Virtual Library of Newspaper Articles

The Globe and Mail
Canada's largest national daily newspaper

Boy raised as a girl suffered final indignity

The Globe and Mail, By GRAEME SMITH, May 11, 2004 - Page A1

WINNIPEG -- Most of David Reimer's tragedies have been well-documented: how his penis was burned off during a botched circumcision, how doctors tried surgery and hormones to make him a girl and how the experiment went horribly wrong.

But only his friends knew the 38-year-old Winnipegger was agonizing over yet another personal catastrophe in the months before he committed suicide last week.

Mr. Reimer was distraught after losing at least $65,000 in an investment scheme last year, friends say. "He was crying on my shoulder, because he said they're not worth the paper they're written on," one said.

The Manitoba Securities Commission issued a warning in November about Gary Perch, who ran the shop where Mr. Reimer worked.

"Gary Perch has been soliciting money from the public to invest in his Winnipeg-based pro golf shop," the statement said. "If you have invested your money with him, your money may be at risk."

Mr. Reimer's wife recently hired a lawyer to recover about $65,000 that seems to have gone missing, said author John Colapinto, whose book about Mr. Reimer's bizarre medical ordeal made him famous.

"What an absolute horror," Mr. Colapinto said. "One has to wonder if this didn't contribute to his despair."

Mr. Colapinto had believed that Mr. Reimer was financially comfortable, because he gave him half the proceeds from his book As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised A Girl.

"David made a wad of money on the book and movie options," Mr. Colapinto said.

But people who knew Mr. Reimer from his days at the Transcona Golf Club in the eastern suburbs of Winnipeg said the boyish handyman was often short of cash.

The club kept him busy washing windows, changing light bulbs and scrubbing the bathrooms, they said, but he often talked about hunting for a weekend job to supplement his income.

"He didn't have money to feed the family," said Brian Andrews, a member of the golf club's board of directors.

"So what the members did was we put together $800, I think it was, for food."

Mary Mogg, 64, remembers giving him leftovers after she finished her shift at the clubhouse.

"He'd have a pot of soup if we made it, and at the end of the day he'd take it home," she said. "I think he appreciated it."

The indignity of poverty was just one of many cruelties Mr. Reimer endured.

The trouble started eight months after he was born in 1965, when he went for a routine circumcision at a hospital in Winnipeg.

The regular surgeon wasn't available that day, so a general practitioner tried the operation herself. Something went wrong while she was using an electric cauterizing machine, which produced a puff of smoke around Mr. Reimer's genitals.

"I heard a sound," said a witness quoted in Mr. Colapinto's book, "just like steak being seared."

The boy's penis was so badly burned that it dried up and fell off. His family eventually asked for advice from John Money, a well-known sex researcher at Johns Hopkins University hospital in BaltiRead More ..Md.

Dr. Money had theorized that gender depends on how a child grows up rather than genetic coding, and the burned child with a twin brother offered a chance to prove it.

The doctor oversaw a series of procedures that cut away the boy's remaining genitalia and gave him female hormones. His parents started calling him Brenda.

But Mr. Reimer never felt comfortable being female, and when he learned about the accident at age 15 he rebelled against the experiment and began acting like a young man.

He renamed himself David, after the Bible story, and began more surgery to remove his breasts and create an artificial penis from muscle and cartilage.

For years, he quietly tried to live a normal life in Winnipeg. He worked a series of menial jobs and got married to a woman named Jane.

His hobbies included fishing, camping, antiques and collecting old coins.

"He absolutely loved Elvis," his eulogy stated.

When he went public with his story in the mid-90s, it forced sexologists to re-evaluate their practices, said Ken Zucker, psychologist-in-chief at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

"His legacy is that his case has encouraged a lot more research," Dr. Zucker said.

Mr. Reimer committed suicide May 4. His family has not released the cause of death.

At his funeral yesterday, his father, Ron, just shook his head when asked whether he wanted to talk. His mother, Janet, leaned forward with tears in her eyes and whispered: "He was a hero. He showed the doctors. He was a worldwide hero."

Baby Died from Herpes Transmitted by Rabbi During Ritual Genital Mutilation

ABC News USA - Spanking children Leads to aggression

Baby Dies of Herpes in Ritual Circumcision By Orthodox Jews

ABC News, U.S.A., by Susan Donaldson James, March 12, 2012

New York City is investigating the death last September of a baby who contracted herpes after a "ritual circumcision with oral suction," in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish ceremony known in Hebrew as metzitzah b'peh.

The district attorney's office in Kings County Brooklyn is investigating the death of the 2-week-old baby at Maimonides Hospital, but would not disclose the name of the mohel or whether there would be a prosecution.

The 5,000-year-old religious practice is seen primarily in ultra-Orthodox and some orthodox communities and has caused an alarm among city health officials. In 2003 and 2004, three babies, including a set of twins, were infected with Type 1 herpes; the cases were linked to circumcision, and one boy died.

The mohel who performed the procedures, Yitzchok Fischer, was later banned from doing circumcisions, according to The New York Times. It is not known if he was involved in this recent death.

"It's certainly not something any of us recommend in the modern infection-control era," said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University.

"This is a ritual of historic Abraham that's come down through the ages, and now it has met modern science," he said. "It was never a good idea, and there is a better way to do this." (The modern Jewish community uses a sterile aspiration device to clean the wound in a circumcision.)

In the 2004 death and the more recent one, a mohel infected the penile wounds with Type 1 herpes I (HSV-1), which affects the mouth and throat. It is different from Type 2 or genital herpes (HSV-2), which is a sexually transmitted disease and can cause deadly infections when a newborn passes through an infected birth canal.

Neonatal herpes is "almost always" a fatal infection, according to Schaffner. "It's a bad virus. [Infants] have no immunity and so it's a very serious illness. Now we have another death -- an unnecessary, incredibly tragic death."

Male Genital Mutilation (MGM) Circumcision - Baby Boy Botched

Circumcision Botched - Canadian Press

Circumcision Botched by Jewish Father Results in Conviction for Aggravated Assault

The Canadian Press
Dec. 22, 2011

VANCOUVER - A B.C. man who performed a botched circumcision on his four-year-old son on the kitchen floor of his home has lost an appeal of his conviction and been found guilty of a more serious charge.

The B.C. Court of Appeal has stayed the man's conviction for criminal negligence causing bodily harm and convicted him of aggravated assault.

Court heard the boy was born premature at only 2.5 pounds and could not be circumcised at the time, nor did his parents request it.

South Korean Doctors

Male circumcision based on myths and misinformation

Peak age of circumcision of males in Korea is 12 years old!