Berlin hospital suspends circumcisions after court ruling

29th June 2012, Comments 13 comments

Berlin's Jewish Hospital will suspend circumcisions after a German court ruled this week that performing the procedure on religious grounds is unlawful, a hospital spokesman said Friday.

"We are suspending circumcisions until the legal position is clear," Gerhard Nerlich told AFP, citing head of internal medicine Kirstof Graf.

The hospital performs 300 circumcisions a year, a third of which are for religious reasons and the remainder due to medical concerns.

"We regularly performed circumcisions before this ruling but we don't have the legal freedom to do so any more," said Nerlich, adding that two procedures had already been cancelled.

Earlier on Friday German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle weighed in the debate, saying the country protected religious freedom and traditions.

"The ruling on circumcision has provoked annoyance internationally," Westerwelle wrote on his official Twitter account.

"We have to be clear: religious traditions are protected in Germany," he added.

A regional court in Cologne ruled that circumcising young boys on religious grounds amounts to grievous bodily harm in a judgement which triggered accusations that parents' rights were being trampled on.

The case, which could set a precedent, was brought against a doctor in Cologne who had circumcised a four-year-old Muslim boy on his parents' wishes.

A few days after the operation, his parents took him to hospital as he was bleeding heavily and prosecutors charged the doctor.

The court later acquitted the doctor himself of causing harm.

Muslim and Jewish groups along with top Christian clerics have voiced opposition to the ruling.

Westerwelle was also quoted in the Bild's online edition on Thursday saying that Germany "is an open and tolerant country where religious freedom is well established and where religious traditions like circumcision as an expression of religious diversity are protected."

© 2012 AFP

13 Comments To This Article

  • gerald posted:

    on 24th July 2012, 18:29:08 - Reply

    You all said great things. Why are religious rights of parents more protected than the body rights of children, and the religious rights of children? Why are parents held so in such esteem? I think we must go back to the trauma and abuse psychologist Alice Miller. Anyway, these protesters are making such a fuss and trying to confuse the issue. I was cut as a baby and I restent it. I see it as both aggression and theft. I feel I'll never get to have normal sex, and from that I also think it follows, I'll never get to have a normal relationship. I don't want to see the German government bow down to the Jews and kiss their asses on this because of 'you know what'. You know, that shouldn't grant the jews a free pass for everything they want. I think anyone who cuts a baby for non medical reasons is either evil or negligent, and lets not forget, Abraham himself had himself cut as an ADULT and also that cut was minor in comparison to common modern version which dates from the 2nd century AD/CE
  • mariavandervliet posted:

    on 6th July 2012, 19:54:11 - Reply

    @ daniel, are you implying that a foreskin is a mutation of some sort? every male mammal has one, it has a function, and if you don't want yours then you are free as an adult to chop it off. Why should infants who are not able to receive proper pain medication undergo an unneccesary procedure because they might not want a piece of their anatomy later on? Maybe i would rather not have ears, should my parents be allowed to chop them off at birth? or more to the point, maybe i don't like my prepuce (clitoral hood) maybe i wish my parents would have spared me the trouble of pondering that question. should all girls be subject to fgm simply because some may wish it done?
  • Robert Firth posted:

    on 5th July 2012, 05:46:56 - Reply

    I support the court. Religious freedom must include the right to be free FROM religion, else it is a licence for endless abuse in the name of some supernatural entity or another. A child has no religion, and forcibly mutilating that child in the name of your religion is simply wrong.
  • Daniel posted:

    on 4th July 2012, 12:59:00 - Reply

    I don't care under what legal premise male circumcision is being condemned by the Berlin court, there is no rational justification for disregarding the medical, social and aesthetic benefits of this procedure. Making allusions to bodily integrity is of no defence in this argument, let me pose this question; would you allow parasitic or conjoined twins to suffer even if surgery can fix it just because they were born that way? what sense does their premise of bodily integrity make here?
  • Tom Riddle posted:

    on 30th June 2012, 18:33:24 - Reply

    We regularly performed circumcisions before this ruling but we don't have the legal freedom to do so any more

    What a bunch of jokers! They are trying to change the debate—is it any wonder that a "Jewish" hospital is the one making the noise?

    This is an attempt to fool the general public into thinking the ruling is broader than it actually is; these jokers are trying to make people feel that the government has overstepped its limits to the detriment of a field as important as medicine, such that the poor doctors can no longer adequately administer their "healing" arts.

    What hogwash!

    This hospital performs 300 circumcisions per year, of which only 100 would be affected by the ruling—namely, the 100 that are NOT in any way medical in nature. The other 200 [supposedly] medically necessary circumcisions are unhindered.
  • Michel Hervé Navoiseau-Bertaux posted:

    on 30th June 2012, 09:58:09 - Reply

    The court ruled that:

    - circumcision was a “severe and irreversible interference into physical integrity.”

    - the "fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents".

    - "This change contravenes the interests of the child to decide later on his religious beliefs."

    The court did not point out that circumcision is intended to give the community a so-called moral superiority, which makes it a quasi-racist measure.
  • James Mac posted:

    on 30th June 2012, 08:33:18 - Reply

    Good! Doctors have no business using their tools and training to impose abusive and harmful blood rituals on defenceless children.
  • Kathy Bligh posted:

    on 30th June 2012, 07:13:05 - Reply

    Think about it people. Adults are fighting for the right to slice up children"s genitals. It"s just plain SICK !!!!!! Circumcision is child abuse. It must stop.
  • Dave posted:

    on 30th June 2012, 07:06:21 - Reply

    Why are politicians so dumb?

    Either genital mutilation is ok, or it isn't. You can't divide things by gender and be sexist, the principle is exactly the same.

    Quite rightly politicians have put a stop to FGM, so why the support for abuse of boys?
  • Ben posted:

    on 30th June 2012, 07:03:55 - Reply

    "Earlier on Friday German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle weighed in the debate, saying the country protected religious freedom and traditions."

    RESPONSE: But does the country protect children's bodies?

    "a judgement which triggered accusations that parents' rights were being trampled on."

    RESPONSE: What about a child's right to keep all of their body parts, if they wish?
  • Joseph4GI posted:

    on 30th June 2012, 05:05:42 - Reply

    "We have to be clear: religious traditions are protected in Germany..." unless it is female circumcision. Then it's "different."

    That is, until now...
  • Survey Programmer posted:

    on 30th June 2012, 00:43:24 - Reply

    Herr Westerwelle forgot to finish his sentence: We have to be clear: religious traditions are protected in Germany, ...even at the expense of children's rights.

    Circumcision of unconsenting children without medical need carries immediate and long-term adverse physical, sexual and psychological consequences, as documented by the Global Survey of Circumcision Harm [].

    It's disappointing that Westerwelle, an openly gay man and lawyer, fails to grasp the importance of the child's right to bodily integrity and genital autonomy.

    The court ruled correctly that when there's a conflict between a parent's religious beliefs/customs and the bodily integrity of the child upon whom a harmful custom is imposed, the child should be given the benefit of legal protection.
  • James Loewen posted:

    on 29th June 2012, 22:41:23 - Reply

    Good! It's about time a country stood up for the rights of children.

    Cutting off part of a child's genital organ is abuse. Every child has a basic human right to the body they were born with. Looking forward to seeing what other countries follow next.