Can An Infant Die From Circumcision?

Although there are risks associated with circumcision, it is extremely rare for the procedure to result in death. In fact, the statistics for death range anywhere from 1 in 500,000 to 1 in 2,000,000 newborns. What is more likely is for circumcision to cause death indirectly, through consequences that would not have developed if the child had not been circumcised. Therefore, it’s important to factor in this possibility when you are evaluating all the risks and benefits of circumcision before coming to a final decision.

The following things can all lead to death if not addressed quickly enough, even though most seem fairly minor. It’s important to remember that we are dealing with newborns that have been through a significant recent trauma, and their systems have not yet adjusted to life outside the protected womb. Blood loss, anesthetic, systemic infection, urinary tract infection (UTI), anesthesia complications, painkillers and a blocked urethra (from the circumcision ring, if applicable) are some of the indirect complications can all be fatal for an infant.

Like any surgery, bleeding (or hemorrhaging) is always a risk, and that applies most definitely to circumcisions as well. Unfortunately, the excessive bleeding can be overlooked as the diaper has the ability to absorb much of the blood before the parent or physician notices the problem. In addition, hospitals are breeding grounds for infections, and because of the location and size of the wound, infected germs can easily enter and wreak havoc on the newborn’s system. Such infections are tetanus, streptococcus, meningitis and tuberculosis, among others. General anesthesia is not allowed to be used on newborns, as it has led to death in the past. Other alternatives to a local anesthetic is lidocaine injected into the top of the penis, or the application of cream directly onto the penis- although both of these carry risks of accidental overdose which can lead to death.

Unfortunately, many infant deaths resulting from circumcision are never reported by the physician. Physicians have their career and reputation on the line, and they are not going to step forward and admit killing an infant. One of the ways that these deaths are kept quiet is how they are classified in final documentation and autopsy reports- citing “complications of anesthesia” without ever including information on the elective circumcision. It is estimated that approximately 229 infants die as a result of circumcision complications.

So remember, factor in the potential drawbacks of circumcision (including death) and talk it over extensively with your partner and/or doctor before making a final decision.

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