Metzizah B’Peh Consent Waiver Hullabaloo

Bris – Should the metzitzah be with a sterile pipette or with direct oral contact?

Once again, metzitzah b’peh is the hot topic in Orthodox Jewish circles, and this time it looks like things are getting kind of ugly.

In case you didn’t hear, New York City’s proposed amendment to the Health Code, requiring parental written consent in all instances of direct oral suction, has created quite a furor in the right wing Orthodox communities. Offense duly taken by some, a kol koreh has been issued decrying the proposed amendment.

Frankly, I believe the opposition to the amendment is misguided. At this point in the metzitzah debate, we are all well aware of the halachic authorities permitting (or advocating) sterile forms of metzitzah in lieu of direct oral suction. On the other hand, we’re also aware that there are those who stridently insist on the classic metzitzah b’peh.

Which view you prefer or I prefer is not the point. Which is right (if either) is not the point.

There are three things that are worth noting about all these goings-on:

  1. This bill is not attempting to legislate religious matters. It is not saying what can or cannot be done.
  2. As reported here, the Department of Health has received complaints from parents who were unaware that metzitzah b’peh was to be done to their sons.
  3. Though the kol koreh has many names, many of those that are often seen on kol korehs are not on there. Notably absent are R. Shmuel Kamenetsky, R. Malkiel Kotler, R. David Feinstein, R. Aharon Schechter. Or, as put here, none of the signatories is a member of Agudah’s Moetzes.

What does all this mean? It’s hard to say. My visceral reaction to hearing about the kol koreh was negative, because requiring a signature is not tantamount to legislating religion and the slippery slope argument really requires that the slope be slippery. Really, people sign their lives away when they go skiing. Signing a consent form for a medical procedure done to an 8 day old hardly seems absurd.

The reasonableness of the amendment increases when you realize that, sometimes, direct oral suction is done to the baby without parental knowledge (and, of course, consent).

Frankly, I don’t think that opposition to the proposed amendment makes very much sense. And it looks like the Moetzes agrees with me.


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