Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Pittsburgh parents file circumcision injury suit against mohel

Pittsburgh patients have a right to know the risks of surgery before a procedure takes place, but there are times when a patient is left out of the loop. Doctors are obligated to measure risks on a patient's behalf, when the patient is incapacitated. Parents make medical decisions for minor children.

Circumcisions or foreskin removals are commonly performed among male newborns within a few days after birth. The elective procedures are so routine that many people don't think of them as surgeries. Some circumcisions are not performed by doctors or in hospitals but by religious circumcisers, like mohels.

The parents of an infant whose penis was severed during a Jewish ritual circumcision are taking a Pittsburgh rabbi to court. The Squirrel Hill rabbi, a mohel, apparently made the surgical error during a bris about eight months ago. The traditional ceremony takes place when a boy is eight days old.

The baby was immediately hospitalized. An eight-hour reattachment surgery was necessary, including half a dozen blood transfusions. Doctors claimed the reconstructive microsurgery went well, although the child could develop complications like nerve dysfunction in the future.

Surgical errors during circumcisions are not as uncommon as Allegheny County parents might imagine. The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates circumcision mistakes occur in one out of every 500 newborn surgeries. The figure may be higher among infant boys, since surgical errors during circumcisions often go unreported.

Circumcisions are performed for personal, religious and sometimes health-related reasons. Laws do not prevent nonmedical professionals from performing the surgery. The Pittsburgh case may test the boundaries of laws, which some legal advisers say do not address circumcision training or regulation adequately.

A medical malpractice lawsuit is directed toward licensed health care providers, whose carelessness leads to patient injuries or deaths. A nongovernment certified practitioner may be a specialist, according to a religion, but is not immune from liability for causing unnecessary harm.

Source: CBS Pittsburgh, "Rabbi Sued After Baby Injured During Circumcision" Marty Griffin, Dec. 27, 2013

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