Health Department: Child Infected From Bris That Defied Consent Rule


The mother of an infant who contracted herpes following a bris with direct oral suction last month denied receiving the required consent form from the mohel, whose name she refused to disclose to the New York City Department of Health, The Jewish Week has learned.

A rule requiring parents to give informed consent before a bris involving direct oral suction, or metzitzah b’peh, went into effect in New York City in January.

According to the city’s health department, the infant “developed vesicular lesions (small, saclike bodies) on the scrotum in the weeks after ritual circumcision” and the Herpes Simplex Virus 1 and “was isolated from lesions.” According to a health department spokesperson, the mother says she never received the requisite consent form from the mohel.

In this case — the second reported in the last three months — the infant developed a fever “seven days after circumcision and vesicular lesions the following day.” The infant had what is known as disseminated herpes infection, meaning it has spread throughout the body, but survived.

According to a spokesperson for the health department, no legal action is being taken despite the reported absence of a consent form.

A coalition of Orthodox groups is suing in federal court to have the consent decree, approved unanimously by the city’s Board of Health in September declared invalid on grounds that it interferes with religious practice. DOHMH agreed to voluntarily stay the rule while a preliminary injunction was being considered by the federal court. The federal court denied the motion for a preliminary injunction and the matter is now on appeal. The rule however, remains in effect.