What’s It Like to Be the Child of ‘Faith-Healing’ Parents?

Liz Heywood is the daughter of Christian Scientist parents… and you already know where this story is going.

She had osteomyelitis, a treatable bone infection, but because her parents neglected her medical needs and resorted to prayer instead, she wasn’t able to get better. Her condition got worse over the next couple of decades, and she eventually had one of her legs amputated in 2007.

You can read her full story here (it was also read to Obama administration officials when the Secular Coalition for America met with them in 2010).

Now, Sean Faircloth, Director of Strategy and Policy for the Richard Dawkins Foundation, has a sit down interview with Heywood that’s as compelling as it is heartbreaking. There are graphic descriptions of what she had to go through — but it’s nothing compared to the vicious truth of what Christian Scientist parents like hers are still doing to their children:

As Sean says in the video, more than 35 states (he says 38 in the video) have laws giving “greater leeway” to parents who mistreat their children and deprive them of medical help in the name of their religion.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=23430830 Matthew Shepherd

    Where’s the harm?

  • Rod Chlebek

    This is child neglect and it should be punishable.

  • Annie

    Warning:  I watched this during my lunch break and I would advise against doing so.   If only the psychological abuse of many religions was as easy to visualize as this physical abuse is…

  • http://twitter.com/Victoriaed90 Victoria

    That video was so disturbing. That poor woman! I can’t believe that more than 35 states give greater leeway to this type of abuse if its related to religion. Does anyone happen to know which states those are?

  • Trace

    Shiver… I cannot bring myself to watch/read it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mujica.alex Alejandro Mujica

    You’d never hear this sort of faith-based mistreatment coming from a secular household. Another black eye for the exclusionary belief of religious morality.

  • CM

    Just utterly heartbreaking. This is worse than child abuse. She was totally abandoned by her local government and school system. This should not be remotely legal. Shameful.

  • Vanessa

    I’m absolutely speechless. The fact that people can be so brainwashed as to do this to their children just boggles my mind. This has to end.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

    From what I’ve head of faith healing families who do go to court it seems they deserve a *harsher* sentence because they feel no remorse – and they might have other kids!

    • Pseudonym

      In that case,  I’d recommend watching the video. For every anecdote there is an equal and opposite anecdote, and I think you’ll be impressed how Liz Heywood’s parents have had to come to terms with what happened, and how they’ve supported her.I hate to bring this up yet again, but this wouldn’t have happened if the US had a real public health system. Faith healing doesn’t get a legal “free pass” in countries where the public health system has to clean up the mess.

  • Matto the Hun

    “… more than 35 states (he says 38 in the video) have laws giving “greater leeway” to parents who mistreat their children and deprive them of medical help in the name of their religion.”

    With God all things are possible, including leniency towards religion. That needs to stop.

  • http://www.childrenshealthcare.org Rita Swan

    There are only six states that have no religious exemptions pertaining to medical care of sick children.  Those are Hawaii, Oregon, Nebraska, Massachusetts, Maryland, and North Carolina.  However, some others, such as Rhode Island, have attenuated the religious exemption so that it means nothing.
    Perhaps the worst state in the country on this issue is Idaho where children in faith-healing sects die and prosecutors do nothing about it.  The coroner where two Idaho children died this year says she doesn’t even do autopsies when children die from religion-based medical neglect.

    • sufferedinsilence

      I know of children who died at the hands of faith healing in Idaho and then when the parents became ill and the pain was too bad for them they sought the help of Physicians for themselves.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish Cuttlefish

    I had a friend whose parents were faith healers.  He died at age 12 or so.  Because his parents lacked sufficient faith, apparently.

  • bigjohn756

    I had osteomyelitis in 1948. I now have a small scar on my shin to show for it. I also have a whole bunch of holes in my butt from the liter(200shots x 5ml/shot) of penicillin they pumped into me during my four weeks in the hospital.  The medics cured it with little problem 63 years ago; I’ll bet they are even better at it nowadays.

    While in college I became acquainted with a beautiful, young woman. She was 18 when she died of pleurisy. Nobody should have to die of pleurisy in 1960; she was a Christian Scientist. I talked to her on the phone during her last days and she was perfectly accepting of her fate. What a f–king waste!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GIK2LNOOIERDVWXBJBN76JAHH4 Cheryl Kohout

    @103c2f995ddbd350c4a423e891e503d0:disqus  I find it interesting that Mass. is included in the list of states w/o religious exemptions since the Christian Science Mother Church is in Boston!