Circumcision decision delayed by court

News  Chicago Tribune. Friday, 17 February 2006.

Judy Peres

Father sues to stop circumcision of son

A Cook County judge Friday ordered a mother not to circumcise her 8-year-old son until the court can hear arguments from the child's father, who opposes the operation, and decide whether it is in the boy's best interests.

The mother, a 31-year-old homemaker from Northbrook, says two doctors have recommended the procedure to prevent recurrent infections. Her ex-husband, a 49-year-old building manager who lives in Arlington Heights, calls the operation an unnecessary amputation that could cause his son physical and emotional harm.

The Tribune is not naming the parents to protect the child's privacy.

Circumcision, in which the foreskin of the penis is surgically removed, usually before a newborn leaves the hospital, was extremely common in the U.S. during the last century. But the percentage of U.S. babies being circumcised has gone down from an estimated 90 percent in 1970 to some 60 percent today.

The  External link American Academy of Pediatrics no longer recommends routine neonatal circumcision but says the decision should be left up to the parents.

In recent years, the procedure has come under fire from a small but vocal group who believe it is the equivalent of female genital mutilation. They argue, in an increasing number of legal challenges, that the procedure is medically unnecessary and morally indefensible.

There are no published U.S. opinions to serve as precedents for the current case, and legal experts said it likely would be determined based on the best interests of the child.

Both sides appeared Friday in  External link Cook County Circuit Court, where the father asked Judge Jordan Kaplan for a temporary restraining order against his ex-wife. His attorneys, John D'Arco and  External link Alan Toback, argued that the couple's divorce agreement provided that the father had to be consulted before any non-emergency medical care.

Kaplan got the two sides to agree that the child would not be circumcised until further order of [the] court. He also ordered them not to discuss the case with their child.

The mother's attorney, Tracy Rizzo, said the father had scared the child by telling him horror stories about what can happen to boys who are circumcised.

According to Dr. Irwin Benuck, a pediatrician at  External link Children's Memorial Hospital, and Dr. Clare Close, a pediatric urologist at the  External link University of Chicago Hospitals, circumcision is an outpatient procedure and any discomfort is usually gone in less then a week.

Complications are pretty rare, said Benuck.

In England, a Muslim father in 1999 lost his battle to have his 5-year-old son circumcised against the wishes of the mother, with whom the child lives. (Jews and Muslims circumcise their sons for religious reasons.) A judge ruled that circumcision was not in the child's interests and might traumatize him.


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