Concerns Over City Effort to Use Pediatricians in Milah Case

ANALYSIS

As the milah lawsuit makes its way through the court system, the city’s attempt to get pediatricians to distribute the consent forms has angered some parents and raised questions about its potential impact on the relationship between these doctors and the parents of the children they treat.

Included in the city’s legal arguments submitted to the Court of Appeals for the Second circuit, is the revelation that the New York City’s Department of Health sent letters and copies of English and Yiddish versions of the consent form to all pediatricians associated with Maimonides Medical Center, and emailed information about the consent form to all the pediatric practices in NYC.

During several interviews with Hamodia, some parents in the community expressed deep concern over the notion that pediatricians should be asked to serve as agents of the city in a matter that they perceive to be an affront to their religious rights.

Because of the sensitivity of the matter, they insisted that their names should not be quoted.

“If my pediatrician would hand me a consent form, that would turn him — in my eyes — from a family friend to an opponent of my religious beliefs,” one father said.

“I find this very disturbing,” he added. “The level of trust and comfort that parents of infants have in the pediatricians providing medical care to their infants can have a ripple effect on the health of children.”

In response to an inquiry by Hamodia whether prior to taking this step the Health department did any research into what if any impact involving pediatricians in this highly contentious, emotional issue may have on the relationship between the doctors and the parents, the department said that the city does not actually require pediatricians to provide the consent form to parents or to be involved in consent for MBP.

“We notified pediatricians about the new regulations, because they interact with families immediately after a baby is born, care for babies after circumcisions are performed, and diagnose and treat babies with herpes virus infection,” Chanel Caraway, Deputy Press Secretary for NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene wrote in an email.

“Forms are available for pediatricians to distribute, if they wish. It is not a requirement,” she wrote in response to a follow up email requesting further clarification.

However, a copy of a letter sent to the pediatricians, which was obtained by Hamodia, indicates that the outreach to pediatricians was more than a merely a notification.

“Please distribute these forms and information to any of your patients who are considering ritual Jewish circumcision,” read the letter sent out by Assistant Health Commissioner Dr. Susan Blank.