CBC News - British Columbia, Canada October 16, 2009
Home circumcision of 4-year-old ends in conviction
A Vancouver-area father has been found guilty of negligence causing bodily harm after botching a home-circumcision attempt on his four-year-old son as part of a spiritual quest to make things right with God.
The bizarre case centred on a battle over the religious freedoms of the former Jehovah's Witness, who was trying to follow a literal interpretation of the Bible after a series of misfortunes hit his family.
During the trial, the B.C. Supreme Court heard that after a bad motorcycle accident in 2002 left both the man and his wife with brain injuries, he began the religious quest that eventually led him to believe that both he and son needed to be circumcised to celebrate Passover.
The man, identified only as D.J.W. to protect the identity of his son, began researching home circumcision on the internet and in the Bible, and by listening to a radio show.
His first attempt to circumcise himself ended up with his foreskin turning black and only part of it cut off. When he couldn't stop the bleeding, he called an ambulance, and a doctor in a hospital emergency room ended up stitching up the bleeding wound.
Wonder Powder used to stop bleeding
The man later returned to he internet for more research and met some other religious fundamentalists, who were also dog breeders. They advised him they used a veterinary powder call Blood Stop to halt any bleeding when they circumcised their 13-year-old son.
At $30 a bottle, Blood Stop was too expensive for the man. But during a trip to Washington state to celebrate Passover with a friend, the man found another more affordable product, called Wonder Dust, meant for horses.
The man also contacted several doctors and rabbis, all of whom refused to do the operation either because the boy was too young for a general anesthetic or because the family was not Jewish.
So after a trip to London Drugs to buy razor blades in January 2006, he asked his son if he could cut off his foreskin, so he could be just like dad.
No ice for the Israelites
The man testified in court that, after the boy consented to the circumcision, he fed him some mead — a biblical beverage made from honey — lay him on the kitchen floor, stretched his penis across a cutting board and cut off part of the foreskin.
When asked in court whether the man used ice to ease the boy's pain, he replied, "Where would the Israelites have found ice?"
He then applied the Wonder Dust, gave the boy some ice cream and told him he could watch whatever movies he wanted that week, before heading off to church, leaving the boy in the care of his mother, who could not stand the sight of blood.
The boy spent the next few days walking with his legs wide apart, until a social worker, who caught wind of the operation, brought two police officers to the house to take the boy into protective custody for a medical examination.
After the medical staff found the boy's penis coated in a thick cap of black tarry substance from the Wonder Dust, they decided to remove the rest of the family's children from the home.
Meanwhile, a surgeon removed "a beehive coating" from the boy's penis before properly circumcising him, saying later in court that the boy would likely have ended up with a disfigured penis had the operation not been completed.
Religious freedom argued
In court, the man's lawyer, Douglas Christie, argued the man's desire to fulfil his religious duty negated any criminal intent.
And in her ruling issued on Wednesday, Judge Marion Allan found the man not guilty on charges of aggravated assault and assault with a weapon, saying the man did not seriously harm the boy and the razor blade was not used as a weapon.
But the judge also ruled the child could not have consented to the operation and the father should have known he needed a trained professional to perform it — especially given his own first-hand experience — and found him guilty of negligence causing bodily harm.
"Indeed his motivations could be characterized as selfish or even deluded insofar as he believed that he was unable to live in his home at Passover with any uncircumcised male, including his four-year-old son," wrote the judge in her ruling.
The man's lawyer is reportedly considering an appeal on constitutional grounds, and a sentence has yet to be handed down.
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