the infant’s penis to suction blood from the circumcision wound.

The health department says 14 infants have been infected in the city as a result of MBP since 2000. Two of those babies died and at least two others suffered brain damage.

MBP is practiced mostly by ultra-Orthodox mohels and is most prevalent in New York’s ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.

Under the health department regulations, mohels must keep a copy of the consent forms, signed by an infant’s parents, for the first year after a circumcision with MBP is performed.

As the Forward reported recently, some ultra-Orthodox mohels refuse to comply with the city’s regulation.

Since the health department began enforcing the regulation, the city says two babies have been infected with herpes after undergoing MBP.

In February, 2014, the Forward filed a request under New York State’s Freedom of Information Law, asking if the city had ever asked a mohel to provide a copy of a signed consent form and, if so, from how many mohels the city has requested forms.

The Forward also asked to see copies of consent forms with the parents’ names redacted.

The city denied the request in March, while refusing to say whether the health department had ever collected such forms.

“While not acknowledging whether the Department has requested or received any consent forms,” the city’s legal counsel wrote, releasing such forms would constitute an “invasion of privacy” and a violation of the city’s health code.

The Forward appealed the city’s decision on March 26.

Although the city was required under the state’s Freedom of Information Law to respond within 10 business days, it did not respond until about 20 business days later.

On April 23, an article appeared on the Forward’s website highlighting the city’s silence. That same day, the city denied the Forward’s appeal.

The health department’s legal counsel wrote that under Freedom of Information Law, the city is not required to reveal whether it has or has not collected certain information.

But, the counsel continued, if the city has collected consent forms from mohels they would be “confidential” and cannot be released.

Contact Paul Berger at berger@forward.com or on Twitter @pdberger


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