Rights, Science, Tradition. Not Tradition, Science, Rights.

Last week I wrote about baby tossing, making a comparison to infant male circumcision. Today, via Kevin, M.D., here’s a story that includes a debate among doctors.

“Of course there is risk of injury in this practice. Missing the stretched cloth might be fatal and even landing on it wrong might cause a limb fracture,” said Dr. Joseph R. Zanga, past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a professor at the Brody School of Medicine, Greenville, N.C.

Objectively identifiable risk for a subjective, perceived benefit. End of discussion. Yet:

“I would not suggest that we try it in the U.S., but if they have been doing it for 500 years without any injury I’d be wary of stopping them,” Zanga said.

When faced with a tradition of stupidity, it’s best to focus on the stupidity, not the tradition. Science over superstition.

Dr. Michael Wasserman, of the Ochsner Health System in New Orleans, felt the same pull toward cultural sensitivity. “It is hard for one to disagree with religious rituals, as they are private choices, at the same time, there is a real danger?” Wasserman said.

This is not about disagreeing with religious rituals. If people want to toss themselves over a building’s edge in a “controlled” manner, have at it. This is not that. This is people intentionally endangering another person – a child – for no objective gain to the person being tossed. Jumping and being tossed are quite distinct. The former is a ritual. The latter is madness.

However, some doctors thought the health risks trumped cultural sensitivity in this case.

“The idea that parents would participate in such a harmful practice and that no one would point out the dangers to them seems inconceivable,” said Dr. Astrid Heppenstall Heger, professor of clinical pediatrics and executive director of the Violence Intervention Program at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

While this sentiment is based in logic, it’s not really inconceivable. American parents participate in a harmful practice that disregards risk in favor of cultural sensitivity more than one million times each year. The parents have “rights”, you know. As long as the tosser¹ finds value in the act, the tossed is merely the necessary pawn assumed to value the subjective gain more than the objective risk. He or she² isn’t completely worthy of individual protection because the group finds some benefit.

¹ No derogatory pun intended.

² Except for genital cutting, of course. There the comparison allegedly breaks down. Cutting healthy boys is valid tradition, but cutting healthy girls, that’s barbaric, even when it’s tradition. Half of that rationale is wrong. Would doctors suggest it’s okay to toss only male children from a building?

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