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Letters To The Editor

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The brief was co-authored by Professor McConnell of Stanford University’s Constitutional Law Center, former federal appellate judge and foremost religious freedom expert. Unlike Shapiro, McConnell stuck to his area – the law, specifically that strict scrutiny must be applied. It is up to scientists to help assess whether that review standard is met, and we – medical, epidemiological and statistical experts – proceeded to answer.

Our continued reliance on the conclusions of a University of Pennsylvania study.

Here too we confined ourselves to verbatim quotes, acknowledging that the university disagreed with “our characterizations.” Additionally, we gave the reader Internet access to the report to ascertain the context of these quotes. Beyond “relying” on this study, we reviewed several sources corroborating our analyses.

Shapiro extracts one sentence from the report: “All of the reviewed studies present clinical findings that are consistent with transmission from mohel to infant.”

However, the review’s objective was to evaluate the findings, and, in the very next paragraph, concluded:

“The evidence base is substantially limited by several factors. The small number of…events is the most significant limitation…. Most of the cases were not identified … systematically…and the total population of infants [with] direct oral suction is unknown…. Important information about some…cases is unknown, including the infection status of the mothers and mohelim…. In some cases, other possible sources of transmission were present.”

Even when read in isolation, the quoted sentence merely acknowledges consistency – a theoretical possibility, similar to an earlier conjecture concerning AIDS transmission later refuted by scientific evidence. Theoretical possibilities are a dime a dozen; as we and the Penn authors explain, much more is needed to establish evidence, let alone withstand strict scrutiny.

As to the continued claim that the community resists testing, does Shapiro deny the 2006 agreement between New York State and the community, which was rejected by New York City and withdrawn by New York State?

Finally, Shapiro claims we ignored his core point that “It should be parents…who decide…whether to have MBP performed…” Our response to that is to refer the reader to our Nov. 1 article mentioned above.

Dr. Daniel Berman
Professor Brenda Breuer
Professor Awi Federgruen

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