$1.3 Million Awarded for Botched Circumcision

Chicago Sun-Times Report

A baby who suffered a partial amputation of his penis during a botched circumcision performed when he was 12 hours old has been awarded a judgment of more than $1.3 million, according to attorneys for the child’s family.

The verdict was returned to the family of the boy, now 5, by a Cook County jury on Tuesday, according to a statement from the family’s attorneys. Defendant Marc S. Feldstein, M.D., delivered Daniel Burden on Oct. 4, 2007, at Northwestern Memorial’s Prentice Women’s Hospital, the statement said.

The following morning, during a circumcision procedure, a portion of the distal tip of the boy’s penis was inadvertently amputated, according to the statement from the attorneys. The child was rushed to Children’s Memorial Hospital, where a pediatric urologist successfully re-attached it. Though he will be left with moderate scarring and is at risk for altered nerve sensation in the affected area, his penis should be fully functional, the statement said.

The trial began May 16 and ended Tuesday with the jury awarding the family $1,357,901.12, according to the statement. “I’m sure that [the boy]will be grateful that this injury was not as devastating as it could have been,” attorney Timothy Tomasik of Tomasik Kotin Kasserman said in the statement. “But he will always be different, and that is something he has to live with for the rest of his life.” Northwestern didn’t immediately comment on the case.

Related Reading: 

Intact vs. Circumcised Outcome Statistics

The Perils of Plastibell

Death from Circumcision

Healthy Newborn Dies Post-Circumcision

Safety pin, bell and tie are visible during infant circumcision, Washington.

Medical Benefits of Circumcision








No medical organization in the world recommends routine infant circumcision.
Most strongly caution against it.

There are no medical benefits to removing the purposeful prepuce organ from a heathy newborn baby.

Above postcards available at Etsy.

Repeat Circumcision: Lessons Learned From the Mother of a Botched Baby

By Josie Wallace © 2013

There he was. Purple, screaming, shaking. Fists so tight that his little knuckles were white. And the blood, it was everywhere. His tiny body was still strapped onto the board.

And no one cared.

Not the nurse or the doctor - no one down the hall came running to help him. His screams were everywhere, all over the building. And I didn't know what to do. I stroked the only place I could, which was his forehead. I told him that I loved him and that I was sorry, I was so sorry... and that he would be okay.

But I didn't know... would he be okay?

Nobody seemed to mind everything he was going through. It was no big deal, the screaming, the bleeding - none of it seemed to matter. It was normal around here. Another day circumcising babies for everyone else. But it did matter. HE MATTERED. Everything that had just been taken from him mattered. The pain he was in mattered. And I knew I had just made an awful choice that would forever change who he was supposed to be.

After eight hours of bleeding, my baby boy had emergency surgery. They had accidentally cut all the skin off the shaft of his penis. That day changed my entire life, and his, forever.

I remember being really angry at all the people who told me circumcision was 'best' for my baby. I couldn't understand how everything he just went through could possibly be for the better. How could having a body part ripped off of him, and then coming so very close to bleeding to death be better than remaining intact as he was made?

And then I got really angry with myself for believing everyone else around me, when in my heart I knew the truth. I believed all their lies. And I hated myself for it. I felt like I was being punished for not listening to my heart. The guilt was overwelming and took me over in huge waves. I was lost for a long time.

Time went on and he grew more and more. My son ended up having two more corrective surgeries at 18 months and 23 months. Both were extremely hard for all of us, but the last one was horrendous. He still remembers it to this day. I went back after the surgery to a inconsolable, screaming baby who I had never seen. Nothing I did helped him. A few weeks later the night terrors started. He would wake in the middle of the night screaming with his eyes still closed. I couldn't wake him or calm him. They were caused from the stress of the surgery. I knew this for certain.

At this point I was drowning in guilt, I couldn't breathe. Most nights I cried myself to sleep and I felt so alone. The only thing I knew to do was talk about it, so I did. I talked about it and got it out there. I started saving babies and my heart started healing. The more babies I saved in honor of my son, by sharing our story, the less guilt I had.

I soon realized that it wasn't my fault... I did what everyone told me, including the doctors, was best for my baby. And I truly wanted what was best for him - I loved him. Everyone wants what is best for their child. I know some people still think it is my fault - but it wasn't. I eventually realized that rarely is it a 'parent's fault.' We believe the doctors and all the lies, we think intact penises are dirty and disease filled. We are told that to be 'normal' is to be circumcised. It is so hard to stand alone sometimes when everyone is against you. I do blame myself for this - for not standing alone anyway - but I know now I am strong enough to be here solo and hold my ground when it comes to my children. I'm all they need.

So after years and years of re-living these experiences, my advice to new and expecting mothers is this: Listen to your mommy gut! Don't believe everything people tell you, and question everything. You have a right to know the truth, to understand fully all the facts, and your son does too. My baby lived the truth and faces the consequences of this every day. In his honor, please research circumcision.

Update: Since the birth of my first son, and our experiences with circumcision, I have had two more heathy boys! Both of them remain intact today as they were born. Our experiences with my first son taught me many lessons as a mother - it changed every aspect of our lives. Today I question and research everything when it comes to my children and I highly encourage you to do the same.

Graphic by Intact Houston

To read more from parents whose sons were circumcised before they had accurate or complete information, or to join a supportive group of parents who have been through similar circumstances, see resources at I Circumcised My Son: Healing From Regret.  


Circumcision: I Promise, Never Again

By Shannon Weissman © 2013

My heart aches every day for the mistake I made that I can never take back. I cry and hope that my son can forgive me for the uneducated decision that I had no right to make on his behalf. 

January 2011: My son was born perfect. My labor was unmedicated and fairly quick. I was proud of myself and my lil babe for doing so well. He was 8lb 3oz of gorgeous chubby baby! He nursed right away and was very happy. My husband, who is Jewish by birth but not practicing, assumed that our son would be circumcised. I never questioned it. I didn't know I should. I didn’t think there were risks. I was so ignorant. I hardly even thought about the procedure until that day. I had no idea what it entailed.

While I was pregnant, my husband approached me about having a brit milah. I told him I knew nothing about it and he would have to do all the work researching for a rabbi and temple, etc. But we ignorantly never researched the details of the surgery itself. What he did find out was there was no mohel where we live and if we wanted the procedure done by a mohel we would have to fly one out! Because that was a stretch for us and we had no family close enough to attend, my husband decided to say the Jewish prayer himself as the pediatrician performed the circumcision.

When the doctor came in to talk to us about our son's circumcision, all I could think about was how this was the safest and best option for him in the long run - believing all the common myths American parents typically hear. I asked the doctor how many circumcision surgeries he had performed and begged him to be careful because my baby only gets one penis and there was no going back. (Boy did I miss the message in that!)

Our physician joked that this was his first time performing circumcision, and then reassured me that he had performed hundreds before and he would do just fine. He almost tried to tell me this was an unnecessary procedure, but he failed to warn us of any risks or any dangers involved. We did not have to watch a video about circumcision, although we had been required to view the shaken baby syndrome video... Why don’t they give parents full disclosure on circumcision procedures as well?! At the time, I didn’t even consider that death was a risk at all. Dumb, I know -- death is a risk of any surgery. But I hadn’t even considered it. If I had, then my son would most certainly remain intact, because his life is much more precious than circumcision. I would not have risked his life for this. I know now that I am lucky he is alive.

We had permission for my husband to be present in order to say the Jewish prayer while they performed the circumcision, but there was no way I could have been in that room. Now I wish I had been... I'm sure I would've stopped it! I cannot imagine seeing my perfect baby held down and tortured.

When my son came back to the room, he would not nurse for hours. He just slept. I realize now that he was in shock. My poor, innocent, one-day-old baby was in shock. I asked if it was normal for him to not be nursing, and I was assured that this was typical post-circumcision. Hospital staff tried to calm my fears by telling me he did not cry during the circumcision and everything went 'perfect.' They used a Plastibell and told me it was safer. Plastibell circumcision leaves part of the plastic ring on the head of the penis during the post-operative healing phase. It falls off on its own around the same time as the umbilical cord. I asked about how to care for this and was told not to put anything on it! Period. No other instructions. I was surprised because I did remember a friend having a son not long before and she told me about using lots of Vaseline. But I asked again, and was again told the Plastibell required no extra care and to not put anything on it -- it would heal on its own. I should not wipe it with a wipe, but drip a little warm water on it from squeezing a wet paper towel. That's it. No further instructions, no warnings, nothing to look out for, no directions for how to care for it after the Plastibell fell off. And we were sent home...

Thinking back, I cannot even remember changing my son's diaper before he was circumcised. I try so hard to think about what his body looked like perfect and whole and unmutilated. But I can’t even remember. I didn’t even give him a chance.

The first week home was uneventful. But when the Plastibell ring started to fall off unevenly I got nervous. I called everyone I knew who had a son and asked if they were circumcised with a Plastibell and if this was normal. A friend of mine stopped by who had a son with this type of circumcision and said it looked normal. At our 2 week check up the doctor said it was okay and not to worry. We were again told we shouldn't be putting anything on it. When the ring came all the way off I was relieved. Everything seemed to be alright? But I've never taken care of a circumcised penis before! I noticed there was still enough foreskin to cover the head of his penis. So, once a day I would pull it back just a little to wipe it clean. I never pulled it back too much because I didn’t want to hurt my baby. Everything seemed fine.

At about 3 1/2 months I noticed that a small part of the remaining foreskin was reattaching to the head of my son's penis. When I asked the doctor about this at his 4 month visit, she said not to pull it apart because it would cause scarring and cause him pain in the future. So I was sure not to pull it apart! I then started to notice this remaining foreskin attaching even more. Every time I talked to my mother about my concerns, she would tell me I was 'obsessed with his penis' and she was sure it was fine. This of course made me feel worse. Was I 'obsessed?' I don’t know. How could I not notice it? I changed him 10 times or more a day! He did not seem 'fine.'

We saw a different doctor at our next visit and he told us to separate the remaining foreskin from the glans (head) of the penis by pulling it apart, but I was concerned about scarring as the other doctor had warned us about. So I did not. And then I started to do some research online... I learned that what he has are likely penile adhesions. Some sources told me to separate it at home and some said that he would need another surgery (repeat circumcision).

At about 8 months I took him to a naturopath because I wanted to try out a more natural health care provider. Even though it was going to cost me $200 out of pocket for our first visit, I was excited to talk to someone more on my page. When I called to make the appointment and spoke to the N.D. on the phone, she assured me that she could address every question I had, including his circumcision. After our pricey appointment, however, I was extremely disappointed. Not only were we rushed with hardly enough time to recall the questions I had, she also looked at his circumcision wound and said, "I think it looks okay, but I’m not a penis expert." Really? We never went back.

A few months later I made an appointment with our doctor for a referral to a urologist. I wanted to talk to someone who looked at penises all day. I needed an answer! Our doctor refused to give us a referral. She said if he wasn’t in pain, not to worry about it. She said to give him a warm bath and then gently separate the foreskin from the glans, and apply Vaseline. At this time my son was 10 months old. He would not sit still in any way whatsoever for me to try to separate it. And I was terrified I was going to make it worse.

I felt like a failure of a mother! How could I not protect him. How could I just let them do a surgery on my one day old PERFECT baby without doing any research?!

Today, I am so angry at myself that I cannot stand it. I make myself sick to my stomach wishing I could go back to that day and change things. I have permanently mutilated my perfect baby boy. Definitely have scarred him with my ignorance. I regret it every single day with my entire heart and soul.

When he was about one year old I finally reached out to the intactivist community and got more answers and more knowledge than any doctor had ever taken the time to tell me. I am still learning every day. We have decided to leave his adhesions alone and hope that they separate during puberty like a normal foreskin would. If he ever expresses that he is in pain we will readdress it and first look into steroid cream options and manual tugging to help separate the adhesions. Another surgery would be a very last resort.

I have also decided that when he’s old enough for the conversation I will explain to him why I allowed this to happen and hope that he forgives me. I will talk with him about foreskin restoration and offer to pay for products if he decides he wants to pursue that. I have also thrown myself into intactivism. I serve as Co-Director of Intact Hawaii and will never allow anyone I know to have a baby boy without the knowledge I have today. I cannot force anyone to change their views, but I do hope they are open minded enough to listen and research before it is too late. I will spread the truth to change the future for our children. Our sons deserve to have their genital autonomy protected, just as our daughters have today.


 These cards are available to request and share here: http://www.savingsons.org/p/info-cards.html

Hear from more parents whose sons were circumcised, and find resources specific to those raising both circumcised and intact sons at: http://www.drmomma.org/2010/05/i-circumcised-my-son-healing-from.html

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