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Jewish baby did not die from circumcision, rules coroner

PUBLISHED: 11:21 10 September 2009 | UPDATED: 16:26 07 September 2010

A JEWISH baby from Golders Green who collapsed in his mother's arms 35 minutes after being circumcised died of natural causes, Hornsey Corner's Court ruled yesterday. Coroner Andrew Walker ruled that eight-day-old Amitai Moshe died of sudde

A JEWISH baby from Golders Green who collapsed in his mother's arms 35 minutes after being circumcised died of natural causes, Hornsey Corner's Court ruled yesterday.

Coroner Andrew Walker ruled that eight-day-old Amitai Moshe died of sudden infant death syndrome and eliminated any link between the death and the circumcision at Golders Green Synagogue, Dunstan Road.

He said: "Any connection between Amitai's tragic death and the circumcision can be ruled out. The circumcision was skilfully and deftly undertaken. There can be no suggestion that the rabbi was at fault or to blame."

Jonathan Goldberg QC, barrister for Rabbi Moshe Perry, who carried out the circumcision on February 1, 2007, said: "This verdict puts paid to those ill-intentioned people who would have tried to use this tragedy to attack Jewish circumcisions."

Amitai's heart stopped beating around 35 minutes after he had been circumcised. He collapsed in his mother's arms as she breastfed him and was rushed to hospital but was officially pronounced dead eight days later at University College Hospital.

Infant health expert Professor Peter Fleming told the court he would put the baby's collapse down to sudden infant death syndrome, an assessment later supported by the coroner. He said: "I can't think of any mechanism by which the circumcision itself would have been responsible." Amitai's official cause of death was given as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy or lack of oxygen and blood to the brain.

Cardiac arrest was also given as a cause but after hearing evidence at the inquest, Coroner Andrew Walker decided to remove the significant words "immediately after circumcision" from the pathologist's report. The view that the death was not related to the surgery was echoed by Amitai's parents Ran and Yotvat, formerly of Sandringham Road, who now live in Israel.

A letter from the couple, who have had another baby boy since Amitai's death, to Rabbi Perry was read out in court. It said: "We don't blame you in any way for his tragic death. You performed his circumcision correctly and without fault. As our religion obliges us, it would have been inconceivable not to circumcise our son."

Although he is not medically trained Rabbi Perry, from the Initiation Society of Great Britain, has carried out more than 1,000 circumcisions on baby boys and told the court none of them had ever become ill.

The inquest heard the harrowing moments when Amitai's mother realised there was a problem.

She told the court: "I thought he had fallen asleep but he was still on my breast. I wanted to take him off but then I saw blood on my shirt. There was a little bit of blood from his nose and he was yellow."

The court heard how Rabbi Perry and family friends carried out mouth to mouth resuscitation but were unable to open the baby's airways.

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