THE FORUM, Fargo, North Dakota,
Thursday, 13 February 2003.

Woman who performed circumcision testifies

By Jeff Baird

The Forum - 02/13/2003

Attorney Zenas Baer questioned Dr. Sunita Kantak Wednesday about what the doctor discloses to parents about circumcision.

Baer asked Kantak if she agreed with the American Academy of Pediatrics' method of obtaining informed consent in which all known risks are disclosed to parents.

Kantak said she did.

Baer then listed several potential, albeit rare, circumcision complications, stopping after each one to ask Kantak if she mentioned it to parents.

Kantak didn't mention many of the specific risks on Baer's list, including inclusion cists, concealed penis and skin bridges, because, she said, they wouldn't mean anything to most parents.

Kantak said she talks about the risk of bleeding, infection and trauma.

If the parents have more concerns, she talks about specific risks, including those on Baer's list, she said.

"If they want to know more, I tell them," Kantak said.

Anita Flatt of Hawley, Minn., is suing Kantak and Fargo-based MeritCare Hospital in Cass County District Court, claiming she and her husband, James, weren't told complete and accurate information about removing the foreskin from their son's penis.

She has told the jury she did not receive information prior to her son's birth about the risks and benefits of circumcision.

She says she never received the booklet about the procedure MeritCare gives to parents, and only talked to Kantak briefly about the pain involved before the procedure was performed.

Had Flatt understood the risks involved in the procedure, she wouldn't have had it done.

Baer, who will continue questioning Kantak today, spent much of the afternoon requesting the doctor give a detailed description of how a circumcision is performed.

He used words like ripping, tearing, crushing and cutting when questioning Kantak.

Kantak said the procedure involves removing the foreskin from the penis.

"I don't know whether I would call it, 'Crush,'" Kantak replied. "You can."

Baer also tried to establish that, even with an anesthetic, the infant experiences pain.

Kantak, who estimated she has performed more than 400 circumcisions, said while the anesthetic won't eliminate 100 percent of the infant's pain, it works well, and most of the time the babies are quiet during the procedure.

Earlier in the day, Dr. Craig Shoemaker, lead pediatrician for MeritCare when Flatt had her child circumcised in 1997, told jurors he felt the care Kantak provided met American Academy of Pediatrics standards.

He said he came to that conclusion by reviewing medical records.

During cross examination, Baer asked Shoemaker if he was making assumptions in coming to his conclusion.

Shoemaker, one of six doctors appointed to review circumcision for the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1997 and now at the University of California, Davis, said he assumed what was documented in the medical records was done.

He also said Kantak was known for providing parents thorough discussions about circumcision while he was at MeritCare.

Shoemaker is a witness for the defense. Because of a scheduling conflict, he was allowed to testify before the plaintiffs finished calling their witnesses.

Flatt, an attorney at Baer's law firm, is asking for an unspecified amount in damages.

The trial, which is in its eighth day, is expected to end this week.

East Central District Judge Cynthia Rothe-Seeger is presiding over the case.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Baird at (701) 241-5535

(File prepared 13 February 2003)