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Parents often choose to save and store the umbilical blood of their children because it contains stem stells which may be used to treat future diseases. Photo by Gil Cohen Magen
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Ilya Melnikov
Circumcision tools. Photo by Ilya Melnikov

The governor of Vorarlberg has told hospitals run by Austria's westernmost province to suspend circumcisions motivated by religious custom, citing a German regional court ruling that the practice amounted to causing criminal bodily harm.

Markus Wallner says he sees the German decision last month, arising from the case of a child whose circumcision led to medical complications, as "precedence-setting judgment."

He told provincial hospitals Tuesday not to perform the procedure except for health reasons until the legal situation is clarified in Austria.

The decision does not affect religiously motivated circumcisions performed outside hospitals run by the Vorarlberg government, and comes a week after two Swiss hospitals announced that they would temporarily stop performing circumcisions.

On Thursday, the Zurich children's hospital announced that it was temporarily halting circumcision operations. "We are in the process of evaluating the legal and ethical stance in Switzerland," said Marco Stuecheli, a spokesman for the hospital.

"There can be complicated cases where the mother of a child wants a circumcision but the father is opposed to it," he added.

The hospital said it performs only one or two such operations a month.

Meanwhile, another children's hospital, located in the city of St. Gallen in northeastern Switzerland, has also decided to reassess its policy on circumcision.

A senior administrator at the hospital told the local media that a decision on the matter would be reached after the summer vacation.

The German government plans to submit a bill to parliament which would regulate the issue of circumcision and protect doctors who perform them from lawsuits.