As intactivists protested during the AAP convention 2015 in Washington DC, and less than two months after the Canadian Pediatric Society (CPS) updated their circumcision policy with a mediocre paper that provides no criteria, while apparently discouraging routine circumcision and promoting it at the same time, we learned of a sad development in Ontario. We learned that a 22-day-old baby called Ryan Heydari bled to death following a circumcision in 2013.
Now, why did it take so long for this story to become public? Details about the complaints against the two physicians made to the College of Physicians and Surgeons, including their identities, would have been kept secret had Ryan’s parents not sought a review by an appeals panel.
“We are so shocked that we will not have an answer to bring us some peace for our broken hearts, to prevent other cruel deaths like Ryan’s and to ensure that doctors take proper care of their patients,” mother Homa Ahmadi told the National Post.
We learned that the parents originally did not want the surgery but were convinced of it by their family physician, who referred them. Dr. Sheldon Wise performed the surgery, and when contacted later over concern that the baby was bleeding too much, advised them to take Ryan to Toronto’s North York General Hospital.
Ryan was eventually transferred to Sick Kids hospital, but died there seven days later. Pathologists said he succumbed to “hypovolemic shock” caused by bleeding from the circumcision, which emptied his body of 35 to 40 per cent of its blood.
Dr. Jordan Carr, the North York General hospital pediatrician who saw Ryan after he started bleeding, was cautioned in writing for “his failure to recognize the seriousness of the patient’s condition and to treat compensated shock.” Carr was also ordered to write a 2- to 4-page report on the possible complications of circumcision and on how to recognize and treat compensated shock.
Wise told the complaints committee he routinely performs circumcisions, and the committee expressed no concerns about his technique or equipment, according to the HPARB decision. But it did feel that he should be obtaining and documenting informed consent before doing the operation.
Ryan’s parents said in a statement: “Our family doctor convinced us though of the health benefits of this procedure, but we had no idea that the loss of Ryan’s life was one of the risks”
Details about the death of this baby are absent from both doctors’ profiles in the College of Physicians and Surgeons’ online registry, as the complaints against the doctors were made before the college changed its policies as to what information it releases to the public.
This same month, less than two weeks ago we learned of another circumcision death, one that was also not disclosed by the media when it happened. We only learned of it incidentally.
We had been following the news of the missing 9-week old infant in Florida, Chance Walsh, who was found buried in a shallow grave. Details were released of his death, after being beaten by the father, and how he was left to decompose on his crib for several days until the mother complained of the smell, at which point the body was wrapped in plastic bags and moved to the closed, and then taken 13 miles from home and buried on a shallow grave.
But news stories released also that this was not the first baby lost by this couple. On March of 2014 the mother, Bury, gave birth to Duane Jacob Walsh. Duane was found dead 22 days later, and the cause of his dead was ruled to be a kidney infection that resulted from a botched circumcision.
His dead would have remained silent, if it wasn’t because the couple had this other baby, Chance, who died after being severely beaten by the father, a baby that the mother “despised whenever she would look at him because he wasn’t Duane.”
How many more deaths are kept in silence?
The AAP, on their Technical Report on Circumcision of 2012 wrote:
“The majority of severe or even catastrophic injuries are so infrequent as to be reported as case reports (and were therefore excluded from this literature review). These rare complications include glans or penile amputation, 198–206 [...*] and death.213″
An official estimate of mortality by the American Academy of Family Practitioners (AAFP), often cited by other medical organizations, is 1 in 500,000 circumcisions. Thomas Wiswell and Brian Morris, both avid circumcision promoters, introduced a number 20 times smaller. It really doesn’t matter. Deaths happen, and when they happen, they are often ignored. There are no official lists. Parents don’t have access to this information. The AAP Task Force on circumcision can call them case reports, but truth is nobody is trying to keep real numbers, and without real numbers, parents are being deceived. Like Ryan’s parents were.
“we had no idea that the loss of Ryan’s life was one of the risks”
Circumcision promoters often accuse intactivists of exploiting these deaths to further our agenda. But what is our agenda? To try to prevent these tragedies? To promote that all children deserve to grow with intact genitalia? And what is their agenda? To keep making money out of an unnecessary surgery? To continue providing biomedical supplies (amputated foreskins) to the biomedical industry?
Which agenda benefits babies?
Is it fair to these babies to let their names be forgotten, to allow their tragedies to be ignored, and their stories to be repeated over and over?
Let me finish this post by saying:
Rest in peace, Ryan Heydari
Rest in peace, Duane and Chance Walsh