Expert: Circumcision no big deal

News  Chicago Tribune. Wednesday, 14 June 2006.

Judy Peres

Expert testifies in Chicago circumcision case

A medical expert testified Wednesday that circumcision would be less stressful for an 8-year-old boy than having to be treated for recurrent problems.

Testifying in a dispute between divorced parents,  External link Dr. David Hatch said he has performed about 400 circumcisions on boys age 5 to 10 and has never seen any serious complications.

Hatch, a pediatric urologist at  External link Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, said the operation takes about an hour and most boys recover in 5 to 10 days.

Circumcision on an 8-year-old child requires skill, but it is a rather uncomplicated procedure, he said.

Hatch testified on the second day of a hearing before Cook County Circuit Judge Jordan Kaplan, appearing as an expert witness for the boy's mother, who is in favor of circumcision. The child's father is suing to prevent the operation.

Tracy Rizzo, the mother's lawyer, asked Hatch about the psychological risks of the procedure on a boy this age.

They go through stress, Hatch said, but I have no sense that they undergo long-term psychological damage. On the other hand, he said, circumcision would decrease the suffering and trauma from repeat bouts of balanitis, or inflammation of the tip of the penis.

Under cross-examination by the father's lawyer,  External link David Llewellyn, Hatch acknowledged that his recommendation was based largely on the mother's report that there had been multiple episodes of redness and discomfort.

Llewellyn pointed out that the boy's medical chart in his pediatrician's office does not document recurrent balanitis or other abnormalities. The mother said there was only one episode in which the problem had been serious enough to take the boy to a doctor.

When asked why she wanted her son circumcised, the mother said the bouts of inflammation were limiting his activity. I don't want him to worry if he keeps his bathing suit on too long, or swims in a pool, or uses the wrong soap, she said.

The mother also said she wanted the boy circumcised at birth, but her husband had refused, saying, There's no way he's getting circumcised. He's not a Jew.

The father denied that they had discussed circumcision. Both parents are Catholic immigrants from Eastern European countries where the procedure is rare except for religious reasons.

Although the dispute purports to be about what is best for the child, much of Wednesday's testimony was devoted to sniping between the parents. Rizzo tried repeatedly to suggest the father was negligent and his motivation had nothing to do with the boy's health.

The father's lawyer, for his part, implied that the mother's aim was to spite her ex-husband and please her current husband. The boy's stepfather is Jewish, and both the stepfather and his biological son are circumcised.

No decision is expected until August.

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