Feature

When faith leads to a child’s death

Over the past 25 years, about 300 children are known to have died because parents belonging to various Christian sects refused to let doctors treat them, said Jonathan Turley in <em>The Washington Post.</em>

Jonathan TurleyThe Washington Post

When adults who believe in faith healing refuse medical care, said Jonathan Turley, that decision is between them and their God. But what if fundamentalist parents veto life-saving care for their children? In a nation founded on respect for religious freedom, the question resides in a legal “gray zone”—with tragic results.

Over the past 25 years, about 300 children are known to have died because parents belonging to various Christian sects refused to let doctors treat them. Judges, unfortunately, often show sympathy and leniency toward these parents. In one recent case, the parents of an 11-year-old Wisconsin girl suffering from a treatable form of diabetes insisted on praying over her instead of taking her to a doctor. She died. A judge sentenced them to just six months in jail for this outrageous act of neglect, calling them “very good people who made a bad decision.”

But neglect and manslaughter are crimes for which there should be no faith-based exception. “Until courts refuse to accept religion as a mitigating factor, children will continue to die, neglected as an article of their parents’ faith.”

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