Manitoba’s physician regulator vows it will uphold religious and human rights, after proposed change raised concerns in the local Jewish community over its ability to continue the traditional rite of infant circumcision boys.
A draft of a new College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba standard of practice, as currently drafted, would mean that Manitoba physicians would only be allowed to practice traditional Jewish brit milah within the confines of a medical facility or a doctor’s office.
It’s an inappropriate restriction on a number of fronts, critics of the college’s proposal say.
The rite is something best done in a private home or synagogue as it introduces the baby to the religious community, Congregation Rabbi Anibal Mass told CBC News on Friday.
Mass was one of five Manitoba rabbis who co-signed a feedback letter to the College of Physicians regarding the draft standard. The letter, obtained by CBC, describes their frustration and opposition on a number of grounds, including lack of evidence of risk.
“There is no evidence to support that the brit milah is not safe,” reads.
‘Why now? What is the problem?’
The rite of circumcision on the eighth day of a male child’s life is a fundamental Jewish practice that believers regard as not a medical procedure, but a religious procedure that is part of a larger and vital community ceremony. .
The college says its proposed standard of practice is being developed to minimize the risks associated with a range of specific in-office medical procedures, with male circumcision among many outlined in the draft.
But its potential interference with the activities of the Mohels doctors (the Hebrew title of the person who performs circumcision) has caused great concern among local Jewish religious leaders, legal experts and the B’nai Brith Canada advocacy group.
” Why now ? What is the problem ? Read the letter co-signed by the Manitoba rabbis.
“The Jews have been doing this for decades with trained doctors. In fact, our Jewish community in Winnipeg is fortunate to have Jewish doctors who have undergone special training in this procedure and the rituals and blessings that go with it, and who have performed this task outside of their offices. and in a non-hospital setting for years. “
Mass told CBC he was aware of two mohels in Winnipeg. Both are doctors and would therefore be bound by the college’s proposal. The standard of practice would have no impact on a mohel who is not a doctor because he would not fall under the jurisdiction of the regulator.
This in itself is an issue that could create greater risk, University of Manitoba law professor Bryan Schwartz told the College of Physicians in a lengthy written brief he shared with CBC on Friday.
“Denying the ability of mohels doctors to conduct a home brit milah can mean that the most experienced and medically expert person is not available for a family,” Schwartz said.
Additionally, having to take a newborn to a health facility could expose them to an unfavorable environment, he said.
“Given the potential impact on the viability of Jewish families to maintain their faith and way of life, the college is required under human rights law to take into account the specifics of the brit milah and carefully calibrate any limitations that might affect the way she is performed, “Schwartz said.
The college promises an amendment
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba provided extensive responses to questions posed by CBC. He said the proposed standard was developed by a working group established last year and has been released publicly for consultation and feedback.
“While focusing on the standards of care in the profession, the task force was informed by various complaints that the CPSM has received over time,” said Registrar and CEO, Dr. Anna Ziomek.
“Common issues raised are about communication, informed consent, conflict of interest, infection or other complications,” she said.
Ziomek said the college recognizes there are issues with the draft standard and will take action to resolve them.
“We recognize that as currently written, this would involve a practicing CPSM member performing male circumcision outside of an appropriate medical facility,” Ziomek said.
“This was not the intention when drafting the standard. At a minimum, the working group will consider adding an exemption to the standard for male circumcision performed in a religious ceremony or tradition. “
Understanding how people might interpret the standard was the purpose of writing and researching public comment on it, Ziomek said.
“We want to assure the public that the standard will not infringe any human or religious rights and freedoms.”
Schwartz noted that the provincial government has recognized the brit milah as distinctive in its health regulations.
He suggested that the college incorporate the language used in the regulations to define an exemption into its finalized standard of practice.