Andrew Sullivan, Health Care / Medicine, Kids, Screw-Ups

Lawsuit of the Day: You Mad? Circumcised Baby Edition

Gone baby gone.

Protip: Don’t look up the Wikipedia entry for foreskin. Don’t do it even if you have to write a post about a baby who was given a circumcision against his parents’ wishes. Vera Delgado, the baby’s mother, had left the hospital to shower and get a change of clothes. Just long enough for Nurse Ratched and the gang to do the do. Delgado’s lawyer, Spencer Aronfeld, summed up the understandable reaction:

“It was horrific, quite frankly,” said Aronfeld. “The parents were very explicit they did not want him circumcised, and [the hospital] had asked the parents repeatedly.”

Since announcing Delgado would sue, Aronfeld said he has received countless supportive e-mail messages and seen social network postings from so-called “intactivists” who oppose circumcision.

“People who are passionate about not circumcising their children are sending me Facebook messages, like, “I love you. You are my hero!”

So the mother is suing the hospital. Of course (not of course), we all remember from law school (from Google) that Benjamin Cardozo wrote the seminal opinion in which an unwanted surgical procedure was legally classified as battery. And that’s exactly what the mother is suing the hospital for. All fine and well. Somebody messed up, and “Oops!” isn’t going to cut it.

But it’s not the dollar amount of $1 million that jumps out from the story….

No, it’s the anti-circumcision crusade that seems to underpin the mother’s claim. A crusade that attempts to establish just how icky circumcisions are. Not only does the complaint reference the bouncing baby boy’s new “deformity,” but Aronfeld gets all up in our junk when he asserts:

“We are the only country in the world that routinely does non-religious and non-medical circumcisions,” said Aronfeld. “Americans need to learn circumcision is not the way penises were meant to be.”

Listen, I feel for the kid. I really do. His Craigslist personal ads will now have the scarlet “c” instead of “uc.” And if his mom keeps throwing around the word “deformity,” there’s no way the kid’ll ever take a shower in gym class. But c’mon, who died and made Spencer Aronfeld King Dick of Wang Mountain?

Apparently, the movement to stop circumcisions has picked up steam in this country. The ABC News article mentions a decline in the number of procedures done, and even hilariously notes that an organization called Stop the Infant Circumcision Society will be protesting at the Miami hospital this Friday. This movement has been heartily encouraged by blogger Andrew Sullivan for years. And now, in inimitable American fashion, we have a lawsuit to rally around.

No matter what Sullivan says, I don’t think this lawsuit will amount to much in the grand scheme of things. It’s one thing to cool down McDonald’s coffee (another lawsuit that prominently featured alleged groin damage). It’s yet another to change cultural norms.

At any rate, I think we can all agree that Dr. Ari Brown has it wrong when he tells ABC News “It’s like cutting off the wrong leg when someone has surgery.” No, Doctor. No it’s not.

Miami Hospital Circumcises Baby By Mistake [ABC News]

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