Berlin hospitals stop ritual circumcisions

By Toby Axelrod, July 5, 2012
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Two hospitals in Berlin have cancelled planned ritual circumcisions after a Cologne District Court last week ruled the religious practice to be a criminal act.

A spokesperson for the Jewish Hospital in Berlin told the Taz daily in Berlin that it could not permit surgeons to perform the operation, given the legal insecurity. Kristof Graf, head of the hospital’s internal medicine division, told the paper he hopes the hospital will soon resume performing “this 250-year-old component of our medical work.” The Charité Hospital in Berlin is also turning down requests for religious circumcisions, the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel reported.

The hospitals’ announcements come amid growing protest from mainstream Jewish, Muslim, Christian and political voices over the ruling, which criminalises circumcision on a minor for other than medical reasons.

In the case, a Muslim doctor was sued by state prosecutors for performing a ritual circumcision in Cologne. Although the circumcision was carried out safely and successfully, medical staff were alerted when the parents brought in their four-year-old child due to concerns about post-surgical bleeding. The doctor was charged with committing bodily injury, and although he was ultimately acquitted, the court stated that the interests of the child come before those of the parents or abstract religious freedoms.

Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said he intends to reach out to the Bundestag to help fight the ruling.

Mr Kramer and the head of the Central Council of Muslims, Aiman Mazyek, have suggested another “test case” should be brought to the Federal Constitutional Court to correct the lower court’s decision — which cannot be appealed against as the doctor was acquitted.

Meanwhile, 56 per cent of Germans back the court’s ruling, according to a survey of 1,000 people by the Emnid research firm for Focus magazine.

Last updated: 12:27pm, July 5 2012