British Columbia parents lobby against circumcision
CBC News 2004/02/11
The parents of a newborn who died following circumcision surgery are pushing for hospitals to inform patients of the possible dangers associated with the removal of foreskin.
Brent and Tanna McWillis’s month-old son Ryleigh died in August 2002 after he suffered severe hemorrhaging two days after he was circumcised at Penticton Regional Hospital.
The parents were told that Ryleigh would experience some bleeding, but they didn’t realize how much was too much. A coroner’s report concluded that post-operative instructions could have been better defined and the hospital has since produced a more descriptive pamphlet which it hands out to parents. It has also introduced new post-operative procedures.
Ryleigh’s death renewed debate over male circumcision and also caught the attention of a Seattle-based group called Doctor’s Opposing Circumcision.
One of its members, lawyer John Geisheker, wants circumcision banned globally, but in the meantime, he’s willing to compromise and has asked infants be kept in hospital for one day following surgery.
“We would like to see there be no outpatient circumcisions, because those are the riskiest ones,” said Geisheker. “The parents, although they may be solicitous and loving, are not medically trained.”
Three decades ago, about half of all Canadian boys were circumcised shortly after birth, compared to 20 per cent today. Some doctors deem circumcision medically unnecessary and refuse to perform the procedure.
This story from 2004 underlines the danger of boys dying from complications of circumcision. It’s estimated that 200 baby boys die every year in the U.S. from complications of circumcision. The reporting of the death might not mention circumcision so it’s difficult to get accurate statistics. What begins as an unnecessary surgery on the penis can end up as “shock”, “hemmorhage”, “infection”, etc. on the death certificate.
Because Ryleigh McWillis’ death happened in my province, I have followed the story carefully. Of course, many other boys have died here due to complications of circumcision but this story came to light because someone in the hospital called the press. This is the power of the education movement that we have undertaken–when enough people learn about the horror of circumcision, even hospital personnel will speak up. Once the hospital staff stops covering up what’s going on the procedure will end. Ryleigh’s parents knew that he had too much blood on his diaper. It’s natural that parental instincts click in when red blood is soaking through a diaper. They took their baby back to the hospital and the staff rebandaged him and reassured them everything would be all right. It wasn’t, and this healthy, normal boy lost his life. Reading the coroner’s report about what happened when they took their baby back to the hospital the second time when he was near death is absolutely horrifying. The staff could not figure out what was wrong with him and wasted precious time thinking he might have an infection.
One of the scraps of information that has come my way about circumcision is that there is a rule in Judaism that if two of your sons have died from circumcision, you do not have to circumcise your third son.
Today, there is a rising concern over the increasing resistance of bacteria to treatment by antibiotics. Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) is not only a hospital acquired infection but is now also reported in the community. Boys have died from MRSA infections secondary to circumcision. Newborn boys have died of herpes infections after being circumcised as well.
Midwives, doulas, doctors, nurses, and hospital employees have a duty to the public to become “whistle blowers” when they see death and injury linked to circumcision. Pick up a phone and call the newspaper, anonymously if necessary. Shining the light of public scrutiny on this human rights violation will relegate circumcision to the “Dark Ages” of history where it rightly belongs.