Is It Criminal to Withhold Medicine from a Sick Child? What if its for Religious Reasons?

Justice is blind

Justice is blind, and so might be a little girl because her parents denied her medical treatment based on their religious beliefs

Have you ever believed in something so strongly because of your faith in God (or some kind of higher power) that you disagree with and go against conventional wisdom as a result?

Me? No. I appreciate my religion in general, but I love my doctors and Western science and medicine. And if my child is really sick, she will follow the course of treatment recommended by someone who knows more than me.

At the same time, I respect others’ right to choose, but I fail to see how you can let a child suffer physically because of a religious conviction. Like, how do Timothy and Rebecca Wyland sleep at night after refusing treatment on medical grounds for 18-month-old Alayna, who now may go blind as a result?

Oregon doctors said the toddler has a massive growth covering her left eye, but because her parents are members of the Followers of Christ Church, they believed that “prayer and anointing oils would heal their daughter’s hemangioma,” which is an abnormal growth of blood vessels that was occluding her vision.

Jury selection continues in Timothy and Rebecca’s trial today, as they have been charged with first-degree criminal mistreatment of their child. It comes days after the state House in Oregon passed a bill that would be tougher on faith-healing parents.

About 300 children die every year because of their parent’s religious beliefs, according to the Iowa-based Children’s Healthcare is Legal Duty group, which advocates for strong child abuse penalties against parents who seek exemption from child abuse laws.

The law in Oregon says parents have a “legal duty” to provide care for their children. The Wylands said they wouldn’t do it for their daughter unless it was court-ordered. So she was taken into state custody last summer for treatment, but it’s still unclear if vision will ever develop in the afflicted eye.

I really do respect other people’s religion, but when that religion interferes with the health of a child too young to help him or herself, I think the parents should be treated as criminals. Hopefully prayer will get the Wylands through their criminal trial, and that medicine will now heal their daughter.

Do you think parents should be forced to treat their children with actual medicine even if their religion goes against the course of treatment?

Image: Creative Commons

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