MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER, Montgomery, Alabama, Page 1A
September 6, 1996

HINDUS SUE HOSPITAL OVER CIRCUMCISION

By Stan Voit
Advertiser Staff Writer

Opelika - A Hindu man and wife from India have sued East Alabama Medical Center for malpractice, claiming their infant son was circumcised against their wishes and counter to their religious practices and beliefs.

The circumcision will cause them embarrassment and humiliation when they return to their native country and might affect their son's ability to marry within his faith, wrote one of their attorneys.

The hospital action "violates the acceptable standard of care" at the hospital and caused emotional and mental anguish to the child and his parents, the lawsuit states.

Mr. and Mrs. Sreenivasulu Punna of Auburn are seeking unspecified damages, although a claim filed against the hospital last year requested compensation of $950,000.

According to the court file, the day after Mrs. Punna's son was born, she signed a release allowing hospital personnel to perform a circumcision and a Hepatitis B test.

Hospital Officials knew little English and that her husband interpreted for her in conversations with hospital personnel, the court file states. The hospital violated its own policy by apparently not using AT&T Language Line service that provides interpreters, the court file states.

The regional hospital in Opelika denies the allegations, stating in court documents that "it exercised reasonable care, skill and diligence in all aspects of the care and treatment" of the infant. The hospital claims that there was contributory negligence that prevents the Punnas from recovering any damages. The Punnas are represented by Birmimgham lawyer Graham Esdale and Opelika lawyer Gregory Morgan. The hospital is represented by Montgomery lawyer Fred Tyson.

Bharat was born Sept. 6, 1995. The circumcision was performed the next day. The lawsuit was filed in May.

       According to a Dec 20, 1995, letter from Mr. Morgan to hospital administrator Terry Andrus, Mrs. Punna signed the release forms "not being aware of what she had signed. Hospital personnel failed to insure what she was signing when she signed the release Therefore this release was not an informed, willing or voluntary consent."

Mr. Punna, an Auburn University student, had spoken to several nurses and other hospital personnel expressing his wish not to have circumcision performed on his son, Mr. Morgan wrote.

       The Punnas, who live in Auburn, are citizens of the Indian area of Hyderbad, which is inhabited mostly by Hindus, Mr. Morgan wrote. Hindus deeply oppose circumcision, a procedure "never before performed in the area of India where Mr. and Mrs. Punna are from." Circumcision is a distinction between Hindus and Muslims in their native culture, Mr. Morgan wrote.

When the family returns to India, Mr. Morgan wrote, they "will suffer further public humiliation and ridicule (and) emotional distress as cultural and social effect."


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(File created 29 July 2001)

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