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The Missing Link?

Eytan Kobre

Just as the Jewish nation ushered in its new year, New York City’s Board of Health repealed a requirement that parents must sign a controversial consent form for metzitzah b’peh to be performed at their son’s bris. The Board’s action capped off years of efforts by both the medical and religious community to show a scientific correlation between the practice and a potentially fatal virus. Was a connection ever discovered?

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

For many years now, medical and legal controversies have swirled around the practice of metzitzah b’peh (MBP), which some halachic authorities regard as an essential part of the bris milah. Some medical authorities claim that MBP caused several infants to become infected with a potentially deadly virus following their bris, while others respond that there is no evidence that MBP was the culprit in those cases or even that it is a transmission mode of the virus. In 2012, New York City enacted a regulation requiring parents to sign a legal consent form before their infant could have MBP at his bris. Last year, however, that regulation was challenged in federal court, and after the plaintiffs prevailed, New York City rescinded the consent requirement on September 9 this year. Mishpacha spoke with three individuals who served as expert witnesses in the federal litigation about what lies ahead for the practice of MBP in New York City and beyond: Dr. Daniel Berman, infectious disease specialist, Albert Einstein Hospital and Montefiore Medical Center; Professor Brenda Breuer, Institute for Innovation in Palliative Care, Metropolitan Jewish Health Systems; and Professor Awi Federgruen, Charles E. Exley Professor of Management, Graduate School of Business, Columbia University.

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