Board member on Faith Healing bill: If delayed another year, children will die

Idaho lawmakers still haven't heard a bill which would eliminate the state's faith exemption from child neglect.

A law from the 1970s gives parents in Idaho immunity from criminal prosecution in the event their child dies or is severely injured when the parents don't seek medical help because it conflicts with their religious beliefs.

There are small religious sects which prohibit the use of anything other than faith and prayer as a means of healing the ill. The Followers of Christ being one such group.

Over the years children in Idaho have died as a result of this practice.

There have been attempts in the past to get legislation passed into law to get rid of the state's exemption, however all have failed.

A member of the Idaho Child Fatality Review Board, a group solicited by the Governor's task force for child welfare, thinks the bill needs to be heard during this legislative session.

"If this delays another year, another two to four children statistically will likely die from very preventable causes," said Paul McPherson, a member of the review board and a member of the Idaho Chapter of the America Academy of Pediatrics.

These preventable deaths stem from a wide range of curable illnesses such as the flu, ear infections, and dehydration from food poisoning.

One family physician believes parents within these religious groups do in fact want to take their children to the doctor, however the social pressure put on them is too much to overcome.

According to Dr. Joshua Durham these parents think if they seek medical care for their child they will be outcast from their communities and their church. If that isn't enough to scare them, there are those who truly believe god will punish them for taking their child to a doctor.

Which poses the question, would a law do anything to make people who are so devout to abandon their faith and seek a doctor?

Durham said the answer is yes and the proof is in Oregon where they passed legislation to abolish their faith exemption.

According to the doctor, since then the preventable child death rate within those religious factions has dropped to zero.

"What does that tell you?" Durham asked. "That tells you these parents really do want to take their child to the doctor and that it gives them the out. The out with their community, the out with the social pressure, the guilt, and the fear. And they're following the law."

There was a hearing scheduled for the bill in the House of Representatives Health and Welfare Committee, but it was cancelled.


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