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Paul Fleiss

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 29 September 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g5790
  1. Ned Stafford, Hamburg
  1. ns{at}

Controversial paediatrician who promoted breastfeeding, opposed male circumcision, and whose story was told in a “made-for-TV” movie


Paul Fleiss was a man of many contrasts. As a paediatrician he was both scorned and revered. Parents of his patients appreciated his gentle bedside manner. Medical colleagues sometimes ridiculed his controversial views, including his outspoken opposition to male circumcision, which he felt was barbaric.

Based in Los Angeles, Fleiss cared for the children of several Hollywood celebrities, some of whose photographs adorned his office wall. But he also cared for children of low income families who could not afford to pay him. He made house calls and practised medicine until shortly before his death.

After his death, tributes from parents of patients and others were posted on the internet. One mother, Andrea Richards, wrote in Los Angeles magazine: “Not only could I call his office and get an appointment in mere minutes, he also gave me his cell phone number (what doctor does that?) and never minded when I dared to use it.”1

Jay Gordon, assistant professor of paediatrics at UCLA Medical School and a well known Los Angeles based paediatrician, first met Fleiss in 1977 during his residency at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. He describes Fleiss as “a doctor ahead …

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