I was discussing the issue of circumcision with someone, and the question came up:
“At the time of a baby boy’s birth, if the mother and father are in obvious conflict on the matter of whether to circumcise the infant, what policies determine the hospital’s actions? Will the mother’s will, the father’s will, or the court’s will be enforced?”
I called two well known hospitals.
Mt. Sinai in New York.
A worker who preferred to remain unnamed was kind enough to answer. The following is paraphrased, not quoted.
In the case of a dispute between mother and father as to whether a child is circumcised when there’s evident disagreement, paperwork takes precedence. Approval for the procedure requires the signature of one parent and a witness, typically a hospital staff member. Should either parent be the first to bring the paperwork to the desk to have the procedure performed, once it is witnessed by a hospital staff member, this will take precedence. In the case of an obvious disagreement (where two people are arguing before the staff member) the mother’s choice is likely to take precedence.
Mt. Sinai in Toronto
When the same question was asked, the staff member answered succinctly. “We’d recommend that they allow the courts to deal with it.” A very Canadian response.
I called McGill, but they were closed. I’ll call back tomorrow and append to this article.
The short answer, however, seems to be that it is a hospital by hospital decision. I’ve not yet taken the time to look at the laws, I’m merely reporting a quick answer to a quick question.
Take it for what it’s worth.
2014-03-05 Follow up. I’ve called a bunch of hospitals (and racked up a horrible long-distance bill), and getting a simple straight answer is like pulling teeth. Nobody, it seems want to be named, or to speak on the record, so I’ll keep things generic.
One individual, a PR person finally gave me a straight answer.
For this particular hospital a number of factors came into play. First, if there is an obvious disagreement–AND the parents are married, AND they live together, the hospital basically tells the parents to work it out. One assumes that if the dispute is grave enough, that it’s up to the parents to go to court, should they not come to an agreement. The other factor was quite interesting to me. Should the parents NOT live together, the guardian, determined by who provides the child’s primary residence is considered to be the one who has the right to speak for the child and can thus request the surgery to be performed.