July 9, 2014
Doctor cleared after complaint over
by Tristin Hopper
Orthodox Jewish practice of sucking
blood from baby's penis at circumcision
A Toronto doctor who employs the traditional Jewish practice of orally sucking blood from a baby’s penis following circumcision has been cleared by Ontario’s physician review board after an anti-circumcision activist filed an official complaint accusing him of religious bias and “sexual motive.”
The ritual of orally suctioning blood from a circumcision wound, sometimes through a plastic tube, is known as metzitzah b’peh and is practised almost exclusively among Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jewish circles.
“There is no information to support the … contention that there was a sexual motive to the method by which the [doctor] performed ritual circumcisions,” reads a decision document published Tuesday by the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board.
The Board ultimately concluded that the original complaint, which was linked to a Seattle-based anti-circumcision group, was obviously meant as “a broadsided attack on the practice of circumcision.”
“I’m pleased with the decision, but I’m not going to comment,” Dr. Aaron Jesin, a family practitioner who has performed more than 10,000 circumcisions, told the National Post by phone on Wednesday.
Metzitzah b’peh has become the subject of heightened controversy in recent years after it was linked to numerous cases of herpes infection in New York City.
According to New York City health officials, the ritual practice infected 11 boys with neonatal herpes between 2004 and 2011, with fatal implications for two of them.
As the operator of the Jesin Circumcision Clinic, Dr. Jesis performs ritual circumcisions upon request, but told investigators he has a “strong personal stance” against performing metzitzah b’peh with direct oral contact, and said he prevents the risk of infection by using a sterilized plastic tube to suction the blood.
Reviewers later concluded that this provided “adequate protection” against infection.
In a 2012 edition of the Canadian Jewish News, Dr. Jesin was quoted in an article about oral suction.
“If you believe metzitzah b’peh is … [Jewish law]” he told a reporter, “then you will feel very strongly that it’s the only way.” [And the relevance of this to the practice of medicine is...?]
‘It was obvious that he and the Applicant were using the complaint procedure to launch a broadsided attack on the practice of circumcision, whether ritual or non-ritual’
Within four months, the article caught the eye of a complainant identified only as “D.S.” In a letter to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, he alleged that Dr. Jesin was no longer fit to practise medicine “due to personal bias surrounding his religious beliefs.”
The letter added “although it might be presumptive for me to say so, I will say to you that given the nature of this breach, one cannot rule out sexual motive.”
In follow-up letters, D.S. would go even further, calling for a full-scale inquiry into Ontario’s “ritual amputation activities,” and claiming that the practice was counter to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
A further submission by D.S.’s lawyer claimed that no certified medical doctor should be allowed to engage in the “unnecessary amputation of healthy genital tissue from a child who cannot consent to the procedure itself, let alone consent to a sub-standard version.”
Although the letter-writer is never named, his lawyer identified himself as the executive director of the group Doctors Opposing Circumcision, a position long occupied by Seattle lawyer John V. Geisheker.
A detailed review by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario — as well as its provincial watchdog — ultimately dismissed the complaints against Dr. Jesin outright, claiming the whole process had been meant as a kind of political protest.
“It was obvious to the Board that he and the Applicant were using the complaint procedure to launch a broadsided attack on the practice of circumcision, whether ritual or non-ritual,” read Tuesday’s decision document.
[So? Would a complaint about cruelty to animals be ruled out because it came from a vergetarian group?]
The College, in particular, wrote “this is not the proper forum for addressing the issue of male circumcision.” [Then what is?]