You can argue over whether raising a child with certain religious beliefs should be considered mental child abuse.
But it’s hard to deny that religion has the potential to harm children when you read these cases in the On Faith article by Shawn F. Peters:
A hemophilic boy in Pennsylvania bleeds to death over a period of two days from a small cut on his foot. An Indiana girl dies after a malignant tumor sprouts from her skull and grows so enormous that it’s nearly the size of her head. A boy in Massachusetts succumbs to a bowel obstruction. (His cries of pain are so loud that neighbors are forced to shut their windows to block out the sound.)
None of these children benefit from the readily-available medical treatments that might save their lives, or at least mitigate their suffering. Because the tenets of their parents’ religious faiths mandate it, their ailments are treated by prayer rather than medical science. The results are tragic.
You can see the results of one study (from 1997) of this type of abuse here:
Participants. One hundred seventy-two children who died between 1975 and 1995 and were identified by referral or record search. Criteria for inclusion were evidence that parents withheld medical care because of reliance on religious rituals and documentation sufficient to determine the cause of death.
Results. One hundred forty fatalities were from conditions for which survival rates with medical care would have exceeded 90%. Eighteen more had expected survival rates of >50%. All but 3 of the remainder would likely have had some benefit from clinical help.
Defining these obligations through the enforcement of secular laws – especially ones that are constitutionally fuzzy – can be a complicated business. Moreover, there is no guarantee that it will deter devout and stubborn parents from engaging in religious practices that endanger the health of their children. But the alternative – simply ignoring the suffering of the youngest and most vulnerable members of our nation’s churches – seems unconscionable.
It’s absurd that religious beliefs are legally allowed to trump potentially life-saving science in the 21st century.
I still find it difficult to understand how Jehovah’s Witnesses can consider abortion murder and yet allow a child who needs a blood transfusion to die unnecessarily.
Prayer can sometimes help people in its role as a placebo, but it’s no replacement for medicine or techniques that are clinically proven to work (at least the vast majority of the time).
[tags]atheist, atheism, child abuse, medicine[/tags]