July 5, 2022

When faith puts life at risk

At least 10 child deaths per year in the United States result from faith-based medical neglect, an article in American Medical News claims. Some parents refuse care for their children on the grounds that their faith forbids it.

At least 10 child deaths per year in the United States result from faith-based medical neglect, an article in American Medical News claims. Some parents refuse care for their children on the grounds that their faith forbids it. One doctor told the publication that he knew a 15-year-old girl who suffered severe asthma and perpetually struggled to breathe – but whose parents objected to any treatment because their religion forbade medical intervention. Dr James Lace tried to help the family by discussing Scripture passages and even prayed with them to convince them to accept treatment. The parents only gave in after social workers threatened to place the child in foster care.

“I wanted to show them I’m not opposed to their beliefs… I wanted to show them that [doctors] are not negating the power of prayer; we’re part of that,” he said. The girl, however, stopped her treatment at age 18 because, as she said, “God wants me to suffer.”

When doctors are faced with this situation, they have to balance the practicalities of medical care with obligations to report cases of possible child neglect. Many of these cases are taken to court – and recent rulings show courts in the US are taking the problem more seriously than before.

An Oregon couple were convicted of felony criminal mistreatment for allowing their daughter to grow a serious abnormal growth over her eye that threatened her vision. Their beliefs forbid medical intervention. An Alabama woman was convicted of criminal negligent homicide in June for her son’s death in 2008. He died of pneumonia after experiencing flu-like symptoms for weeks. The woman prayed with her son without seeking medical treatment.

“Any child in my ICU who is dying of lack of medical care will either get medical care or we’ll get a court order,” says Rhode Island-based pediatrician Seth Asser, who has dealt with parents who have refused blood transfusions for their children. ~ American Medical News, Sep 19

Jared Yee
informed consent
religion