after the sleeping comes the waking up.

How can parents do this?

Posted by c. wagner on October 20, 2009

Followed a link from a article to this gem from the journal Pediatrics (vol. 101, 1 of 2, no. 4, April 1998): “Child fatalities from religion-motivated medical neglect”.

You know things are going to be bad when the suggested “file under” keywords are: “child abuse, child neglect, child fatality, Christian Science, faith healing, medical neglect, prayer, religion and medicine”.

There are all sorts of (awful) goodies in here, leading off with something I had no idea was the case.

… in late 1974 the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare required states receiving federal child abuse prevention and treatment grants to have religious exemptions to child abuse and neglect charges.( n8) With federal money at stake, states rapidly enacted exemptions for parents who relied on prayer rather than medical care when their children were sick or injured. A decade later nearly every state had these exemptions in the juvenile code, criminal code, or both.( n9, n10) [page 625]

Bet you had no idea that is was okay for parents to deny their kids medical care, as long as they claimed their religion said so, huh?

The case histories in the article are heartbreaking. Like this one.

One father had a medical degree and had completed a year of residency before joining a church opposed to medical care. After 4 days of fever, his 5-month-old son began having apneic episodes. The father told the coroner that with each spell he “rebuked the spirit of death” and the infant “perked right back up and started breathing.” The infant died the next day from bacterial meningitis. [page 626]

I don’t understand how someone could watch their child die. Especially someone who knew what medicine was capable of. The “spirit of death” was this kid’s father.

If possible, it gets worse.

These fatalities were not from esoteric entities but ordinary ailments seen and treated routinely in community medical centers. Deaths from dehydration, appendicitis, labor complications, antibiotic-sensitive bacterial infections, vaccine-preventable disorders, or hemorrhagic disease of the newborn have a very low frequency in the United States. [page 628]

Dying of dehydration? In the 20th century? What. The Fuck. I can’t even fathom how parents could allow this to happen.

Some measure of sanity has returned, though.

In 1983, the federal government removed religious exemptions from federal mandate, allowing states to repeal them. The well-organized lobbying of exemption supporters, however, has defeated most repeal efforts. Today only five states, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Hawaii, have no exemptions either to civil abuse and neglect charges or criminal charges. [page 629]

Thank Nature legislators finally grew consciences and spines and took those exemptions off the books.

But there are still plenty of people out there who refuse for religious reasons to take their kids to a doctor. And there are still some states where it’s perfectly okay for them to do so. I just can’t wrap my head around a worldview where a parent would pass off responsibility for caring for his or her child to an incorporeal being.

Maybe I just don’t have enough faith.


One Response to “How can parents do this?”

  1. […] by d.d. mayhem on October 23, 2009 Yesterday, I posted my reaction to an article in Pediatrics about people who won’t take their kids to the doctor because of […]

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