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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Doctor vs Mohel

No, it's not the fight of the century.

But it is a question which comes up a lot. So here is the simple answer, from a mohel, of course.

[Though see here for a Reform Rabbi's answer]

Every person must do research and find the best operator for your needs, and for your situation.

In an ideal world, the person you are hiring is an observant Jew, who understands the significance of Bris Milah, the covenant, and all the laws associated with the performance of a bris milah. Whatever character traits you'd like in the person might also be significant to consider, when thinking about what kind of representative you (especially the father, who is really hiring the person to perform this mitzvah in your place) want to fill your place in this very important mitzvah.

ANYONE WHO FILLS THESE ROLES TO YOUR DESIRES IS A GOOD HIRE. [Even better, if he uses a marker when operating...]

Other things to consider:

1. Specialist

Who does more procedures? Many doctors I know (they are usually observant Jews) highly recommend a mohel over a doctor. They have the attitude that the mohel is a specialist. This is his field. He is the expert. Being highly trained in a specific discipline, and specializing in this unique field, makes the mohel most qualified to do this. [Obviously if a doctor happens to also be a mohel, this will work to his advantage in some people's eyes. But honestly, the service a doctor/mohel and a mohel provide is the same thing with respect to the circumcision and the result, except perhaps in two areas as I'll note below]

2. Method

Most doctors are more comfortable using a clamp - such as the Gomco or the Mogen clamp. Do research on these items, to decide if they are right for you. Some mohels (usually on the very modern side, or in the Conservative and Reform movements) use the Mogen clamp or a modified Mogen clamp. Most traditional mohels use what is called in Hebrew a Magen (מגן), a traditional "shield" (which protects the glans and the scrotum) which does not have a clamping arm. THIS IS THE PROCEDURE I USE While no procedure is completely bloodless (a real bris is not supposed to be bloodless), the clamps are supposed to cause less bleeding. The traditional method may have a little more bleeding, but in the hands of a good mohel, it is absolutely nothing to worry about.
And, as Rabbi Cartun points out in the article I linked to above (here it is again), the speed in which a mohel operates is usually much faster than any physician.

3. Numbing

See here for a discussion about this. Most doctors will give the baby several injections to create a nerve blockage. While the baby might not feel the bris, the baby will feel the injections (and may feel them hours later as well). Some mohels recommend or provide a topical anesthetic. Depending on its strength, it may remove the pain of the actual circumcision.

4. How is baby held?

Numbing does not help the baby's discomfort at having his legs held down. Most mohels have the sandak holding the baby's legs, and letting go as soon as the procedure is over. Many doctors might utilize a circumstraint to hold the baby, leaving the baby in an uncomfortable position significantly before and sometimes after the procedure as well.

5. Track record and Touch-ups
Probably the most important question is "what is the track record?" While I don't have statistical evidence, I have spoken to pediatric urologists and pediatric surgeons who have told me anecdotally that they do many more touchups on circumcisions done by doctors than by mohels. [Don't trust me. Ask similar doctors that you may know.]
Doctors tend to take off a little less foreskin, which leaves the penis looking uncircumcised in many cases of touch-up necessity.
[Many "problems" disappear when the child gets out of diapers, and certainly by puberty. But for babies who need their circ to be revisited - it is worth asking people and doctors who has a better track record.]
A surgical marker could resolve this issue, but most mohels and doctors don't use one (though I do! :))

I guess it is clear that I prefer a good and experienced mohel over a doctor. Surprised?

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