REFUSING MEDICAL TREATMENT FOR CHILDREN ON RELIGIOUS GROUNDS (P. 108)
A religious couple already on probation for choosing prayer over medicine in the death of their toddler son may be facing similar charges in the death of their newest child. “They lost their 8-month-old son, Brandon, last week after he suffered from diarrhea and breathing problems for at least a week, and stopped eating. Four years ago, another son died from bacterial pneumonia.”
That boy, a two-year-old named Kent died after the Schaibles [his parents] refused to take him to the doctor when he became sick, relying instead on faith and prayer. The couple were convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years on probation.
In the latest tragedy, they told police that they prayed for God to heal Brandon instead of taking him to a doctor when he fell ill. Officials said that an autopsy will be performed on the child, and depending on those results the parents may be charged with a crime. …
This is not the first time that parents have gone on trial for child abuse or neglect for refusing their children medical treatment. Though freedom of religion is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the practice of that religion does not give followers license to break the law — especially when the result is injury or death to a child.
– Discovery.com, 24 April 2013, as quoted in Bioethics, p. 108
Please answer the following questions thoughtfully and courteously:
- Do you agree with the court’s sentence of ten years of probation?
- Should the sentence have been harsher? Why or why not?
- Do you think that parents in general should have the right to reject medical treatment for their children on the basis of religious beliefs?
- What moral principle(s) (see: pp. 8-13) would support your judgment?
- Should religious liberty be construed to allow parents to do anything with their children as long as the actions are based on religious considerations?
- If not, what sorts of actions should and should not be allowed?
I am interested to see if you and your group members achieve anything in the way of consensus on these questions. We will return to this exact case once we have familiarized ourselves with bioethics in greater detail. I look forward to reading and responding to your thoughtful replies.