Photo: Israel Bardugo
Jewish Hospital in Berlin suspends circumcisions
Hospital issues decision following court ruling that non-medical circumcision is a 'serious and irreversible interference in the integrity of the human body'

The Jewish Hospital in Berlin has decided to suspend all circumcisions of children for religious reasons following the ruling delivered by a German court a hospital spokesman said on Friday.


"We are suspending circumcisions until the legal situation is clarified," said Gerhard Nerlich, a spokesman for the hospital, citing the chief of internal medicine Kristof Graf.


The Jewish hospital in Berlin (JKB) performs 300 circumcisions annually, including 100 for religious reasons and the rest for medical reasons.


"We performed circumcisions on a regular basis until this ruling and we no longer have the legal freedom to do it," said Nerlich, adding that two operations scheduled to take place had already been canceled.


"The surgeon has contacted the families explaining the reasons why this can not be done," added Nerlich.


Nerlich highlighted the dilemma of Jewish parents and Muslims who want to circumcise their child. "Where will they go now? It is a matter that should be cleared up quickly," he said.


Earlier, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle had distanced himself from the ruling, stressing that "religious traditions are protected in Germany."


'Delay, not ban act'

Earlier this week, a German court ruled that non-medical circumcision is a "serious and irreversible interference in the integrity of the human body."


The Cologne District Court addressed the issue after a Muslim doctor performed a circumcision on a four-year-old boy. Two days later the boy's mother brought the child to the emergency room because he was bleeding.


Charges were subsequently brought against the doctor, who was found not guilty in the first instance, but the prosecutor appealed.


Meanwhile, a jurist with a leading role in the legal debate said on Friday that the widely criticized decision aims only to delay the act, not ban it, and is not directed against any faith.


The operation does serious bodily harm and only males old enough to consent to it freely should undergo it, said Holm Putzke, law professor at Passau University in southern Germany.


"I can understand that this verdict has irritated people around the world, but this irritation can be resolved if people look at the reasons for it," Putzke told Reuters by telephone.


"Nobody wants to ban religious circumcision in Islam and Judaism, not at all," he said. "It should just be decided by those who undergo it."




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