NEWS Circumcision, Jewish rules example to protect newborns

mortaraBy Giorgio Mortara*

Ritual circumcision is not a medical act because it has no therapeutic purpose but is an exclusively religious act. A religious act that however must follow the medical rules for safeguarding the health of the child. The problem we face is not exclusively scientific but ethical, legal, religious and cultural.

In recent years there has been a growing tendency to consider this practice exclusively in the light of its possible attack on the physical integrity of children without dwelling on the profiles inherent in the right to religious freedom and on the possible inclusive value of its recognition for universal citizenship. Circumcising our children is one of the most significant symbols of our being Jews and protecting it is an act in defence of our religious freedom.

Since ancient times in Judaism has been identified a person in charge of carrying out this act that must follow precise rules both religious and health so that circumcision can be deferred if there are signs or symptoms such as to discourage the execution.

In England since 1749 there is a company that brings together mohelim who also enjoy insurance.

As milah is carried out when the child is eight days old, consent is exercised jointly by the parents. In line with the Oviedo Convention, the opinion of the minor is taken into consideration of his age and his degree of maturity.

Resolution 2076 of 2015 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe provides a resolution of the problem by limiting the execution of circumcision by a person trained and equipped with the necessary skills in appropriate medical and health conditions and inserting the circumcision practice to the inside the chapter dedicated to freedom of religion and not just to the right of children to physical integrity.

The Union of Italian Jewish Communities, in accordance with the provisions recently issued by the bodies of European Jewry, which takes into account the guidelines expressed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe already mentioned, decided to create a register of the Mohalim, with a standard curriculum vitae certified by recognized international Jewish organizations (e.g. the OU, UME, Initiation Society, Central Rabbinate / Ministry of Health of Israel).

The Mohalim must also commit themselves to the observance of the operative protocol that foresees among others the following rules to protect the health of the newborn.

Before the procedure:

– Visit of the newborn with verification of the health conditions allowing the intervention to the purpose at the same time to inform both parents of the modalities of the circumcision;

– Inform the pediatrician who follows the infant of the next circumcision and check the health conditions permitting the intervention together

– Informed Consent Collection signed by both parents.

– Inform the community to which the newborn’s family belongs to the appointment received.
During the procedure:

– Implementation of all the precautions and norms in order to guarantee the safety of the newborns (sepsis, bleeding control, etc.).

– Use of sterile or single-use instruments

After the procedure:

– Ensure availability in the next 24 hours.

– Follow the baby until the complete healing.
– Keep a record of the circumcisions (accessible for control) with cards that certify the consent received and compliance with all the rules and conditions of health and possible complications.

We believe that these provisions guarantee the health of the newborn and at the same time the religious freedom to practice circumcision.

In order to avoid the risk of complications, even mortal as happened a few days ago in Monterotondo, if it is not feasible for the different religions and ethnic groups that adopt this practice to have certified circumcisers, it is desirable to establish centers of reference in hospitals – on stock of the experiences already carried out in some Italian regions including Lazio and Piedmont – which, without increasing health costs, as specified by the Court of Cassation, can practice this act at low prices as the safeguarding of the right to health and religious freedom are the chiefs of the Italian Constitution.

*Giorgio Mortara is a doctor and Vice-President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities.