Death From Circumcision
By Danelle Frisbie, Ph.D, M.A. ©2010
A baby only needs to lose 1 ounce of blood to hemorrhage, and just 2.3 ounces to die as a result of this blood loss. It can, and does, occur at a frightening quick pace.
In their statement on the increased dangers of neonatal circumcision, Doctors Opposing Circumcision (DOC) physicians and surgeons reported:
The prepuce is highly vascularized, so it is likely to hemorrhage when cut, and severing the frenular artery is very common. Infants have a miniscule amount of blood in their tiny bodies and can tolerate only about a 20 percent blood loss before hypovolemia, hypovolemic shock, and death. A 4000 gram male newborn has only 11.5oz (340 ml) of total blood volume at birth, 85 ml per kilogram of weight. Blood loss of only 2.3oz, (68 ml), 20% of total blood volume at birth is sufficient to cause hypovolemia. Many newborns, and especially premature infants, weigh much less and a smaller amount of blood loss would be sufficient to trigger hypovolemic shock in those infants. Circumcision of infants, therefore, carries the inherent danger of hypovolemic shock and death.
This is one reason that so many clamps are used on the amputation site when the prepuce organ is removed during circumcision surgery - to stop the 'bleeders.' It is also the reason these clamps are left in place at least 5 minutes after cutting is complete (as horrifically painful as this is for a newborn who cannot be put under general anesthesia at this stage in life). The penile clamping is an attempt to prevent this new little baby from hemorrhaging to death. As much as we'd like to prevent all infant death, healthy babies were simply not designed to have functioning organs cut from their body at birth, and consequences are much more common than some U.S. parents are led to believe.
2.3 ounces of blood - size comparison in glass beaker to U.S. quarterIn a meta-analysis of statistics cataloged from 1989-2009, results are clear: There is a much greater likelihood of complications, including illness, infection, and death from circumcision than there is from keeping a baby whole and intact.
A newborn baby will die from a loss of 2.3 ounces of blood.
A newborn baby will die from a loss of 2.3 ounces of blood.
On many occasions hemorrhaging does not occur until parents leave the surgical site with their freshly cut baby in tow. Diapers, especially the popular absorbent disposable diapers ubiquitous in today's baby culture, easily hide 1-2 ounces of blood from a festering wound. We've heard others blame parents, "They should have SEEN the blood and rushed their baby to the ER!" But we cannot always be so quick to blame misinformed parents wading through the myths of genital cutting.
First, no one tells parents who are about to cut their baby that he may well hemorrhage from the surgery, and that the possibility of death exists.
Second, rarely are parents briefed on ALL the complications that can and do arise post-op for a circumcised baby.
Third, even 2 ounces of blood is easily hidden in a disposable diaper and by the time a diaper change takes place, it may be too late. DOC reports that, "The quantity of blood loss that can kill an infant—2.3oz—is easily concealed in today’s highly absorbent disposable diaper."
We decided to put this to the test and soaked 2.5 ounces of blood (more than it would take for an infant to hemorrhage and die) into a Huggies brand disposable diaper that had already been slightly 'used' (urine) to closely as possible replicate the scenario. With results that even shocked us here at the DrMomma labs, there is virtually no way to tell that a baby has been bleeding to death when he has a disposable diaper on. In addition, it takes very little time for a fresh amputation site to hemorrhage and lose this much blood.
Fourth, hospitals are quick to cover up 'mistakes,' while a pro-cutting U.S. culture continues to propagate myths about how common morbidity and mortality due to circumcision are. Parents rarely talk openly about their son's death due to circumcision because this would mean admitting an unnecessary cosmetic amputation surgery killed their child.
Finally, it is almost unheard of for an attorney to take a wrongful death due to circumcision case because infants are simply not valued in our society and the pay-out for a short, undervalued life would be negligible.
Because of all of this, the circle of ignorance continues regarding death from circumcision.
So just how many boys die each year as a result of MGM in the United States? We really don't know for certain. U.S. statistical analysis studies conducted on death from circumcision are drastically under-reported because hospitals are not required to log death due to genital cutting surgery. Genital amputation (circumcision) that causes heart attack, hemorrhage, coma, seizure, stroke, or infection may be coded inappropriately as 'SIDS' or 'heart failure' or 'seizure,' for example, but not specifically due to the bodily trauma experienced as a result of circumcision.
Still, these studies have found approximately 230 baby boys die each year in the U.S. as a result of circumcision surgery. (1) Another study published last week found at least 117 boys die annually from circumcision surgery as it is reported by hospitals. (2) We're not alone in our estimation that there are likely at least twice as many deaths due to circumcision, because of our non-structured and easy-to-cover-up means of infant mortality reporting. But if we are only looking at research-based documentation, we find an average 174 boys die each year with the documented cause being circumcision surgery.
Especially disturbing in these statistics is that the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) continues to issue widespread warnings about choking as one of the highest causes of death among children, despite the fact that a greater number of infants die from circumcision than from choking. (3)
In an AAP cited study, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission concluded that choking on non-food objects causes approximately 22 deaths per year among all children in the United States. (4) In a national analysis, also cited by the AAP, it was found that choking while eating food causes approximately 73 deaths per year among all children under the age of 10 in the U.S. (5) The AAP teaches parents to be cautious because "choking on food causes the death of approximately 1 child every 5 days in the United States." (6) The rate of boys vs. girls who die from choking is not significantly different, which this means that approximately 1 boy under the age of 10 dies every 10 days from choking in the United States, or 36 boys per year.
Compare this to 1 infant boy dying every 2 days as a result of circumcision in the United States, or an average of 174 boys per year.
All of the deaths due to choking (which are most often related to eating - something we humans must do) are a mere fraction of the deaths due to circumcision (an unnecessary and medically contraindicated surgical amputation). If the AAP were to issue a similar warning for circumcision, they must state that circumcision causes the death of approximately 1 child every 2 days. Not only that, but 1 infant dies every 2 days from circumcision, as compared to the estimate that 1 "child under the age of 10" dies every 5 days from choking. And these are solely using the hospital statistics for death due to circumcision (again, the real numbers are likely much higher).
If chokingis otherwise to blame for the some of the highest rates of childhood death in the United States (as the AAP claims that it is), and there are more infant deaths per year as a result of circumcision surgery, it is therefore urgent that we correctly inform parents that one of the greatest causes of death for children in the United States is circumcision.
I have to wonder - where is the AAP warning in all of this?
Below is the story of just one of these babies, Ryleigh McWillis, who died as a result of circumcision.
Ryleigh was suffering from the typical post-op consequences of having an organ amputated from his fresh, fragile body, but was checked over by a doctor and sent home. His parents noted that he was "fussy" all day (again, normal for a tiny human being who has just had 1/3 of their penis cut off - post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, is ubiquitously common among circumcised babies, resulting in what we often mislabel, "colic").
Ryleigh's diaper had blood in it that evening (again, somewhat common as the amputation site festers, scabs, and attempts to heal itself). But his parents were not overly concerned. His mother said, "It was pinkish because it was diluted by pee." Ryleigh's mother sat up all night holding her crying baby, and when his father changed his diaper in the morning, it again had blood in it. This time they rushed to the hospital. By noon he was evacuated by air to the B.C. Children's Hospital (where 95.1% of baby boys born remain intact from birth).
Despite all the blood transfusions, saline solution, antibiotics, and resuscitation attempts, this little 1-month old baby, born perfectly healthy and happy, died. Ryleigh was intact and whole for his first 4 weeks on earth. Upon needlessly having his penis cut apart, Ryleigh's blood loss caused his organs and heart give out. All of this, for a medically unnecessary cosmetic surgery his parents opted for, at a B.C. location where the MGM rate is just 4.9%.
It is infrequent for parents of babies who die from circumcision to go on the news, or allow interviewers to get involved in their case. The guilt and remorse must be overwhelming. It is difficult enough for parents of cut children who live to handle what was done to their son(s) if and when they learn of all that circumcision takes away from a boy/man. Ryleigh's parents, however, said they wanted to 'make a difference' for others. And yet, in what seems like intense denial of the situation that killed their son, they said they would probably cut another child if they had a second male baby.
In this enlightening video, John V. Geisheker, J.D., LL.M., discusses Ryleigh's death and why all circumcision deaths continue to be so grossly under reported and unchallenged.
(1) Baker RL. Newborn male circumcision: needless and dangerous. Sexual Medicine Today. 1979;3(11):35-36.
(2) Bollinger, Dan. Lost Boys: An Estimate of U.S. Circumcision-Related Infant Deaths. Thymos: Journal of Boyhood Studies. 2010;4(1):78-90.
(3) AAP Policy Statement: Prevention of Choking Among Children. Feb 10, 2010. Published online at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/peds.2009-2862v1
(4) Rimell FL, Thome A Jr, Stool S, et al. Characteristics of objects that cause choking in children. JAMA. 1995;274(22):1763–1766
(5) Harris CS, Baker SP, Smith GA, Harris RM. Childhood asphyxiation by food: a national analysis and overview. JAMA. 1984;251(17): 2231–2235
(6) Policy Statement: Prevention of Choking Among Children. Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention. Pediatrics. 2010; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2009-2862
For further information on death due to circumcision and mortality rates:
Increased Dangers of Circumcision Report
Cut vs. Intact Outcome Statistics
Related News Briefs:
Baby Dies in South Dakota
New York Baby Dies
Baby Dies After Brit
More newborn baby boys die from circumcision surgery each year in the United States than from choking, from auto accidents, from suffocation, from SIDS, from sleep positioners and from (the newly banned) drop-side cribs.
Doctors Re-examine Circumcision
Circumcision: An American Health Fallacy
Circumcision: The Painful Dilemma
Circumcision: A History of the World's Most Controversial Surgery
Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective
What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Circumcision
Circumcision: What Every Parent Should Know
Marked in Your Flesh: Circumcision from Ancient Judea to Modern America
Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma
Circumcision: The Rest of the Story
Circumcision Exposed: Rethinking a Medical and Cultural Tradition
40 Compelling Reasons Why You Should Respect His Birthright and Keep Your Son Whole
Children's Genitals Under the Knife
Complete resources on the prepuce and circumcision can be found at: Are You Fully Informed?