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July 23, 2012 1:20 pm

Swiss Hospitals Follow German Ban on Circumcision

avatar by Ezriel Gelbfish

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A religious circumcision in a Synagogue. Photo: jspace.com.

Two hospitals in Switzerland have suspended the practice of non-medical circumcision within their walls. The move comes just weeks after a German court in Cologne ruled that parents cannot order circumcisions on their children because it constitutes bodily harm.

Swiss Local News reported Thursday that the Zurich University Children’s Hospital has temporarily halted the practice of non-medical circumcision until its legality can be determined. “We are in the process of evaluating the legal and ethical stance in Switzerland,” Marco Stuecheli, spokesman for the hospital, told AFP last week. Following suit, St. Gallen’s teaching hospital in northern Switzerland said over the weekend that they are considering a moratorium on circumcision, with a senior hospital official pledging a final decision by summer’s end, reported Beobachter magazine.

It is unlikely that the hospitals’ decisions will have strong repercussions on the practice in Swiss Jewish or Muslim communities, because circumcisions are often practiced outside of medical facilities, a fact that accounts for the Zurich Children’s Hospital low average of only one or two circumcisions per month. Instead, Jewish parents circumcise in religious ceremonies staged in synagogues, with the procedure carried out by community specialists called “mohels” in Jewish tradition. In Switzerland, the prerogative to practice circumcision belongs to each individual hospital, according to the Swiss Society for Pediatric Surgery.

In Germany, the controversial ban may be overturned, following outrage from Jewish and Muslim organizations which prompted vehement responses from German lawmakers, notably German Chancellor Angela Merkel who said the ban risks making Germany a “laughing stock.” Germany’s lower house of parliament also passed a ruling by an overwhelming majority, according to Reuters, to protect circumcision in defiance of the Cologne district court’s decision.

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  • Mark Lyndon

    Any law to overturn the ban in Germany is likely to be challenged.

    “It’s more complicated than adding a simple little phrase somewhere,” Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger told the weekly Der Spiegel.

    “I wouldn’t be surprised after this emotional debate if the law landed before the German constitutional court,” said the minister, who belongs to the liberal Free Democratic Party, part of the government coalition.

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