An Oregon couple is facing negligent homicide charges after refusing to bring their 16-year old son to the hospital for a condition that led to his death, as reported by KTVB News in this article.
The son’s parents reportedly tried to heal his urinary tract infection solely through prayer instead of bringing their son to a hospital. An autopsy said the boy would have certainly lived had he received medical attention. This article raises a significant issue, and is the second such case in the country in this year alone.
One side of the argument says that the parents have every right to determine what they do with their son if his best interests are in mind. I do believe that the parents honestly thought that prayer was the way to go and the best way to heal their son. Is it infringing on the free exercise of religion if we say to the parents that they are not allowed to use prayer as the only means of healing? The other side of the argument is that in the case of imminent harm, the free exercise clause is thrown out in favor of the unwritten rule of the “good of the people and of the country”.
What makes this case hard to judge is the true intent of the parents. Can you really fault them if they truly believed their prayer was better for their son than hospital treatment? Wouldn’t you as a parent do whatever you believe is best for child and stick with that no matter what?
As I have in this blog quite a bit, I’ll try to bring an unbiased Christian perspective, if that’s even possible. I certainly believe in the power of prayer and healing, but I also believe that it should be used a supplement to professional medicine. I don’t know what particular denomination or sect that family belongs to, but I don’t know any personally that would stick with solely prayer as a means of healing.
Having said that much, where do I stand then on the issue of bringing a criminal case against these parents, which is really the key point here in this blog. I think the parents have to be charged. This case is a lot different than other religion cases we’ve looked at because this involves the imminent danger of a minor. He has no choice in the matter, and sadly many times parents don’t make the right choices for their kids, especially when the best choice is so obvious, as it was in this instance. For the benefit our of society and the good of the people, parents cannot be allowed to behave in this manner.
We certainly cant tell people they cant pray for healing. It cannot be the only form of treatment however. When a life is at stake, even in a parent-child relationship, action needs to be taken. When non-religious parents neglect children, they are punished, and this should be no different. Is it okay for a religious belief to put somebody in harms way? I don’t think so, and thankfully our government agrees. As we have demonstrated multiple times, we as citizens don’t really have freedom to participate in any religious action we choose. We don’t allow sacrifices, even if it’s a genuine religious belief. The reason for this is the overall welfare of our country, and this case is basically the same thing.