Circumcision Death Brings Out the Worst Mom Bullies

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When the Similac recall occurred, Julie wrote about some insensitive comments made by moms. Some people took them as slaps to the face, and others said they really weren't that bad. I thought they were distasteful, but not necessarily attacks. They certainly didn't endear anyone to the authors of the comments.

This week, though, a new low has been hit.

A mother gives birth to a son and discovers he has a congenital heart defect. After seven long weeks, the doctors finally let her know if she wanted to have him circumcised, he was stable and they could go ahead.

Unfortunately, there were some complications, as can happen with any procedure of any kind. Normally, surgery complications have quick procedures that make them either minor or unnoticeable, but in this case, the baby couldn't recover, and he died.

And here enter the worst comments I've seen to date on the internet that attack the mother of the dead infant:

“My heart sure doesn't break for her. On the contrary, she got exactly what she deserved. If every baby who was mutilated died, it might put a stop to the practice. This so-called tragedy is good publicity for outlawing genital mutilation. I hope she feels guilty for the rest of her miserable life & my sympathy for her is ZERO.”

“They didn't care. It was more important that his penis be cut up than he live.”

"I want to offer this woman my deepest condolences, my deepest sympathy. But would she do this again? Would she dare buy the lie that "circumcision didn't kill my child," and go ahead and circumcise another? Did she learn? Or will she be like a dog to her vomit?"

NavalGazingMidwife wrote about her (NSFW) utter dismay and disgust over the comments and cruelty of other people -- other mothers. At a time when a mother should be grieving her dead infant, instead blogs and comments pop up everywhere telling her it's all her fault and she should hate herself.

Despite the outcome, the mother herself has said that the heart defect was the likely cause, not the surgery, and she doesn't regret it because there's no way anyone could have known. Some people are honestly questioning the logic of the doctors who would approve an optional surgery on a touch-and-go infant which is a totally valid concern... but others insist that circumcision killed him, as if they can diagnose medical problems via info on a blog and Twitter and know more than the mother herself. No matter what you think, the fact remains that a MOTHER -- not some letters on a screen -- lost her infant.

He is dead. A real live baby died.

A woman who claims to promote gentle and peaceful behavior started a crusade to use this death a platform to promote Intactivism (the name for the anti-circumcision movement), though the battle cry has since been revised and folks refuse to acknowledge the original's existence. People even addressed the mother directly to say "Told you so," and she was even told rumors that her local news was contacted and there would  be protests at the funeral and the hospital. Her Tweets cried out for help from Ellen Degeneres to help protect her from the bullying. People compared them to the Westboro Baptist Church.

While I'm not an Intactivist myself (I see it much like vaccines, and my opinion isn't up for debate), I completely understand the emotional place that they come from, and understand and respect their arguments and their personal choices. The majority of my friends are Intactivists to some degree, and they're as outraged as I am that this mother is being treated this way -- if not more.

The fact remains that no matter where you stand on this issue, attacking a mother who just lost her child when she was just trying to do what she believed was right, what her doctors told her was okay, is just wrong. It is unacceptable. It is unbelievably horrible.

It also does nothing to help your cause other than convince people that you're more akin to pro-life abortion clinic bombers than peaceful protesters trying to get out a message about the value of a child's right to make decisions about his own body.

There are people behind these names, behind the screen, behind the words. There is a mother who has lost a baby and will forever remember how at the time of his death, she was attacked viciously. What I hope she can eventually do, though, is remember the support, which came in droves, and tried to drown out the bad. Not all Intactivists are mean people -- in fact, just like the Westboro Baptist Church, the crazies are just a small but horribly loud minority, who are generally despised by the actual peaceful folk who are struggling to not be buried under the bad image of the bullies. In fact, it was Intactivists who set up a fund to help donate to the grieving mother and her family.

What to take away from this is a reminder that death is never your platform to attack someone. Moms are all trying hard, with lots of conflicting information and struggles, and while it can be hard to see someone ignore your advice and even find yourself in a position where you could say "I told you so," just don't do it.

Model peaceful parenting, helpful advice, sympathy, empathy and love, because no matter how you parent your kids, they will see how you handle yourself when they aren't looking, and that's when they'll really learn, and of course remember the golden rule you try to instill every day: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

 

Image via JoeBenjamin/Flickr

circumcision, newborns

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choto... chotovec82

The events leading up to Joshua’s death.


 


        Joshua was the newborn son of Jill and Shane Haskins and his short life was plagued with a series of heart complications due to congenital heart defects CHD (congenital heart defects).  The events surrounding Joshua’s death were posted publicly by his mother, Jill, via her blog (fierceandfiesty.blogspot.com); however, have since been removed.  For this reason, I will summarize the events leading to the loss of this loved baby boy.  The day prior to Joshua’s death, his parents consented to an elective circumcision.  The doctor who performed the surgery accidentally severed an artery in the penis which resulted in hemorrhaging.  The doctor applied pressure and powders to attempt to stop the bleeding, but even after hours of doing so, was unsuccessful..  Only after 6.5 hours of bleeding did a pediatric surgeon finally come to see Joshua’s wounded penis.  At that point the surgeon recognized that an artery had been cut and informed the his parents that he would need a couple stitches to stop the bleeding.  That evening Jill recounted the events in a teary, heart wrenching blogpost titled, I Almost Killed My Son.  Jill wrote:

choto... chotovec82

Right at this moment, Joshua is now back on 85% oxygen through his nasal cannula, his stats are in the upper 60s, he’s drugged, pale, and his crit levels are 41.  They are going to give him until midnight and run his crit levels again.  If they have not risen, then he will receive yet another blood transfusion.   


 


I should have known better, I should have said no.  I had hoped that he would do well and that it wouldn't be such a big deal. But instead I almost killed my child by consenting....I’m watching him sleep and I’m struggling with extreme guilt over all this.  I put him through it, Shane and I chose to have this done to him.  It wasn’t necessary.  Why did we do that?  Why is this so freaking hard?

choto... chotovec82

The following day, Joshua went into cardiac arrest and tragically departed this world.  He was seven weeks old. Following his death, Jill’s friend, Carla, reported on the blog that the hospital doctors had,  “reassured them over and over that that circumcision had nothing to do with Joshua’s death”.  Jill and Carla have both reported that there were several mean, attacking comments left by readers in response to the blogposts about Joshua’s death.  From there it was assumed by Jill, blog readers and even some intactivists that the intactivist community or at least some members of the community were heartlessly bullying, threatening and blaming this grieving mother and family.   Jill also tweeted to the Elen Degeneres show, “I just lost my 7 wk old son today. died in my arms. the anti circumcision community is bullying. he died of CHD not circ. help”.

choto... chotovec82

Intactivists respond.


 


       Why can’t the real intactivist “just shut the f*** up” (as requested by this blogger: http://navelgazingmidwife.squarespace.com/navelgazing-midwife-blog/2010/10/6/intactivists-shut-the-****-up-already.html) about the death of this infant boy?  Well the answer is rather simple: duty.  Duty to Joshua and duty to every other innocent baby boy subjected to genital reduction surgery.  As a community that seeks truth and transparency regarding the issue of circumcision, we have an obligation to speak up when what is being reported is inconsistent with the facts, especially when the facts would tend to show that circumcision was the primary culprit in the death of a defenseless child.   As tempting as it might be to just bury our heads in the sand and let our knowledge and experience go unused, doing so would be a disservice to our society, to parents and to the boys who we work so diligently to protect.  Our end goal is to protect non-consenting minors from the harms of circumcision and to prevent irresponsible actions and decisions, which result in pain and suffering, from going unpunished and undocumented.

choto... chotovec82

Mistakes are a part of life, but unless we take the time to recognized and learn from those mistakes they will continue to happen again and again, as has been the case for little boys subjected to non-therapeutic circumcision.  One could say that without mistakes and taking the time to process and learn from mistakes there can be no true progress.  Based upon the events surrounding Joshua’s death, as presented by his mother, there are enough inconsistencies and red flags that make it well-worth everyone’s time to investigate his death.  Regardless of how things turned out for Joshua, the hospital doctors made some serious errors in judgment which put Joshua at risk, plain and simple.  That said, let’s take a minute to examine some of the facts and inconsistencies as well as address some intactivist concerns regarding little Joshua’s death.   

choto... chotovec82

     When considering the evidence available to us it is virtually impossible for Joshua’s doctors to make the claim that Joshua’s death was entirely unrelated to the complications of his circumcision.  Peaceful Parenting already blogged (http://www.drmomma.org/2010/10/baby-dies-from-circumcision-surgery.html) about the well documented risk of cardiac arrest and hemorrhage resulting from circumcision.  These are real risks for a even healthy newborns and the harsh reality is that circumcision surgery is extremely taxing on little hearts.  Readers should know that professional organizations such as the RACP (http://www.racp.edu.au/index.cfm?objectid=65118B16-F145-8B74-236C86100E4E3E8E), AAP, CPS and others have even listed circumcision as contraindicated for unstable infants.  The day prior to Joshua’s surgery Jill blogged:


 


Now that Joshua is is ‘somewhat’ stable condition, the doctor didn’t want to wait any longer to get it done.  There is a risk that comes with having Joshua circumcised.   Once babies are bigger, they run a higher risk of bleeding too much.  The longer we wait, the higher the risk of bleeding.  So the doctor ordered for it to be done TODAY.

choto... chotovec82

Following his death Jill’s friend Carla posted the news of his death with the following explanation, “Put simply, he has been working his heart since birth. Every day was a stress on his heart and it was just not able to continue”.  So based on his mother’s perception Joshua was somewhat stable; however, based on the doctor’s testimony that everyday was a stress on his heart, it is clear that Joshua was in no way stable and therefore not a candidate for elective surgeries.  Additionally, Joshua hemorrhaged for 6.5 hours before a surgeon came to assess his condition.  His mother described how they were applying pressure and a powder to stop the bleeding but nothing worked because, unbeknownst to her, the doctor who performed the surgery had actually severed an artery.  This level of hemorrhaging causes the heart to work harder and beat faster due to a rise in blood pressure.  Combine that with the extra work the heart already had to do during the actual operation and you have one extremely tired little heart.  A six-seven hour workout for an already fragile heart will have lasting effects, even into the following day.  The heart is a muscle and just as you can feel soreness or tiredness the next day after a big workout, the heart also gets weak and tired after a big workout.  

choto... chotovec82

If everyday stress was enough for Joshua’s heart to give out, would it not stand to reason that the 6.5 hours of extra work his heart did the previous day could have been the finger that pulled the trigger of a loaded gun?  How can a medical doctor reason that everyday stress caused Joshua’s death but not the added exhaustion from hours of hemorrhaging the previous day?  Finally, it is still unclear whether Joshua received a blood transfusion, but if so, that is another factor that could have lead to his cardiac arrest.  Cardiac arrest is a well documented risk of blood transfusions.  It is entirely possible that the blood transfusion, which would have been required as a result of the hemorrhaging, could have caused little Joshua to go into cardiac arrest.  In fact, there were a cascade of medical interventions that ensued after the complications of his circumcision.  Given this reality, there are simply too many factors surrounding Joshua’s circumcision complications and subsequent medical interventions to rule out circumcision as a root cause of death.    

choto... chotovec82

       It is highly appropriate to point out that the blatant negligence of the hospital and how that could have played a role in the loss of an innocent life.  


 


-Should doctors have ever cut into the most sensitive, nerve-laden part of this fragile boy’s body knowing that he had this preexisting condition and that he was not in stable enough condition to manage even the stresses of everyday living?  Why didn’t these doctors honor their oath to do no harm and to put the interest of their patient first?      


 


-Should this NICU infant have been left to bleed for six hours without being assessed by a surgeon when it is well known that even an ounce of blood loss is enough to cause hypovolemic shock and 2.4 ounces of blood loss in a healthy newborn results death by cardiac arrest secondary to exsanguination?     

choto... chotovec82

-Should doctors have openly pressured Joshua’s parents to consent to a non-therapeutic surgery, claiming that the older he was, the higher the risk, especially considering that most parents of extremely fragile NICU babies are advised to wait a full year before electing to circumcise, at a time when the child is stronger and general anesthesia can be used safely?  


 


These are all very hard but necessary questions that community members, government authorities and intactivists should be asking Joshua’s medical care providers.  The doctors were the ones who were ultimately responsible for Joshua’s wellbeing.  What is particularly interesting is the way in which the hospital doctors went about reassuring Jill and Shane “over and over” that the circumcision played no role in Joshua’s death.   In yet another blogpost following his death, Jill wrote, “The team of neonatologists and cardiologists made it extremely clear that Joshua's cardiac arrest was NOT in any way related to the circumcision. His heart simply could not work any more. He put up a good fight, but he just simply couldn't do it”.   

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