THE FORUM, Fargo, 19 December 2002.

Hospital wants out of lawsuit over circumcision

By Steven P. Wagner
The Forum - 12/19/2002

Lawyers for Fargo's MeritCare Hospital want their client dropped from a circumcision trial before it heads to court.

Wednesday, attorney Jane Voglewede asked East Central District Judge Cynthia Rothe-Seeger to order the change.

The move, if ordered, would leave Dr. Sunita Kantak of MeritCare the sole defendant in the case.

Anita Flatt of Hawley, Minn., is suing the doctor and hospital, claiming she and her husband, James, weren't told complete and accurate details about removing the foreskin from their son's penis.

Anita Flatt signed a consent form for circumcision, but hospital staff didn't describe the benefits or risks of the procedure, the lawsuit says.

The procedure provides no medical benefit, argues their attorney, Zenas Baer. Rothe-Seeger set several deadlines for lawyers to submit written requests and share information.

Once lawyers submit their motions, Rothe-Seeger will oversee a final motion hearing before ruling on several legal issues.

Jury selection begins Feb. 3 in what Baer says is the nation's first trial of its kind. Baer calls circumcision a "barbaric" practice and claims the hospital's doctors should have provided more information before the Flatts consented to the procedure.

Kantak circumcised their son, now 5, one day after he was born.

If the couple had known more about the procedure, they would have chosen not to do it, Baer said.

The hospital contends Anita Flatt was given information about circumcision and gave doctors her consent to perform the procedure.

"This information educates parents about circumcision and allows them to make an informed choice that factors in their own personal beliefs and preferences," hospital spokeswoman Carrie Johnson said earlier this week.

In court Wednesday, Voglewede said the hospital wasn't served with the lawsuit.

She denied comment after the hearing, avoiding questions about her request to drop the hospital from the suit.

However, Baer said he opposes dropping the hospital from the lawsuit.

MeritCare was served with the suit, he said.

In another twist, Rothe-Seeger said she may divide issues in the case to separate liability and damage claims.

The judge also told Baer to submit questions he'd ask potential jurors if they were questioned individually and offer alternative ways to learn about their beliefs and family history.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Steven P. Wagner at (701) 241-5542

(File revised 4 January 2003)