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An Example of Joint Custody Medical Decisions

The Associated Press reports on an interesting case arising in Cook County. The divorced parties apparently have a Joint Parenting Agreement, providing for the parents to consult with each other over the major decisions in the child’s developmental life. Mom, in this case, wanted to have the 9 year old boy circumcised. Dad objected, and filed a petition in court to enjoin, or block, the procedure. The case is about the circumcision, but it also stands for the principle that a well drafted joint custody agreement has some teeth to it, that is, if the non-residential parent has some “say so” in the developmental life of the child, he must be more than a “consultant.” In this case, Dad didn’t want the boy to undergo the procedure involuntarily. I also understand that the boy himself did not want to be circumcised.

——AP——A judge has sided with a divorced father who did not want his 9-year-old son circumcised, in a case that has drawn attention from groups opposed to the surgical procedure.

Cook County Circuit Judge Jordan Kaplan’s ruling, issued Tuesday, said the boy can decide for himself about circumcision when he turns 18. Until then, there will be no circumcision, a surgery that removes the foreskin of the penis.

The Associated Press is not naming the parents to protect the child’s privacy. The father was born and raised in Poland; The mother is from Slovakia. Both now live in suburban Chicago.

A 2003 divorce decree gave the boy’s father the right to offer advice on medical decisions.

The father opposed circumcision because he believed it could cause his son long-term physical and psychological harm. The child’s mother wanted the procedure done to prevent recurring infections.

When the two could not resolve their dispute, the father sued to block the circumcision.

In his ruling, Kaplan called circumcision “an extraordinary medical procedure as it relates to a nine-year-old child.”

The case reflects a national debate over the medical necessity of circumcision. In 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics reversed its support of routine infant circumcision, citing questionable benefits and medical and anecdotal evidence that circumcised men have less penile sensitivity.

Most U.S. newborn boys are circumcised before they leave the hospital, but a growing number of parents are opting against the surgery.

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