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Deaths from Circumcision

 

This page used to begin "Circumcision never causes death directly, of course - how could it?" but in January 2007 a boy died in London apparently from shock directly caused by his circumcision.

Circumcision can cause death indirectly in a variety of ways, such that if the baby had not been circumcised, he would not have died. Below are cases of death caused by:

Invariably, the indirect, involuntary cause is given all the blame, and the decision to circumcise, none. So circumcision continues to be promoted as "safe" and babies continue to die. The suicide of David Reimer after a ruined life was ultimately due to his botched, unnecessary circumcision.

The actual rate of death from "medical" circumcision is unknown. A rate can be calculated from Gairdner's paper of one death in 5600 circumcisions, but that was in England in the 1940s, and it must be lower now. Grimes (1978) gave a figure of two deaths per million, but citing a 1953 study. A Brazilian study finds a rate of one death in 7692 circumcisions. It is certainly more than one in 1,200,000 since there is on average more than one in the US every year. The problem is that deaths indirectly due to circumcision, such as that of Dustin Evans Jr, are not attributed to it as they should be, since it is unnecessary surgery. (If it were necessary, the death could be ultimately blamed on the condition that made it necessary.)

 

THYMOS: Journal of Boyhood Studies, Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 2010, 78-90

LOST BOYS: AN ESTIMATE OF U.S. CIRCUMCISION-RELATED INFANT DEATHS

- Dan Bollinger

Abstract: Baby boys can and do succumb as a result of having their foreskin removed. Circumcision-related mortality rates are not known with certainty; this study estimates the scale of this problem. This study finds that approximately 117 neonatal circumcision-related deaths (9.01/100,000) occur annually in the United States, about 1.3% of male neonatal deaths from all causes. Because infant circumcision is elective, all of these deaths are avoidable. This study also identifies reasons why accurate data on these deaths are not available, some of the obstacles to preventing these deaths, and some solutions to overcome them.

 

A significant number of youths die from infection after tribal circumcision every year in Africa An average of 39 a year (80 in 2009) in Eastern Cape province alone.

 

Ryleigh McWillis - death from blood loss


AUTOPSY FINDINGS
...
MEDICAL CAUSE OF DEATH

(1) Immediate cause of death: a) Multi-organ ischemia, due to or as a consequence of b) exsangination [loss of blood], due to or as a consequence of c) circumcision
(2) Other significant conditions contributing to death: Post-surgical exsanguination

Classification of the event: Accidental
Date signed: 19 January 2004
T.E. Chico Newell, Coroner

To the autopsy report in full. It makes chilling reading.

[The evidence would justify classifying Ryleigh's death as Iatrogenic and recommending that circumcision of infants be removed from the category of elective procedures.]

Video of a news story about the case.

 

Demetrius Manker - death from blood loss

THE DADE COUNTRY MEDICAL EXAMINER DEPARTMENT, Miami, Florida
Name....MANKER,.Demetrius.....June.23,1993....11:00am.........Case No. 93-1711

EXTERNAL EXAMINATION:

  The body is that of a 25-1/2 inch, 15 pound, very pale appearing Negro male appearing consistent with the stated age of 6 months. ... No anomalies are evident.

  When initially viewed, a large amount of congealed blood covers the head of the penis. Removal of this disclosed a circumcision site that appears unremarkable along the dorsal surface of the penis. Ventrally, however, a gaping defect of approximately 12 x 14 millimeters is evident with a large amount of extravasated blood in the subcutaneous tissues extending along the shaft of the penis nearly to the scrotal sac.

...

 



CAUSE OF DEATH: Exsanguination DUE TO: Penile Circumcision

 

 

 



[signed]
Charles V. Wetli, M.D.
Deputy Chief Medical Examiner


In this case, unlike the one above, the cause of death is correctly attributed, yet there is no record of any further action being taken.

 

Joshua Haskins - weakened by a heart condition

Jill and Shane Haskins' baby Joshua was born on August 16, 2010 with a major heart defect (Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, HLHS). He had heart surgery at 3 days old, and was circumcised on October 5, 2010. He died on October 6.

Jill blogged and accepted comments before, during and after the birth, surgery, circumcision and death. (Most strikingly, she blogged after the circumcision, while Joshua was still struggling against haemorrhage, "I Almost Killed My Son". Her blog now contains no reference to circumcision.)

(Some of those following her berated her after his death, and W.I.N., the Whole Indiana Newborns briefly planned a vigil outside the hospital. They quickly realised that was ill-advised and cancelled it, but the rumour spread (on the likes of Dr Amy Tuteur's blog) that "Intactivists" planned to picket the funeral a la Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church. Dr Tuteur went to the trouble of creating a parody of the Genital Integrity logo with its heart missing.)

Nobody will ever be able to say with certainty that Joshua would have lived if he had not been circumcised. The doctors insisted that his circumcision had nothing to do with it, but they would say that, wouldn't they? What we can say (and even Amy Tuteur admits) is that circumcising him could not have helped. For the doctors to go ahead with the surgery in his weakened condition does illustrate the compulstion to circumcise that has been called the Toxic Circumcision Culture.

On Radio KQED on August 29 2012, the ethicist for the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr Douglas Diekema, grossly misstated the case (starting at 12:40):

 

"There's at least, y'know, one of these cases that gets trotted out, involved a very sick baby that was likely to die anyway, and his parents wanted him circumcised before, ah, his death, and to attribute that to a circumcision is silly, um, that kind of a death."

His mother's blogs give the lie to that interpretation.

 

Brayden Tyler Frazier - blood-loss

March 8, 2013

Another circumcision death

An 11-day-old boy has died died at UC Davis Children's Hospital in Sacramento, California, two days after being circumcised in the nearby town of Lodi.

According to his grandfather, Brayden Tyler Frazier had been taken to the doctor when he was a week old because he had been sleeping constantly and not eating. His parents had also noticed that his neonatal sticks and pricks had not healed quickly, and had to stay bandaged for two days or more.

The doctor in Lodi sent them home with instructions to monitor his condition and after two days, he was circumcised. It was later discovered that the wound had continued to bleed. He was taken back to the doctor, then to Urgent Care, then to the ER, and then transferred to UC Davis Medical.

He had "generalized bleeding" and an unidentified infection.

Over the two days after his circumcision, he went into seizures and a coma, and died.

It was claimed online that the baby should have been tested for haemophilia, but a paediatric haematologist/oncologist comments

Coagulation studies are not routinely done before many types of surgeries, including circumcisions. ... Also, coagulation studies are not a part of routine newborn screening tests.

Coagulation is complex, and involves the platelet cell and a couple dozen chemicals / proteins, to clot when needed but also not to clot in inappropriate locations, or excessively, and to additionally reabsorb clots after they have done their jobs.

Plus hemophilia isn't a single disorder; there are two main types of "hemophilia" (deficiency of Factor 8 or Factor 9 ). But there are many other reasons to bleed excessively. However, a combination of several functional tests can narrow down the list of specific aspects of the coagulation system that need testing, in a given individual whose screening functional tests are abnormal, in order to identify what needs to be done to treat that individual's bleeding/risk.

However it is more complicated in newborns:

1) Of the couple dozen chemicals, many are in different levels in newborns. For several reasons, some aspects of the newborn's system are hypo-coagulable [blood won't clot] while others are hyper-coagulable [blood clots very easily] and it generally balances out. So there are different normal ranges for results in infants.

2) Most tests of the coagulation system involve drawing blood from a vein or artery and simultaneously mixing it with anticoagulants (different anticoagulants for different tests). These tests also involve a relatively large amount of blood.

Additionally the tissue factors, that trigger the initiation of the clotting system in injuries, are released from a heel stick and affect clotting studies.

3) It is however easy to do extensive or specific coagulation tests in newborns.

When planned, the blood is correctly drawn at delivery from the umbilical cord, taking the blood otherwise left in the placenta... This can be planned when a family history [of haemophila] is present or there are other reasons to test.

Surgeries / procedures that have no medical necessity, [such as] circumcision, should not be done.

 

Dustin Evans Jr. - death from anaesthetic


Dustin Evans Jr

Dustin Evans Jr was born in Cleveland, Ohio in October 1998. He was circumcised by a Dr Russell soon after, who took so much shaft skin that the scar healed as a wideband stricture (a tight "collar") around his penis, preventing him from urinating. When he was given sevoflourane, an anaesthetic, in order to "revise" his circumcision, he immediately died of cardiopulmonary arrest.

His father said, "You think, 'What could go wrong with a circumcision?' The next thing I know, he's dead."

Oddly, the report of Cuyahoga County Coroner, Elizabeth Balraj MD, says

IDENTIFYING MARKS AND SCARS: None
EVIDENCE OF RECENT THERAPY: [does not mention his circumcision]
EVIDENCE OF RECENT INJURY: None

 

A Death from anaesthetic in Sweden

(in Swedish and English)

 

Jamaal Coleson, dead from anaesthetic (?) at less than two years old in Manhattan, May 3, 2011

Jamaal Coleson

Chinonso Onyenekwu died after circumcision from complications associated with anaesthetic at the Lister Poly Clinic in Johannesburg in January 2009

 

Death of Maaz from painkiller overdose

 

The Independent
9 July 1994

Death from painkiller overdose


A FAMILY doctor who killed a nine-year-old boy by giving him a massive overdose of a pain-killing drug during a circumcision operation, was given a one-year suspended jail sentence yesterday. Dr. Mahbubul Alam, 59, of Handsworth Wood, Birmingham, admitted the manslaughter in July 1991 of Raju Miah, of Smethwick, who died in hospital six days after being given diamorphine (heroin).

Timothy Barnes QC, for the prosecution, told Stafford Crown Court that the boy was taken for the operation by his grandfather. Dr. Alam, who had performed four circumcisions that day, administered 10mg of diamorphine, "five to six times the appropriate dose."

Mr. Barnes said: "Raju was given 10mg of diamorphine, which sedates the brain and also tends to depress breathing. After the operation the boy was still unconscious and when he was driven back to the family home, Dr. Alam tried to arouse him by sprinkling water on his face and lightly smacking his face." He said shortly after the doctor left, the boy's condition worsened and he was taken by ambulance to hospital. After six days, he was certified brain dead and the life-support machine was switched off.

Mr. Barnes said the cause of death was narcotic poisoning. "The choice of drug was wholly inappropriate and on a boy of his age was grossly negligent," he said. Mr. Justice Buckley said: "I only hope Raju's family can find it in their hearts that sending Dr. Alam to prison...would serve no public interest and do nothing good for the memory of Raju."

 

Death via septicaemia

Contemporary OB/GYN® Archive
February 1997

MALPRACTICE

By Richard Ballad

Septicemia secondary to circumcision

A child was born without incident in a West Virginia hospital and was circumcised before discharge. Two days later, the baby boy was brought to a health center where the doctor did a follow-up examination. Four days after that, the child was rushed to a hospital emergency room after developing a fever and undergoing seizures. The ER physician telephoned the doctor who had performed the circumcision and decided not to admit the child. The next morning, the mother brought the infant back to the ER where he suffered more seizures and was noted to have a greenish cast to the penis. That afternoon the child was transferred to a medical center, where he died 4 hours later.

The cause of death was found to be septicemia derived from an infection secondary to the circumcision. Both physicians were sued for negligence for failure to admit the child to the hospital on the first visit to the ER. After 6 months, a settlement of $150,000 was reached.

 

Urethra blocked by a circumcision ring

Paediatr Child Health Vol 12 No 4 April 2007


Coroner's Corner
Circumcision: A minor procedure?

Paediatric Death Review Committee: Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario

A male infant at 37 weeks' gestation was born ... weighing 3.9 kg, with Apgar scores of seven at 1 min and nine at 5 min, Prenatally mild bilateral dilation of renal pelvises and ureters was noted on ultra­sound. A urology consultation at 36 weeks' gestation sug­gested a possible normal variant ...

The baby was bottle-fed and was reported to he doing well when he was circumcised using a PlastiBell ring (Hollister, USA) at 10:00 on the seventh day of life (Figure 1).

Correctly positioned PlastiBell ring
Figure 1. (Click to enlarge)

Local anaesthetic was not used. Some slight ooz­ing was noted during the procedure but it was not a problem at discharge.

Five hours later, the parents returned to their family doc­tor with the infant, reporting that he was very irritable and had blue discolouration below the umbilicus [navel] when he cried. The doctor confirmed this observation and noted that the penis was slightly swollen. ... He had several loose stools, and it could not be determined with certainty whether he had voided [emptied his bladder]. ...The baby was subsequently discharged home.

The infant was brought to a different hospital 14 h after the circumcision. He was now noted to be extremely irrita­ble, with marked swelling of the penis and with marked swelling and cyanosis [blueness] of the scrotum and perineum [region behind the scrotum]. He had grunting respirations and was cyanotic below the umbilicus ... He was transferred to a tertiary care centre, where the bladder was identified as being distended to the level of the umbilicus, The PlastiBell ring was removed 16 h after the circumcision and a catheter was passed. The bladder was drained and the bluish coloration below the umbilicus sub­sided. Urine volume was not recorded. Over the next few hours, the infant went into septic shock with purpura fulminans, and went on to develop multiorgan failure and dis­seminated intravascular coagulopathy [a state of increased propensity for blood-clot formation] ... He died seven days after his circumcision from hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy [damage to cells in the brain and spinal cord from getting too little oxygen]. ...

Complications of meatal obstruction [blockage of the urinary opening of the glans] with the PlastiBell technique have been previously described in the literature (1,2). Necrotizing fasciitis as a complication of circumci­sion is rare, and all cases reported seem to be associated with the PlastiBell technique (2,3) The finding of cyanosis below the umbilicus after circumcision due to meatal obstruction caused by a misplaced PlastiBell ring resulting in bladder distension and obstruction of venous return has also recently been described (1). A review of circumcision complications suggest that these may occur mote frequently than is conventionally believed (2,4)

The members of the Paediatric Death Review Committee of the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario were collectively aware of complications from their own institutions, including two children with necrosis of the glans, two infants requiring transfusion, one infant with a buried penis secondary to circumcision, numerous cases of retention of a PlastiBell ring, one infant with a slipped PlastiBell ring causing a penile tourniquet, and one infant with meatal obstruction due to a misplaced PlastiBell ring (Figures 2A and 2B).

Slipped PlastiBell ring causing a) tourniquet, b) meatal obstruction
Figure 2. (Click to enlarge)

None of these complications were reported in the medical literature and are therefore not available in a retrospective literature review. It is concern­ing that none of the initial three physicians who saw this infant, including the physician who performed the procedure, identified this problem as a meatal obstruction, although they were all concerned about, a possible link with the recent circumcision.

In this infant, there was no description of the glans by the physician removing the PlastiBeil ring. If the foreskin is pulled too tight, then there will be considerable tension pulling the ring against the glans, thus compressing the ure­thra and making urination difficult or impossible. This is the mechanism described in the case report by Ly and Sankaran (I) We propose the mechanism shown in Figure 2B, given the rapid onset of symptoms, suggesting a complete obstruction. These coukl be differentiated clinically. In Figure 2A, the meatus would be visible in the mid­dle of the ring and a catheter would be difficult or impossible to pass. In Figure 2B, the meatus would not be visible. The management of both complications would be the immediate removal of the PlastiBell ring. Perhaps a prospective surveillance study by the Canadian Paediatric Society of the complications of circumcision is warranted. Such a study would provide more accurate information for the ethical requirement of informed consent.

[Perhaps a ban on non-therautic neonatal circumcisions by members of the Canadian Paediatric Society is warranted. As the headline implies, this is not a minor procedure.]

In reply to a complaint, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario completely exonerated the doctor. In fact so excellent did they make his work seem, you would think the baby was still alive.

...The Paediatric Death Review Committee felt that Baby A had a urethral meatal obstruction secondary to the Plastibell ring, which it noted was not a common complication. They questioned whether the family physician who performed the circumcision was aware of this potential complication....

...Dr. X ... did not believe there was anything he/she could have done differently. When he/she examined the infant when the parents returned later in the day, there was no meatal obstruction.

...

  • he/she had tried using local anaesthetic over the years but found that the infant appeard to be in just as much pain, if not more
  • the needle to inject the anaesthetic is very painful, as is the local anaesthetic itself
  • there is a concern about the increased chance of infection with the injecting of local anaesthetic, as the puncture holes from the needle would be in the diaper area surrounded by urine and faeces, below the area of the circumcision [...which raises questions about the risk of infection at the much bigger circumcision wound itself...]
  • there is a concern regarding potential allergic reaction to the anaesthetic
  • local anaesthetic tends to distort the site of the circumcision and make it more difficult to perform
  • the period of restraint for the infant in the cirucmsion board is prolonged when using local anaesthetic, and the restraint causes the infant distress
  • in the community, local anaesthetic is not used, and not the standard of care
[This will all be of interest to parents who assume that circumcision is made painless nowadays.]

...it is not possible to determine with any certainty how the urethral meatus became obstructed by the Plastibell device. ...

Committee's final comments

The Committee has the utmost sympathy for the parents of Baby A, given the very tragic outcome in this case. However, we are satisfied that the care provided by Dr. X in this case was conscientious and appropriate, and in compliance with the relevant legal and ethical standards in place at the time the circumcision was performed. [THEN WHY IS THE CHILD DEAD?]

DISPOSITION

... no further action will be taken with respect to this matter.

 

A comprehensive Brazilian study:

Einstein (Sao Paulo) 2012 Sep;10(3):342-346.

Circumcisions for medical reasons in the Brazilian public health system: epidemiology and trends.

Korkes F, Silva Ii JL Pompeo AC

Abstract
OBJECTIVE
:
To evaluate the epidemiological factors associated to medical circumcision, based on data from the Brazilian public health system.

METHODS: Using the Unified Health System public database between 1984 and 2010, hospital admissions associated with surgical treatment of phimosis were searched. A total of 668,818 men admitted to public hospitals who underwent circumcision were identified and included in the present study.

RESULTS:
A mean±standard deviation of 47.8±13.4 circumcisions/100,000 men/year was performed through the Unified Health System for medical reasons. During the 27-year period evaluated, 1.3% of the male population required circumcision for medical reasons. [So 98.7% of routine circumcisions are wasted on boys and men who will never need it.] Total number of circumcisions and circumcision rate increased in childhood, declined progressively after 5 years of age and rose again progressively after the sixth decade of life. In the regions of the country with better access to healthcare, 5.8% of boys aged 1 to 9 years old required circumcisions. [Or were circumcised whether they needed it or not.] From 1992 to 2010 there were 63 deaths associated with circumcisions (mortality rate of 0.013%).

[That's one death in 7692 circumcisions. In this USA, that would amount to 156 circumcision deaths per year.]

CONCLUSION:
In conclusion, yearly circumcision rates could be estimated in Brazil, and a very low mortality rate was associated with this procedures. Circumcision is mostly performed in children in the first decade of life and a second peak of incidence of penile foreskin diseases occurs after the sixth decade of life, when circumcision is progressively performed again.

[This study was circulated by Prof. Brian Morris, who presumably thinks this is an "acceptable" death rate.]

 

Death by circumcision, in South Africa a regular event

Male circumcision morbidity and mortality statistics
Eastern Cape, South Africa, 2001-5

AdmissionsMutilationsDeaths
2001June1242024
2001December2001112
2002June2911433
2002December1561917
2003June2272221
2003December84720
2004June118314
2004December260213
2005June288923
Total1748 107 177
Average per annum388 24 39
The number of deaths has risen sharply since.

source: Department of Health, Eastern Cape

 

A list of named males dead from circumcision.

 

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