REGINA — A Regina mother has filed a lawsuit alleging negligence after the tip of her baby’s penis was severed during a circumcision.
In an interview, the woman says she and her husband are worried about their son’s self-esteem as he grows up.
The circumcision happened last November when the boy was nine-days old. The mother has filed a statement of claim against the doctor, his business, and an unidentified intern she believes did the procedure.
The woman, whom The Canadian Press is not naming to protect the identity of the child, said she and her husband took their newborn to the Victoria East Medical Clinic in Regina for the procedure.
The mother is of African descent and said circumcision is part of her family’s culture.
“It was already taking too long,” she said, remembering how quick the procedure had been for her older son eight years earlier. “I could hear the baby crying so much.”
She said Dr. Owen Miller, the physician they understood was going to perform the circumcision, came into the waiting area and was apologetic.
“He came out and he said, ‘There’s a problem. We have to call the ambulance,’” the mother recalled.
The lawsuit adds, “After the botched surgery, Miller informed the plaintiff (mother) that his intern performed the surgery.”
The mother said she broke down and couldn’t control her crying.
“Someone just told me he was performing some practice on my baby, that’s what it sounded like,” she said. “I couldn’t even talk.”
Lawyer Kolade Oladokun, who’s representing the mother, said any damages awarded in the suit could help pay for future cosmetic surgery for the boy.
The boy’s father said the family doesn’t care about money.
“We just want to know if our son’s going to be OK,” he said.
None of the allegations has been proven in court.
In an email, Miller declined to comment, but in a statement of defence filed with the court he denies acting negligently.
“At the close of the procedure, it was noted that a small piece of the glans of the infant’s penis (tip) had been removed with the foreskin,” the statement reads.
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“Immediate steps were undertaken to treat the wound and arrangements made to transfer the infant to specialists at Regina General Hospital for further treatment.”
Miller is a longtime doctor who specializes in family medicine and has no previous disciplinary history listed on the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons website.
The mother said her baby bled for hours and wailed in pain while he was in the emergency room.
Photographs taken by the woman show the infant lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to machines and a tube to carry urine.
She said a surgeon informed them he was too young to have the severed tip re-attached.
Watch: Reasons why parents choose to circumcise their boys. Story continues below.
Dr. Todd Sorokan, a pediatrician based in British Columbia, said circumcision remains a relatively common procedure in Canada, with between ten to 30 per cent of babies having it done.
Saskatchewan has seen an average of about 430 circumcisions performed annually out of medical necessity in recent years. Non-medically necessary circumcisions aren’t insured by the province, so those numbers aren’t tracked.
Last year, a doctor in Regina was fined more than $10,000 for not dealing appropriately with complications arising from a circumcision done in 2014.
Sorokan said it’s a straightforward procedure where minor bleeding can occur, but that’s estimated to happen in only one to two cases out of 100.
“It’s certainly not a good result to trim part of the glans penis (tip) along with the foreskin,” he said. “I’m happy to hear that the family went and got urgent attention.”
The boy’s next followup appointment is in September. His penis is mostly functional, but is disfigured, said his mother.
“It’s healed up, but it doesn’t look normal.”
The mother kept the severed part of her son’s penis and stored in the freezer, she said, in case he someday has questions about his body.
“I just hope this doesn’t get to that point where the boy is feeling less of himself,” she said. “We don’t know.”