Circumcision injuries caused by negligence can result in large damage awards in medical malpractice lawsuits. Complications from infant circumcisions often result in a variety of painful and life-threatening conditions.
The Risks of Circumcision
Infants who undergo circumcision are put at risk for a variety of health problems, even death. Although there is no medical data on complications from circumcision in the United States, there are many reports of injuries. Infants who get non-therapeutic circumcisions are at risk for blood and skin infections, penis damage or loss, excessive bleeding, tissue scarring, and severe pain. These risks often result in the use of antibiotics, pain medications, hospitalization, and surgery.
Babies that are circumcised in a neonatal intensive care unit or a special care unit in a hospital are four times more likely to suffer circumcision complications than babies circumcised in a well-baby nursery. In many hospitals, doctors who perform circumcisions have little or no formal training because the law doesn't require it. This raises practical and ethical concerns for parents and infants. Untrained doctors can't properly inform parents of circumcision risks, so parents are unable to make informed choices. Although the American Academy of Pediatrics supports circumcision as a safe procedure where the benefits outweigh the risks, many complications arise each year.
Without proper information for the risks of circumcision, parents are unknowingly putting their infants at risk. In most cases studied, pediatric and obstetric residents who perform many circumcisions only disclose three risks - infection, bleeding, and pain. Only eight percent of residents and doctors disclose the possibility of death as a result of circumcision. All possible complications should be discussed with parents, including emotional pain and suffering and sexual dysfunction.
The most common complication from circumcision is bleeding because the penis contains many small veins. Bleeding can result in minor or severe blood loss that requires cauterization, clotting agents, stitches, and blood transfusions. Severe blood loss in an infant can cause shock, cardiac arrest, and death.
The second most common complication is infection. Infants are especially vulnerable to urinary tract infections due to immature immune systems, as well as urine and feces in their diapers. Depending on the severity of the infection, treatment may include intravenous antibiotics, surgery, and other methods of treatment for life-threatening infections.
Between 2000 and 2011, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported neonatal herpes simplex virus (HVS) infections in 11 infants who received Orthodox Jewish circumcisions. Following diagnosis, 10 infants were hospitalized and two infants died.
Pain is a common complication of circumcision. Clinical research shows that infants feel and remember pain, as much or more than adults. Doctors are urged to use anesthesia during circumcision procedures, but many do not.
If circumcision injuries or birth injuries are caused by medical negligence, a medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed to recover damages. In a Georgia case, a family was awarded over $30 million in damages for a botched circumcision on their infant son. The procedure was done by a midwife who severed the tip of some glands during the circumcision. As a result, the infant boy suffered severe bleeding that went untreated in a hospital. In this case, seven defendants were blamed for the boy's injuries. The court ruled that the midwife who performed the circumcision was liable for 50 percent of the $30 million award, and each defendant was liable for a portion of the remainder.
According to law, all health care professionals have a "duty of care" to their patients. When that duty is violated due to negligence or error and a patient suffers injuries as a result, medical professionals and hospitals can be sued for medical malpractice.
Laws require specific evidence to prove medical malpractice. Without all necessary proof of medical malpractice, doctors, hospitals, and medical professionals will likely not be held liable for patient injuries.
- Doctor/Patient Relationship -To have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit, a doctor/patient relationship must exist, meaning the patient was under the care of a licensed physician or medical professional.
- Violation of "Duty of Care" - Laws impose recognized medical standards that constitute acceptable, reasonable care. If it's determined that the standard of care is not met, negligence may be established under the law.
- Injury Caused by Negligence - A patient must show proof that his/her injuries were caused by the negligent actions or medical errors of a medical professional or hospital. Without sufficient proof, liability cannot be established.
- Injury Resulted in Damages - A patient can't sue for medical malpractice unless he/she suffered harm due to injury. Such harm includes physical pain, pain, and suffering, expenses for treatments, lost wages, and lost earning capacity from injury or disability.
In Illinois, a medical malpractice lawsuit must be filed within two years of the injury date, or the date when the injury first presented to the patient.