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Board Of Health Unanimously Approves Measure Against Bris Suction Practice

Board Of Health Unanimously Approves Measure Against Bris Suction Practice

The city's Board of Health on Thursday unanimously approved a measure requiring mohelim to obtain informed consent from parents before performning a ritual at circumcisions involving oral suction of the wound.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been a staunch opponent of the procedure, which many doctors feel is conducive to infection and which has been linked to the transmission of oral herpes to several babies.

Agudath Israel of America, the Orthodox umbrella group that opposes any restrictions on the practice, known as motzetzi b'peh, is shopping for a lawyer to challenge the restriction on constitutional grounds, The Jewish Week first reported on Tuesday, and some mohelim are expected to ignore it. Those who do not obtain written informed consent with parents acknowledging that they are aware of the risk could face fines.

The nine-member panel, consisting of doctors and other health professionals, received 18 comments from the public on the measure, 11 in favor and seven opposed, the New York Times reported Thursday.

The regulation came on the same day the Board voted to restrict large high-sugar soft drinks.

Metzitzah b'peh is not used in most Jewish circumcision ceremonies, but many in the haredi community still adhere to it. Haredi leaders have resisted calls to replace direct oral suction with the alternative approaches.

The health department's vote represents the culmination of a year of debate surrounding the practice, which was sparked by the death of an infant in Brooklyn last September and the subsequent revelation that a mohel who performed the ritual on the infant had tested positive for herpes. In June, New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley condemned the practice of direct oral suction.

Some 200 haredi Orthodox rabbis in New York signed a statement last week accusing the health department of "spreading lies" in order to pass the waiver measure.

In a statement following the ruling, Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who represents the city's most heavily concentrated Orthodox areas in Brooklyn, Flatbush and Borough Park, said "Telling parents that you require written consent from them before performing religious rites that the mayor finds objectionable thrusts the city deeper into a nanny-ocracy that has dubious implications. This is a deliberate insult to the intelligence and dignity of Orthodox Jews who live in this city."

The Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly applauded the health commissioner's push for parental consent, while the Rabbinical Council of America expressed discontent with the prospect of regulation on the matter.

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