The preferred instrument for ritual circumcision is called an izmel. It is a well-polished, razor-sharp surgical knife. When this instrument is used in accordance with halacha, the circumcision is instantaneous and almost painless.
Some doctors and unskilled mohelim prefer the clamp method, which was designed primarily for physicians and those untrained in the skillful surgical procedure performed by a traditional mohel. The most commonly used clamps are the Gomco® and Mogen® clamps.
While these devices may make it easier for an untrained individual to perform a circumcision, they crush and sever the skin, the nerve endings, and the blood vessels in a lengthy procedure, causing extreme pain and trauma to the child. The sudden and massive pain may even cause the child to withdraw into a state of neurogenic shock.
In 2000, the FDA issued a warning about circumcision clamps, which it said can cause laceration, hemorrhage, penile amputation, and urethral damage.
The Jewish law
Jewish law prohibits the use of a clamp for ritual circumcision for several reasons. An essential part of the ritual is that there must be some bleeding (a requirement known as dam brit, “blood of the covenant”). The clamp tends to completely stop the flow of blood as it crushes the skin. Also, as mentioned earlier, the clamp causes much undue pain to the child, and that is prohibited.
The Medical Circumcision Debate
One one side of the debate, there are medical experts who provide evidence for the medical benefits of circumcision, such as a significantly lower risk for penile cancer and urinary tract infections.
On the other side, there are also those who cite the extreme pain and trauma the child experiences at the time of circumcision, which can even cause him to withdraw into a state of neurogenic shock. And that, they claim, outweighs any medical benefits that circumcision has to offer.
Reason for Circumcision
The argument against circumcision is valid if the sole reason for circumcision is a medical one and the circumcision is performed using the clamp method.
However, the reason for performing circumcision on Jewish boys is a religious one (although there may be medical benefits to it as well). It fulfills a commandment from G-d and it serves as a sign of G-dliness. And when ritual circumcision is performed in accordance with Jewish law, clamps are not used; a quick and almost painless method is used instead.
Many urologists and trained surgeons consider the traditional method of circumcision to be “a simplified and expeditious method with excellent results and low complication.”