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Should Prayer Instead Of Penicillin Be Criminal?

September 7, 2009

In last few years there have been a lot of instances reported in the news about children dying because their parents chose prayer instead of penicillian. The problem here isn’t that the parents prayed, but that they did this as a substitute for real medical attention and it caused the child harm. How anyone could not find  this disgusting and a travesty perplexes me to no end.
Often these children could have been easily saved by simple medical procedures and instead they lay in pain for days, slowly dying while their parents praise the great pumpkin. I find it incredibly deplorable that these parents are willing to sacrifice their children to protect their own salvation. What I consider to be even more sickening is that many states in the U.S. actually protect these zealous idiots from legal action. That in itself is a testament to how stupid our lawmakers can be when religious convictions come into play.
I’m all for religious freedoms but I think there is a marked difference between a competant adult deciding to forego medical treatment for themselves and the same adult making this kind of decision on behalf of a child. We pull children out of abusive homes all the time. How is this any different?
Some important questions to answer in this area are: at which point does a parent’s actions become negligent? Should children be taken out of a home when the parent is refusing to vaccinate the child from deadly diseases or should it only be things more severe? Should the parent be able to regain custody of the child after it becomes well again? Should other children be removed from the home as well? What kinds of punishment should be dealt to these parents?
The water surrounding this issue is murky but I think we’re doing children a diservice thus far.

In last few years there have been a lot of instances reported in the news about children dying because their parents chose prayer in lieu of penicillin. The problem here isn’t that the parents prayed, but that they did this as a substitute for real medical attention and it caused the child harm. How anyone could not find  this disgusting and a travesty perplexes me to no end.

Often these children could have been easily saved by simple medical procedures and instead they lay in pain for days, slowly dying while their parents praise the great pumpkin. I find it incredibly deplorable that these parents are willing to sacrifice their children to protect their own salvation. What I consider to be even more sickening is that many states in the U.S. actually protect these zealous idiots from legal action. That in itself is a testament to how stupid our lawmakers can be when religious convictions come into play.

I’m all for religious freedoms but I think there is a marked difference between a competent adult deciding to forego medical treatment for themselves and the same adult making this kind of decision on behalf of a child. We pull children out of abusive homes all the time. How is this any different?

Some important questions to answer in this area are: at which point does a parent’s actions become negligent? Should children be taken out of a home when the parent is refusing to vaccinate the child from deadly diseases or should it only be things more severe? Should the parent be able to regain custody of the child after it becomes well again? Should other children be removed from the home as well? What kinds of punishment should be dealt to these parents?

The water surrounding this issue is murky but I think we’re doing children a disservice thus far.

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11 Comments
  1. September 7, 2009 6:37 pm

    That is just outrageous that someone has legal protection from child abuse on religious grounds. The people who write those exemptions are twisting the 1st Amendment in exactly the opposite direction intended by the founders.

    • September 7, 2009 6:40 pm

      I agree completely. Some 30 to 32 states give protection to faith healers. I hope that we are eventually able to overturn those laws and prosecute these child abusers.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faith_healing#Faith_healing_and_the_law

  2. Schevus permalink
    September 7, 2009 7:02 pm

    I don’t like the idea of government enforced vaccination..that reeks of totalitarianism to me. However, I do agree that conventional treatment should be mandatory for children. If there is some risky new procedure or something like that, I think the parents should have discretion. Similarly, if the chance of treatment being successful is low and the quality of life of the child will be significantly diminished because of the treatment, I think the parents should also have discretion in that situation.

    Like you say, it’s murky waters. Theoretically if this is taken to its ultimate conclusion, parents of obese children could lose them because they are not ensuring their physical well-being. I don’t think anyone wants that. In most cases children are better off with their parents, not the government.

  3. asecularhumanist permalink
    September 7, 2009 8:54 pm

    “Similarly, if the chance of treatment being successful is low and the quality of life of the child will be significantly diminished because of the treatment, I think the parents should also have discretion in that situation.”

    Death or being uncomfortable and sick for a while, it hardly seems like a choice to me. The act of denying children medicine due to faulty logic is almost the definition of negligent homicide, so it should be treated as such. Not just tossed away because for some reason religion is untouchable.

    • Schevus permalink
      September 7, 2009 9:25 pm

      I think you missed the significance of a key part of that quote. “…if the chance of treatment being successful is low…” means the choice is death, or a high chance of death and additional suffering to boot. I agree, I don’t think religion should be a blanket protection from punishment.

  4. asecularhumanist permalink
    September 7, 2009 9:49 pm

    I didn’t miss it, I just think doing something is better than doing nothing at all. Some cancers are pretty much a death sentence, but I would still undergo treatment and I hope most people would do the same, rather than give up. I guess it’s just a matter of personal opinion.

    • Schevus permalink
      September 8, 2009 7:32 am

      I probably would as well, but we (I’m guessing) don’t have a rosy afterlife to look forward to now do we?

  5. September 9, 2009 11:32 am

    Prayer has been shown repeatedly to have the same success rate as blind, random chance. So, the determination should be relatively straightforward. Take a diabetic coma, for example. The chance of survival if the parents pray (take no action) is about 5% in most early-onset pancreatic disorders. With insulin treatment that survival rate rockets to 95%. The rates are similar for Hodgkin’s Lymphona.

    So the question becomes, through action or lack thereof, are the parents endangering the child, who has not reached the legal age to make decisions for themselves? Obviously in the examples I provided it would certainly be the case that the parents are negatively impacting the child’s chances for survival.

    Following establishment clause principles, a court of law should not take into account the faith of the parents, but only the facts.

    Vaccinations are a murkier issue. Forced vaccination does border on totalitarianism, but these anti-vac wingnuts (Jenny McCarthy, among others) that have been gaining so much popularity these days are encouraging a whole generation to make demonstrably harmful decisions which directly affect their children.

  6. Mark P. permalink
    September 9, 2009 11:39 pm

    Should Prayer Instead Of Penicillin Be Criminal?

    YESSSSSSSS!!!!!!! :lol:

    Especially if a parent allows the death or permanent damage to their own child.

    “Freedom of religion” is not equivalent to “freedom of crazy”!!

  7. November 7, 2009 4:59 am

    At some point, it does have to become criminal neglect. If the parents are too ‘religious’ to provide basic medical care for their own children, they should be prosecuted.

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