THE WESTERN, Penticton, B.C., 31 August 2002.

Death of local baby subject of investigation
by Sandra Vogel-Hockley / Western Managing Editor

The coroner's office is investigating the case of a five-week-old Penticton-area infant, who died from complications following a circumcision at Penticton Regional Hospital last week.

The infant was sent home with his parents Tuesday morning, after undergoing the procedure to remove the foreskin from his penis. But concerns about bleeding sent them back to the hospital early Wednesday morning.

The baby was flown by air ambulance to B.C. Children's Hospital, where he died Aug. 22.

"Because it is an unusual and quite unexpected death, we do investigate the circumstances around it," said regional coroner Ian McKickan. "We have to review the entire situation."

The cause of death has not been released, pending final autopsy results. A microscopic tissue and blood analysis is being conducted, to determine if the child had an underlying disorder such as haemophelia - a hereditary disorder which leaves those afflicted to bleed severely from even a slight injury due to the failure of the blood to clot.

It could be three or four months before the coroner's final report is released.

"It quite often takes some time to determine this type of thing," he said.

Deaths from complications after circumcision are rare - a B.C. Coroner's office employee who recently catalogued thousands of cases said she cannot remember ever hearing of one in this province.

Penticton Regional Hospital administrator Lorraine Ferguson said the hospital performs an average of three circumcisions a month. The surgery is performed using a local anesthetic.

"This is a very rare occurrence," she said of the death. "But with any surgery there is risk involved."

Ferguson said Penticton Regional Hospital is undertaking its own investigation - in conjunction with the coroner's office - around the procedures involved in circumcision and into this death in particular.

Circumcision is a much less common procedure now than in the past when most boys were circumcised soon after birth. Now the procedure is usually performed for religious reasons, most often for those of the Jewish or Muslim faiths.

The procedure is no longer recommended by the Canadian Pediatric Society and is not covered by provincial medical insurance.

"This is a very unexpected incident," said Ferguson. "It's very tragic."

© Copyright 2002 Penticton Western

(File revised 28 September 2002)