N.Y. Rescinds Consent Forms for Oral Suction Circumcision

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A mohel is surround by other rabbis and relatives as he holds a boy at his circumcision.Credit: AP

Signed consent forms will no longer be required in New York City for people who perform an ultra-Orthodox Jewish tradition known as oral suction circumcision, the city Board of Health decreed Wednesday.

The vote to approve Mayor Bill de Blasio's information-only plan resolved a dispute with the community. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration had instituted the consent rule; rabbis opposed it.

The consent requirement was impractical and did not have much "material impact," said health board member Pamela Brier, president of Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, which has a heavily Jewish patient base and has been very involved in the issue.

A board member who abstained from voting, Dr. Lynne Richardson, countered that the consent requirement addressed "a very significant public health concern."

Health officials have linked 17 cases of infant herpes since 2000 to the ancient ritual of sucking blood from the wounds on infants' penises. Herpes can lead to brain damage or death.

"This is a very difficult issue for the board," conceded board member Dr. Deepthiman K. Gowda.

"It is our core responsibility to protect the health of New Yorkers," Gowda said. "At the same time, we have to institute educational policy that actually works. ... It was deemed that the rollout of our previous policy actually eroded the relationship we wanted."

The city has already distributed 20,000 printed copies and 22,000 email copies of a new brochure in English and Yiddish, according to the health commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett.

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