Letting Children Die for the Faith
Swan, Rita, Free Inquiry
What kind of society would we have if everyone were allowed to violate laws that offended his or her religious beliefs? Most people would see that as anarchy. Children, however, die because of their parents' religious beliefs about medical care, and the response of public officials is generally muted.
When pediatrician Seth Asser and I studied these deaths, we found that, of 172 U.S. children who died between 1975 and 1995 after their parents withheld medical care on religious grounds, 140 fatalities were from conditions for which survival rates with medical care would have exceeded 90%.(1) We believe that the cases in our files were only the minor fraction of the actual number of deaths. Only 43 of 172 deaths were prosecuted. In many cases public officials dismissed these deaths as due to natural causes.
Shortly after our research was published, the Oregonian reported that the Followers of Christ Church in Clackamas County lets children die without medical care. The congregation has its own cemetery and has buried 78 children there since 1955.
Surely these are astronomical death rates in a congregation with an estimated 1,200 members. Yet public officials remained indifferent for decades. …
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Publication information: Article title: Letting Children Die for the Faith. Contributors: Swan, Rita - Author. Magazine title: Free Inquiry. Volume: 19. Issue: 1 Publication date: Winter 1998. Page number: 6+. © 1999 Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism, Inc. COPYRIGHT 1998 Gale Group.
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