Tuesday, January 1, 2013

CIRCUMCISION: The Silent Killer

It's not that uncommon; very often I read on Internet mediums, be it an online parenting forum, some Facebook group or page for parents, or sometimes it just appears on my news feed, someone posts something along the lines of:

"I ask for prayers. Donovan is fighting for his life after some breathing problems he had after his circumcision."

Or, "Please pray for our family. Justin's circumcision wound had trouble healing, and now he's in critical condition."

Of course everyone offers their sympathy.

"We'll be prayin' for ya hon..."

"God is watching over him."

And, of course, when some one dares to call a spade a spade...

"What a tragedy. But was this necessary? Did the doctor tell you this would be a risk?"

...all hell breaks loose:

"Shut the *** up, you heartless ***!!!"

"Circumcision had nothing to do with it! Go the *** away!"

Maybe the person calling out the elephant in the room is even banned from the group, and his/her posts are deleted.

In a few cases I've seen, the tragedy ends in death, pissing MORE of us off, and by this time many can't stand it.

Many readers will recall the Joshua Haskins case, where the mother posted every detail on her blog (her son would not stop bleeding), and then deleted them. While it was perfectly clear that her son was having complications directly caused by his circumcision (at the last minute, doctors determined he needed one more suture on his penis), she started denying this, touting the line her doctors told her to repeat; "He died of heart problems he had before, not his circumcision."

Certainly, Josh was born with heart problems and he spent the first days of his life in a NICU. But the "heart problems" were not what we were reading about on her blog. Josh bled uncontrollably for seven hours until the doctors finally decided to give him an extra suture, but by then it was too late.

Intactivists following Joshua's mother's blog were not going to let this one go. They were following her blog right up to the point where the doctors approved Josh's circumcision, and many tried to warn her about the risk of death. And when Joshua died, the criticism intensified, as did readers who came to Joshua's mother's defense.

"How dare you attack this mother in her moment of grief!"

"You've got some nerve taking advantage of this mother for your cause!"

No one seemed to grieve that Joshua's tiny, fragile state was taken advantage of, or that if he hadn't undergone this needless surgery, he would still be alive.

You know, perhaps some intactivists did go too far with their comments. Some did get pretty nasty, and understandably so.

Perhaps things would be different had we waited for the grieving process to end. Or would they?

Would the Haskins' be more open or closed to listen to others regarding their son's cause of death? Would they be open, or closed to listening to the idea that their son may have died needlessly?

And these catastrophes keep coming. I keep reading pleas for prayers for boys who are left dying after their circumcisions. I keep reading of folks who lost babies just after their circumcisions (but insist it was something else).

It's different when you hear about this from people in your immediate vicinity instead of Facebook.

Not too long ago, a cousin of mine was circulating a plea for prayers among my family for a couple who had just lost their first baby boy in her congregation. I didn't need to inquire too deeply.

"Such a shame too; he only needed to be circumcised before they were released from the hospital."

My cousin said.

I didn't say anything; this was a couple in a church I don't even attend.

But my cousin couldn't seem to put two and two together. More important to her is the comfort she would derive from the thought that others would be praying.

Perhaps when a child is fighting for his life isn't the time to talk about circumcision.

Perhaps when parents are grieving isn't the time to talk about it either.

Death is a risk of circumcision.

An estimated 117 deaths occur every year in the United States due to circumcision. This is a rough estimate, and more conservative than its predecessors (in the past, estimates have been as high as 200 or more deaths per year). The fact is, hospitals are not required to release this data. Adding to this is the fact that doctors lie about a child's cause of death to cover their own bases, and parents, wanting to divorce themselves of any fault in their son's death, are complicit in repeating whatever their doctors tell them.

The child "bled to death." The child "suffered hemorrhage." The child "went into cardiac arrest." The child died of "septic shock."

Nevermind the circumcision performed on him beforehand.

What have the parents to say about the possibility that circumcision most likely killed their baby?

They're grieving. Don't you dare bother them.

And a year later, "Don't remind them. It breaks their heart every time."

Nobody wants to talk about it.

Meanwhile, the tragedies continue.

So when is it a good time to talk about it?

When is a good time to break the silence?


  1. This reminds me of Ryleigh McWillis. He died from loss of blood. The parents complained that the hospital did not warn them properly about the post-operative care, and yet they stated that they would be likely to have a new male baby circumcised.



  2. Joshua Haskins had more than "heart problems". He had virtually half a heart. He had one major surgery soon after he was born, if I remember rightly had just had another, and would need at least one more - and such babies rarely live for more than a few years in any case, so many of the "benefits" of circumcision were unlikely to be ever relevant. And his mother did post extensively about his heart issues right up until his circumcision.

    Less forgivable than her denial (she removed any reference to circumcision from her blog and has never mentioned it again) is "ethicist" Douglas Diekema's heartless rewriting of history, saying on radio that Joshua was going to die anyway, and his parents wanted him circumcised before he died - all in order to make it not a circumcision death and make Intactivists look bad for making an issue of it.

    http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201208290900 about 12' in