Male genital mutilation (circumcision) deaths

Some babies die of complications of circumcision.1 There has been a need to assemble information concerning death from complications of circumcision in one convenient location. This page is designed to fill that need.

Deaths occur secondary to loss of blood or systemic infection from the circumcision wound.

A few deaths are reported in the medical literature. Other medical literature discusses the frequency of those deaths. A few deaths are reported in the popular press.

There is reason to believe that many deaths from circumcision are attributed to other causes. For example, if a baby were to die of meningitis that was contracted through the circumcision wound, the death may be attributed to meningitis while ignoring the fact that the baby would not have had meningitis if he had not been circumcised.

Circumcision originated before the dawn of history. There was no knowledge of sanitation or the need for a sterile operating environment. Jews have traditionally performed circumcision on the eighth day after birth for many thousands of years. The medical literature was still reporting numerous deaths from ritual circumcision in the early twentieth century.2, 3 There must have been vast numbers of babies who died under those conditions through the centuries. Jewish law allows parents who have had three sons die from circumcision to leave the fourth son intact.6

Doctors are highly motivated to conceal the true cause of circumcision death. Neonatal circumcision has no medical indication and is now considered to be an unnecessary7 non-therapeutic8 operation. It is unethical to carry out such operations on minors who cannot consent for themselves.9 Consequently, most doctors who have a baby die after a circumcision would prefer to attribute the results of his unethical operation to secondary causes, such as infection or bleeding, while ignoring the primary cause, which is the circumcision that resulted in the infection or bleeding. It is, therefore, very hard to identify the total number of deaths that occur from circumcision. One senses that one may be seeing only the “tip of the iceberg,” with the vast majority of deaths from circumcision being concealed. The deaths undoubtedly cause an increase in infant mortality. Male infant mortality is higher than female infant mortality. It is not known how much of this increased mortality is due to the practice of male circumcision.

Several doctors have given estimates of the number of deaths that occur each year. Douglas Gairdner reported 16-19 actual deaths a year in England and Wales from neonatal circumcisions in the 1940s.10 Sydney Gellis believed that “there are more deaths from complications of circumcision than from cancer of the penis.11 There are various figures for the number of deaths from penile cancer ranging from 200 to 480 deaths per year. Robert Baker estimated 229 deaths per year from circumcision in the United States.12

There are several case reports of death in the medical literature. These are deaths from various infections.2-5,13-15 Sauer reported the death of an 18-day-old infant from Staphylococcal bronco-pneumonia.5 Hiss et al. reported the death of an infant in Israel from haemorrhage and hypovolemic shock after ritual circumcision.21

There are several newspaper accounts of boys who have died after circumcision. These are from bleeding and from complications of anesthesia.16-17,19-21,22-36

Several coroner’s reports of deaths from circumcision are known to exist.1838 Demetrius Manker died from blood loss in Dade County, Florida on June 23, 1993.18 The coroner’s report on the death of a previously healthy one-month-old infant, Ryleigh Roman Bryan McWillis, less that 48 hours after his circumcision,24 is available. Baby Ryleigh died of hypovolemic shock, after exsanguination caused by hemorrhage at the circumcision wound.3839 Ryleigh’s mother said, “I unplugged his life support at 5 a.m. on the 22nd of August, one month and one day after he was born.39

Despite the abundant evidence of death from circumcision-related-causes, the March 2009 Circumcision Policy Statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics omitted any mention of possible death from circumcision-related-causes, thereby helping to keep American parents uninformed of the possibility of death following circumcision.

Many African tribes have initation ceremonies in which a youth or young man is initiated into manhood. The youths are sent to a camp in a remote area where initiation ceremonies, including circumcision, take place. The circumcisions are carried out by persons without medical training. African tribal ritual circumcision produces reports of death or serious injury every year.28-36, 39,40 The Mail and Guardian reports seven dead in the Fall of 2003 and a total of 250 dead since 1995.36

Amitai Moshe, age 8 days, went into cardiac arrest after a ritual circumcision at Golder’s Green Synagogue, London. He was taken from the synagogue directly to hospital and died eight days later.43-45

A family doctor in Ontario circumcised an unnamed healthy infant at seven days of age. The infant suffered multiple complications and died seven days later of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy.46

Identified victims

Some victims of circumcision are known by name. They are:

  • Julius Katzenstein: 8-days-old, bled to death after circumcision, 14 December 1856, New York, NY, USA.
  • Myer Jacob Levy: 8-days-old, bled to death after circumcision, 18 April 1858, New York, NY, USA.
  • Aleck, Baby Boy: Died June 10, 1910, Island County, Washington, USA.
  • Michael Julian Baldwin: infant boy, 4-days-old, hemorrhage after circumcision. 21 August 1927, Monroe County, Indiana, USA.
  • Baby boy Lebeau, death by circumcision, April 1942, Quebec, Canada.
  • Roland Albert McCarty: infant boy. Death by infection of circumcision wound. Died 1932, Jacksonville, Florida, USA.
  • “J.B.”: Died December 1942, Evanston, Illinois, USA.
  • Bruce Wechsler: infant boy, Staph infection following circumcision. 1957, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
  • Chino Burrell: 7-months-old, death by circumcision, 9 June 1974, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
  • Christopher Dolezal: Died November 1982, Des Moines, IA, USA.
  • Steven Christopher Chacon: Died November 1986, San Francisco, CA, USA.
  • Boma Oruitemeka: Death by circumcision, severe hemorrhage. 1990, London, England, UK.
  • Raju Miah: Death by circumcision. July 1991, Birmingham, England, United Kingdom.
  • Allen A. Ervin: Died July 8, 1992, Spartanburg, SC
  • Demetrius Manker: Died June 23, 1993, Carol City, Dade County, Florida, USA.17
  • Jeremie Johnson: Died July 18, 1995, Houston, TX, USA.19
  • Dustin Evans: Died October 1998, Cleveland, OH, USA.
  • Ryleigh Roman Bryan McWillis: Died August 22, 2002, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada35
  • Zola Mjamba: Died November 19, 2002, Umtata, South Africa
  • Sifiso Kobo: Died November 21, 2002, Umtata, South Africa
  • Nui Jia Yuan, 4-years-old. Death by asphyxia following circumcision. March 26, 2003, Singapore.
  • Callis Osaghae: Monday, August 18, 2003, Regional Hospital, Waterford, Ireland.26
  • Bennett Ntazina, adolescent boy. Death by circumcision. December 2003, Jan Kempdorp, South Africa.
  • Thamsanqa Mnyaka, 19, of Whittlesea, South Africa: Died Friday, 12 December 2003.
  • Myolisi Mayekiso, 18, also of Whittlesea, South Africa: Died Friday, 12 December 2003.
  • Andile Masabalala, 21, of Tsomo, South Africa: Died Monday, 15 December 2003.
  • Sabelo Marotya, 17, at Mdantsane, South Africa: Died Sunday, July 4, 2004.
  • Infant twin (by herpes virus, circumcised by Rabbi Yitzhok Fischer who had herpes and performed metziza by mouth [sucking the blood] on baby’s penis) New York, New York, USA, October, 2004.
  • Dontsa Lwane, 19 (by suicide after botched circumcision of Dec 11, 2004) Gqebenya, Lady Frere, South Africa, January 8, 2005.
  • Wandile Lwane, 21 (Dontsa’s brother, by suicide after learning of Dontasa’s death) Ezibeleni, Queenstown, South Africa, January 9, 2005
  • Muyoddin Khan, 5, Indrapur, Nepal, February 10, 2005.
  • Abou Quir, infant boy, Alexandria, Egypt, February 15, 2005.
  • Jacob Christian Holliday. Circumcision damaged already-defective heart, requiring heart transplant at age two. Death resulted from cancer caused by immuno-suppresant drugs and resultant cancer at age 4, 20 October 2005, Orlando, Florida, USA.
  • Patrick Hoho, 58 (hacked to death by Hoho’s circumcision victim), Port Elizabeth, South Africa, July 3, 2006.
  • Sello Ntsie, 18 (beaten to death at a circumcision “initiation school” before he could be circumcised), Zuurbekom, near Westonaria, South Africa, July 5, 2006.
  • Siyabonga Radebe, 14 (beaten to death at a circumcision “initiation school” before he could be circumcised), Zuurbekom, near Westonaria, South Africa, July 5, 2006.
  • Nkhiphitheni Nehelula, 9, Guyuni-Dzumbama village near Mutale, Limpopo, South Africa, July 8 or 9, 2006.
  • Xola Mbuqe, 18, Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital, Mthatha, Eastern Cape, South Africa, November 26, 2006.
  • Lunga Nocanda, 18, Paarl, Western Cape, South Africa, December 18, 2006.
  • Infant boy. Death by bleeding following circumcision in Creswell, Oregon,February 2007, Sacred Heart Hospital, Eugene, Oregon, USA.
  • Amitai Moshe, 2 weeks, after a ritual circumcision at Golders Green Synagogue, London. February 9, 2007.
  • Celian Noumbiwe, boy, nine weeks, death by circumcision, bled to death, 22 February 2007, Wexham Park Hospital, Slough, Berkshire, United Kingdom.
  • Kulideep Kumar Vishnubhai Patel, 10-year-old boy, death by circumcision, 18 November 2007, Unjha, Gujarat, India,
  • Infant boy, 18-days-old, death by circumcision, 18 November 2007, Pilar District, Tarragona, Nigeria.
  • 18-year-old male, death by circumcision, November 2007, Gxulu Village, Umtata, South Africa.
  • Obosee Prince Aseh, boy, 2-months, death by circumcision, haemorrhage, 5 June 2008, Treviso, Italy.
  • Gino Erojo, 11-years-old. Death by infection following circumcision, 3 August 2008, Panciao, Manjyod, Negroes Oriental, Philippines.
  • Beasley Allen Terrebonne, age 48, death by suicide after botched circumcision and resulting depression. 23 December 2008, Thibodaux, Louisiana, USA.
  • Eric Keefe, 6-week-old infant boy, death by blood loss following circumcision, 14 July 2008, Indian Health Service Hospital, Rosebud, South Dakota, USA.
  • Yogama Boya, 18-year-old male, death by circumcision, July 2008, Qumbu area of Transkei, South Africa.
  • Johnson Killed. Age 2 years and 7 months. death by circumcision. 22 July 2008, Bari, Italy.
  • Bradley Dorcius, boy, 7-months-old. Death by circumcision, October 2009, SUNY Downstate Hospital. Brooklyn, New York, USA.
  • Kaan Otuk, boy, one-month-old. Death by circumcision anaesthesia overdose, 31 October 2009, Çukurova State Hospital, Adana, Turkey.
  • Sonke Foca, male, 19-years-old. Death by dehydration following circumcision, 11 November 2009, Butterworth, Transkei, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa.
  • Goodluck Caubergs, Baby. Bled to death after circumcision. Oldham, England, April 17, 2010.
  • Saijad Hossain Mimu, 6-years-old. Death by lidocaine anaesthetic overdose, 25 September 2010, Safapur, Amirbad Union,Sonagazi Upazila, Feni District in the Division of Chittagong, Bangladesh.
  • Joshua Haskins, 7-weeks old. Died 19 hours after having circumcision followed by prolonged bleeding, despite having congenital heart defect and being in intensive care. October 6, 2010, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.
  • Jaamal Coleson, Jr., toddler, of Brooklyn, New York. Died at Beth Israel Medical Center, Manhattan, New York City after a circumcision on Tuesday, May 3, 2011.50
  • James Connor, infant, seven pounds eight ounces, 21 inches long. Born at Pittsburgh, Friday, November 25, 2011. Died Saturday night, November 26, 2011. Death by bleeding after circucision.
  • Anonymous Jewish infant, two weeks old. Death from Herpes infection, Maimonides Hospital, Brookyn, New York, September 28, 2011.51
  • Two boys, Arif, age 4 and Azhar, age 3,in Rakasipet, Bodhan, Andhra Pradesh India. The boys died on Monday, April 30, 2012 after a circumcision a few days before by a rural medical practitioner at Masjid Colony in the Rakasipet area due to uncontrolled “overbleeding”.
  • Infant boy, age two-weeks. Circumcised Sunday, 6 May 2012 in a doctor’s office on the east side of Oslo, Norway. Died of complications Tuesday, 8 May 2012.

See also:

Library holdings

  1. Williams N, Kapila L. Complications of circumcision. Brit J Surg 1993;80:1231-6.
  2. Holt LE. Tuberculosis acquired through ritual circumcision. JAMA 1913;LXI(2):99-102.
  3. Reuben MS. Tuberculosis from ritual circumcision. Proceedings of the New York Academy of Medicine 1916; (December 15): 333-334.
  4. Rosenstein JL. Wound diphtheria in the newborn infant following circumcision: report of a case. J Pediatr 1941;18:657-8.
  5. Sauer LW. Fatal staphylococcus bronchopneumonia following ritual circumcision. Am J Obstetr Gynecol 1943;46:583.
  6. The Talmud of Babylonia: An American Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner. Number 251. Volume XIII.B: Tractate Yebamot, Chapters 4-6. Program in Judaic Studies Brown University. Atlanta: Scholars Press. 1992.
  7. Denniston GC. Unnecessary Circumcision. The Female Patient 1992: 17: 13-14.
  8. Council on Scientific Affairs, American Medical Association. Report 10: Neonatal circumcision. Chicago: American Medical Association, 1999.
  9. Hodges FM, Svoboda JS, Van Howe RS. Prophylactic interventions on children: balancing human rights with public health. J Med Ethics 2002;28(1):10-16.
  10. Gairdner D. The fate of the foreskin: a study of circumcision. Br Med J 1949; 2:1433-1437.
  11. Gellis SS. Circumcision. Am J Dis Child 1978;132:1168.
  12. Baker RL. Newborn male circumcision: needless and dangerous. Sexual Medicine Today 1979;3(11):35-36.
  13. Scurlock JM, Pemberton PJ. Neonatal meningitis and circumcision. Med J Aust 1977;1(10):332-
  14. Cleary TG, Kohl S. Overwhelming infection with group B beta-hemolytic streptococcus associated with circumcision. Pediatrics 1979;64(3):301-303.
  15. Peter Rachter. Grand jury to probe death of baby after circumcision. The Des Moines Register, Des Moines, Saturday, November 20, 1982.
  16. Boy in coma most of his 6 years dies. The State, Columbia South Carolina, July 10, 1992: F21.
  17. Baby bleeds to death after circumcision. Miami Herald, Miami, Florida, June 26, 1993.
  18. Wetli CV. Case 93-1711. Autopsy of Demetrius Manker. Miami: Dade County Medical Examiner Department, June 23, 1993.
  19. Lyndia Lum, Ruth Sorelle. Boy’s death to be probed. Houston Chronicle, Houston, Texas, Friday, July 28, 1995, page 28A.
  20. Circumcision That Didn’t Heal Kills Boy, NewsNet5, Cleveland, OH, October 20, 1998.
  21. Hiss J, Horowitz A, Kahana T. Fatal haemorrhage following male ritual circumcision. J Clin Forensic Med 2000;7:32-4.
  22. Omskuren treåring dog av bedövning [Circumcised three-year-old died from anaesthesia]. Aftonbladet, Stockholm, Sweden, Friday, 9 February 2001.
  23. Paul Stokes. Patient died ‘because surgeon guessed dose’. Daily Telegraph, Friday, November 30, 2001.
  24. Sandra Vogel-Hockley. Death of local baby subject of investigation. The Penticton Western, Penticton, B.C., Volume 36, Issue 69, 31 August 2002.
  25. Man hunted after death of circumcision baby. Online.ie, Dublin, 20 August 2003.
  26. Infant dies after home circumcision. Munster Express, Munster, Southeathern Ireland, Friday, 22 August 2003.
  27. Initiation Horror as Four Dead. Eastern Province Herald, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Friday, July 19, 1996.
  28. Chris McGreal. Botched circumcision kills boys. The Guardian, London, 7 January 2000.
  29. Dumisane Lubisi, African Eye News Service. Boy bleeds to death after circumcision. News24, South Africa, 26 June 2001.
  30. Steven Kretzmann. Hospitals Struggle Against Odds to Treat Septic Initiates. East Cape News, Grahamtown, Eastern Cape, South Africa, 01 August 2001.
  31. Dumisane Lubisi. 11-year-old dies after botched circumcision. Daily Mail and Guardian, South Africa, Thursday, 16 August 2001.
  32. Sarie Van Niekerk. Five teens die during initiation. Natal Witness, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, Wednesday, 26 June 2002.
  33. Fourteen dead after initiation rituals in S.Africa. The Times of India, 5 July 2002.
  34. Circumcision leaves 24 dead, 100 in hospital. The Star, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Tuesday, 17 July 2002.
  35. Madoda Dyonana. ‘Errant surgeon will be found’. Business Day, Saturday, 7 December 2002.
  36. Law vs tradition in circumcision debacle. The Mail and Guardian. Johannesburg, South Africa, Monday, 8 December 2003.
  37. Newell TEC. Judgement of inquiry into the death of McWillis, Ryleigh Roman Bryan. Burnaby, B.C.: British Columbia Coroner’s Service, Monday, 19 January 2004. [HTML file]
  38. Newell TEC. Judgement of inquiry into the death of McWillis, Ryleigh Roman Bryan. Burnaby, B.C.: British Columbia Coroner’s Service, Monday, 19 January 2004. [PDF file]
  39. Suzanne Fournier. Lack of post-surgery info angers grieving parents. The Province, Vancouver, B.C., Friday, 13 February 2004.
  40. Circumcision school initiate dies. South African Press Association (SAPA), 8 July 2004.
  41. Lulamile Feni. 10 die in botched circumcisions, 32 fight for lives. Daily Dispatch, East London, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, Tuesday, 13 December 2005.
  42. Bollinger D. Death and the new penis. International Coalition for Genital Integrity, 2006. [Full Text]
  43. Stephen Moyes. 7-day old dies after circumcision. The Mirror, London, Thursday, 15 February 2007.
  44. Martin Beckford. Police investigate baby’s death after circumcision. Daily Telegraph, London, Friday, 16 February 2007.
  45. Polly Curtis. Police probe death of baby after circumcision. The Guardian, London, Saturday, February 17, 2007.
  46. Paediatric Death Review Committee: Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario. Circumcision: a minor procedure? Paediatr Child Health 2007;12(4):311-2.
  47. Boy, 4, dies after circumcision. Electric New Paper, Singapore, 25 June 2007.
  48. Unjha doctors strike work. Express India, Tuesday, 20 November 2007.
  49. Edward Koech. Boy bleeds to death after ‘cut’. The Nation, Nairobi, Friday, December 14, 2007.
  50. Cynthia R. Fagen. Tot’s shock hosp death: Tragic circumcision. New York Post, Thursday, May 5, 2011.
  51. Liz Robbins. Baby’s Death Renews Debate Over a Circumcision Ritual. New York Times, Wednesday, March 7, 2012.

(File revised 14 May 2012)

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