Circumcision Shouldn't Be Blamed for 3-Year-Old's Tragic Death

operating roomWe've all been warned, repeatedly: Even the most run-of-the-mill outpatient surgical procedures can be risky. But when the odds of something going wrong are approximately one in a million -- or even one in a few hundred thousand -- I think most of us figure we're probably in the clear.

Of course that's a harder call to make when it comes to our kids. No parent makes medical decisions lightly. So it broke my heart to hear about the South African 3-year-old who died following a routine circumcision.

As his mother said, "My child was not sick when I walked into the clinic with him."

And now he's gone, all because of one doctor's negligence.


Little Chinonso Onyenekwu didn't wake up after his operation. And even though the extremely alarmed recovery room nurse tried, repeatedly, to get Dr. Charles Mdamombe to examine the unconscious boy, he refused. The boy was fine, he insisted, and anyway, Dr. Mdamombe wasn't finished eating lunch.

Ironically, Chinonso died because Dr. Mdamombe didn't bother to check to see whether the child had eaten lunch, or breakfast, or anything else for six hours before administering general anesthesia. He just went ahead and put the boy to sleep, which resulted in the contents of his stomach pushing up into his lungs, choking him to death.

(It's worth noting here that Mdamombe is NOT a trained anesthesiologist.)

When he realized the boy was dead, the doctor tried to bolt -- but Chinonso's father stopped him with the help of clinic security guards. He's now serving 10 years for culpable homicide.

Of course that doesn't bring Chinonso back. His doctor's punishment doesn't change the fact that his death was avoidable and needless.

And that's exactly why this horrible death should NOT be used to support arguments against circumcision. Chinonso died because of one person's mistake; it would be disrespectful to the child's family to exploit their sorrow for any agenda.

Do the risks involved in routine surgeries scare you as a parent?


Image via Mike LaCon/Flickr

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