On March 3, 2012, the New York Daily News reported the death this past September of a two-week-old baby boy, following an ultra-Orthodox Jewish circumcision ritual. The report came after the newspaper pressed Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn for information, evidently having heard about the death from other sources. The New York City Medical Examiner’s office is quoted as listing the cause of death as “disseminated herpes simplex virus Type 1, complicating ritual circumcision with oral suction.”
Because some of my readers may not be aware of the ritual, known as metzizah b’peh, I will describe it. Following the “usual” steps involved in a circumcision (i.e., stroking the baby’s penis to make it erect, stripping the foreskin from the head of the penis, and cutting the foreskin off), in metzizah b’peh the mohel (ritual circumciser) then “removes blood from the wound with his mouth” (this is the news media’s description; in other words, the mohel sucks the baby’s bloody penis). It was this final insult added to injury that caused the death of the poor baby boy in question.