Miami Hospital Circumcises Baby By Mistake

Miami mother sues hospital for irreversible procedure against her culture.

ByABC News
September 13, 2010, 4:03 PM

Sept. 14, 2010— -- Eight days after her son was born and was still being cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit, Vera Delgado went home briefly to take a shower and change her clothes.

When she came back to South Miami Hospital, she found her baby, Mario Viera, had been circumcised –- by mistake.

Now, Delgado is suing the hospital, not for a medical mistake, but for assault and battery on her newborn. She is asking for $1 million for the "deformity" the circumcision caused.

"This is not medical malpractice," said her lawyer, Spencer Aronfeld. "We are suing for battery, an unauthorized assault on this baby. They took a knife to him without his parent's permission."

"The baby was in neonatal intensive care with complications from a birth-related infection," said her lawyer. "They took the baby out and amputated healthy tissue from the penis in an irreversible procedure."

Delgado, 30, who is unmarried and Latino, is culturally opposed to circumcision, according to her lawyer. He says the baby's father, who is of Cuban descent and helping to raise Mario, agrees.

"It was horrific, quite frankly," said Aronfeld. "The parents were very explicit they did not want him circumcised, and [the hospital] had asked the parents repeatedly."

Since announcing Delgado would sue, Aronfeld said he has received countless supportive e-mail messages and seen social network postings from so-called "intactivists" who oppose circumcision.

"People who are passionate about not circumcising their children are sending me Facebook messages, like, "I love you. You are my hero!"

"We are the only country in the world that routinely does non-religious and non-medical circumcisions," said Aronfeld. "Americans need to learn circumcision is not the way penises were meant to be."

South Miami Hospital, whose automated answering message says it is "recognized for nursing excellence," admitted staff members "misread" the consent forms.

In a prepared release, the hospital said the circumcision was an "unfortunate mistake." The procedure itself was performed following "appropriate" surgical guidelines and the baby had no complications.

"It was essentially a mistake and we admitted it to the family and worked with them, as well as ourselves, to come up with procedures that prevent this from happening again," said Bethany Rundell, marketing manager for the 476-bed hospital, which serves diverse Dade County and many Latinos. "We are deeply sorry that this happened."

The Stop the Infant Circumcision Society (SICSociety), a group whose credo is "The foreskin is not a birth defect," has said it will hold a demonstration at the hospital on Friday.