THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, London, Friday, 16 February 2007.

Police investigate baby's death after circumcision

By Martin Beckford
Last Updated: 2:04am GMT 16/02/2007

Detectives are investigating the death of a baby boy who stopped breathing minutes after he was circumcised. Amitai Moshe, then just seven days old, became ill while still at the north London synagogue where the ceremony had been performed. He was taken to a nearby hospital but died the following week. Initial tests suggest that he suffered a fatal heart attack.

Jewish leaders have stressed that no link has been found between the circumcision ritual and Amitai's death.

However, police are treating the incident as unexplained and have appointed detectives from the Metropolitan Police Serious Crime Directorate, which includes child abuse investigators, to investigate.

Last night Amitai's father Ran, 32, and mother Yotvat, 30, were too distraught to talk about their son's death. Amitai's grandmother, speaking from the family's home in Golders Green, said: "It is a very bad time for them."

Neighbours in the close-knit Jewish community said they were supporting the couple, who also have a young daughter. One woman said: "It's a very sad tragedy and we're all helping them."

Amitai was born on Jan 25 and was circumcised a week later at the Golders Green synagogue by a registered practitioner of the operation, known as a Mohel.

Jewish baby boys traditionally undergo the ceremony, known as the Bris Milah, on the eighth day of their lives. The foreskin of the penis is removed, to symbolise the Jewish boy entering into a covenant with God, followed by a naming ceremony.

But 15 minutes after Amitai was circumcised he stopped breathing and emergency services were called. He was taken to the Royal Free Hospital and later transferred to University College Hospital in central London, where he died last Friday.

A post mortem examination gave the initial cause of death as cardiac arrest and starvation of oxygen to the brain.

An inquest into Amitai's death was opened and adjourned at Hornsey coroner's court yesterday. The coroner will review the case in a fortnight after further tests.

Scotland Yard said: "Police are investigating the circumstances of the death of a baby boy. Inquiries are being carried out by officers from the Serious Crime Directorate. The death is being treated as unexplained."

A spokesman for Hornsey coroner's court said: "The child abuse investigation team is investigating the circumstances. A post mortem revealed a possible cause of death but this is to be confirmed after further tests."

A spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the body that represents British Jews, insisted that circumcision was safe and that there was no suggestion that Amitai had died because of the procedure.

He said: "We are deeply saddened by the event. There were absolutely no problems at the time of the circumcision and it was about 15 minutes afterwards that it was noticed there were some breathing difficulties."

No causal connection has been established between the circumcision and Amitai's death. It was carried out by a Mohel who is a registered member of the Initiation Society, which has been regulating and training them for over 200 years.

"Over 2,000 circumcisions of baby boys are carried out in Britain every year. It is a very established, regulated practice in terms of medical training. This was an unfortunate juxtaposition of two events."

(File created 16 February 2007)