(JTA) — The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office is investigating the death of an infant from herpes following a controversial circumcision-related rite as a possible criminal matter, a newspaper reported.
Jerry Schmetterer, spokesman for Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes, told The New York Jewish Week Monday that the office’s Crimes Against Children Bureau is looking into the incident.
"I would not assume what any possible charges would be,” he told The Jewish Week.
The report of the death of the unidentified infant last Sept. 28 at Brooklyn’s Maimonides Medical Center apparently sparked the investigation. The cause of death was listed as “disseminated herpes simplex virus Type 1, complicating ritual circumcision with oral suction,” according to the New York Daily News.
News of the death comes more than half a decade after a public controversy broke out in New York City over the practice among haredi Orthodox Jews of metzitzah b’peh, which traditionally involves a mohel orally suctioning blood from a circumcision wound.
The controversy was sparked when an infant died from herpes after undergoing metzitzah b’peh. The infant’s twin also was infected with herpes. Another child circumcised the previous year by the same mohel also had contracted herpes. The mohel in question disputed the notion that he had caused the herpes infections.
The New York City Health Department responded by issuing a warning against the practice. Haredi leaders condemned the warning as an unnecessary and unwelcome government intrusion into their community’s religious practices.
Haredi leaders have resisted calls to replace direct oral suction with alternative approaches used by some mohels, such as the use of a sterile tube or gauze to take the blood from the circumcision wound.