Manitoba scraps rule that would force Jewish circumcision ritual into hospital

‘The standard will be amended. The standard will not infringe on any human or religious rights and freedoms whatsoever’

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Manitoba’s medical regulator has been caught on the back foot after inadvertently drafting a confusing new standard of practice that would effectively force all ritual Jewish circumcision ceremonies into an approved medical clinic or hospital, rather than, as is traditional, a home or synagogue.


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“No, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba is not banning male circumcisions, nor is it something we could do,” reads the opening line of a damage control statement Friday from the College.

It acknowledged that its working group “did not consult with the Jewish community in its early development of the draft.” It also expressed gratitude for feedback received now, and promised to review “every single comment” before coming up with a revised standard of practice by the end of the year.

The College pledged to change the rule, which was published as part of proposed new restrictions on procedures including vasectomy, cosmetic procedures such as injections or Botox, and stem cell or plasma injections, all of which are growing in popularity in Manitoba.


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The standard will not infringe on any human or religious rights and freedoms whatsoever

“The standard will be amended. The standard will not infringe on any human or religious rights and freedoms whatsoever,” the College said in its statement.

The promise to revise the standard of practice came in response to concerns from Winnipeg’s Jewish community that the new standard would mean a doctor who is also a mohel, and who performed a circumcision in a newborn’s family home, would be committing professional misconduct.

The new rule would not have applied to people who are not doctors who perform ritual Jewish neonatal circumcision, as is common and permitted by law, but a press release from B’nai Brith raised the concern of a mohel who is also a doctor, and thus additionally bound by College rules.

It claimed “the mooted change would have the effect of preventing any future Manitoba mohel from performing traditional Jewish circumcisions while maintaining a medical practice, which is standard across Canada.”


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It is the rite of passage whereby our newborn sons are welcomed into the Jewish community

A letter to the College from Israel Ludwig of the Canadian Jewish Community Forum said all the mohels in Winnipeg are physicians.

He describes the origin of ritual male circumcision in God’s command to the patriarch Abraham to circumcise his eight-day-old son Isaac. “A covenant between Jews and God, the brit milah is an indelible physical symbol of our everlasting bond with God. In addition, it is the rite of passage whereby our newborn sons are welcomed into the Jewish community, surrounded by the love of their family and friends. This ceremony is often performed in a synagogue or a family home,” it reads.

The College said it had not meant for its rule to apply in this way.

“We recognize that as currently written, the standard would implicate a practicing CPSM member performing a male circumcision outside of an appropriate medical facility. That was not the intention in drafting the standard,” the College said.


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It invited feedback, and pledged to rewrite the rule. “At a minimum, the working group will add an exemption in the standard for male circumcision performed in a religious ceremony or tradition, particularly respecting low-risk neonatal circumcisions,” the College said.

Manitoba is unique among provinces for funding elective neonatal circumcision. In other provinces, parents pay.

There has lately been concern about both poorly performed circumcision of babies, but also the elective practice for older boys and men. One doctor was suspended for five months in 2018 after botched procedures on several boys. That doctor was serving a Muslim immigrant community.


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Last September, College Registrar Dr. Anna Ziomek, raised concern and invited advice for how best to help the growing number of new immigrants and refugees who were seeking circumcision of boys older than newborn, and about doctors being uncomfortable performing a procedure for which they are out of practice.

This procedure for older boys is not insured in Manitoba, and as Ziomek wrote in the College newsletter, it requires “effective anaesthesia, appropriate equipment and a sterile environment that cannot be provided in a regular physician’s office.”

In one 2013 case in Ontario, a 22-day-old baby boy died in hospital from shock due to blood loss from the site of the elective circumcision, according to an autopsy. The parents brought a misconduct complaint but the doctor was cleared, and advised only to better document his consent from parents.



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