"Re "Doctors Advocate Pain Relief for Circumcision"(Science Times, Dec 30):Circumcisions performed by mohel, Jews authorized to perform theprocedure called bris, take about one minute, thus minimizing pain. The standard surgical procudure last more than 10 minutes.
It is a biblical prohibition to cause anyone unnecessary pain. Although the study in question recommends a series of injections into the shaft of the penis, the pain from these injections may be equivalent to the pain of circumcision. A much safer and effective topical analgesic, applied one hour before the procedure, exists. Thirty percent lidocaine in an acid mantle base is effective and should be used even during ritual circumcision.
Signed Rabbi Moshe Tendler Dec 31, 1997.
Rabbi Tendler is refering to an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine a few months ago which compared an analgesic cream to placebo in terms of pain relief. The babies who received the analgesic cream cried less on average. So while the cream may not be 100 effective in all babies, it can provide relief for many .
One person inthe New York Times article is quoted as stating that the foreskin is generally anesthetic (pain free) and therefore there is no need for an anesthetic. I would respectfully disagree with this statement.
I went to a bris yesterday morning and based on the baby's reactions it was pretty obvious that no anesthetic was used. And I know this is hardly a unique way of going about the bris. I also recognize that the cream is not the optimum solution for this kind of pain and especially for post-operative pain, but it is, at least, a step in the right direction.
How widely are such anesthetic procedures used in the Orthodox world, and why aren't they used more often? Is there any Halachic reasoning that would lead people to not want to use anesthetics?