There are over 5,659 comments on an article in today's Huffington Post about San Francisco's proposed ban on infant circumcision, which could appear on the ballot next November.

I recently spoke at length with Spencer Aronfeld, the Coral Gables-based Florida lawyer representing Vera Delgado to seek retribution from South Miami Hospital, owned by Baptist Health.

Three months ago, in August 2010, South Miami Hospital circumcised her infant son, Mario Viera, without parental consent.

No men in Delgado's family are circumcised. Mario's father isn't circumcised. Delgado had no intention of circumcising their son.

But when she and her partner went home from the hospital to shower and change her clothes after eight days of being by their son's side in the NICU (he was there for some complications suffered at birth), a doctor circumcised him while she was gone.

"In that window of an hour and a half they went into the NICU and performed a circumcision," Aronfeld told me.

Now the hospital is trying to cover its tracks. According to Aronfeld, a note appeared in Delgado's record that says the doctor had a lengthy conversation with the parents about circumcision, and they said yes.

But, Aronfeld says, the parents were not even in the hospital at the time that the hospital says the conversation between his client and the doctor occurred.

The hospital has been unable to produce a signed consent form.

"I allege it is a battery," says Aronfeld, who has specialized in patients' rights law for twenty years. "An unauthorized touching that causes harm, like if someone punches you in the face or stabs you with a knife."

Aronfeld is Jewish. He chose to have his own son circumcised in a traditional Jewish ceremony called a "bris" or a "brit milah," and he himself is in favor of circumcision for religious reasons.

He says the case is not so much about circumcision but about parental consent.

"Whether it is done routinely, it was not what this family wanted," Aronfeld said. "It certainly seems that this is a stunning example of putting profits over safety."

The Hospital Responds

The lawyer representing South Miami Hospital, Scott L. Mendlestein, did not return my phone calls.

However, South Miami Hospital's Marketing and Public Relations Manager, Bethany Rundell, said the hospital issued a statement after they discovered their mistake.

The hospital's official statement reads:

"The baby's circumcision was an unfortunate mistake caused by a misread consent form. As soon as the error was discovered, the doctor and nurses let the family know what had occurred. We also immediately implemented new processes to ensure this mistake will not occur again. The procedure itself was performed following appropriate surgical guidelines and the baby didn't have any complications. Nevertheless, we're all deeply sorry that this happened."

Rundell refused to answer any non-medical questions about the case, writing in an email: "I am not comfortable talking about the case that's in litigation right now…"

The hospital's Chief of Pediatrics and a neonatologist Jorge E. Perez, M.D. did answer some questions over email. He said the procedure takes about ten minutes and that babies recover from the wound in "a few days."

Dr. Perez also cited seven reasons that circumcisions are routinely performed.

1) Ease of cleanliness and personal hygiene

2) Custom of approximately 80% of American males

3) Prevention of paraphimosis

4) Prevention of penile cancer

5) Questionable prevention of cervical cancer in females

6) Questionable prevention in the transmission of HIV

7) Prevention of need for later circumcision

According to Rundell, between May and August of this year, South Miami Hospital circumcised 22 percent of its total deliveries. It is a 467-bed hospital and approximately 4200 babies are born there each year. Rundell has gathered from anecdotal evidence that 50-60 percent of the boys born at the hospital are circumcised. This "is below the national average cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2007," Rundell wrote in an email.

The hospital's attempts to prevent Aronfeld and his client from speaking to the media have failed. On November 2 a judge denied issuing a gag order.

Mario's Law

Aronfeld said demonstrations by anti-circumcision activists (known as "intactivists") have been held outside the hospital, with dozens of protestors holding up signs.

Vera Delgado is helping to get support for a bill in the Florida legislature to create what intactivists are calling Mario's Law []. The bill would require a waiting period on circumcisions, similar to the period a customer has to wait to buy a firearm. This way new moms and dads, who may be recovering from the labor and delivering and adjusting to life with a newborn, will not feel pressured into making a medical decision before they are ready.

Do you think there should be a waiting period before babies are circumcised? Do you think San Francisco and other cities should ban circumcision outright? Did you choose to circumcise your own sons? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Tags: circumcision, Florida, hospital mistakes, Mario's law, South Miami Hospital, Spencer Aronfeld, Vera Delgado

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on Monday, November 22nd, 2010 at 2:45 pm and is filed under rejecting modern medicine.
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