With the widespread return of disease epidemics spawned by parents not vaccinating their children, the topic of religious exemptions in the medical field has legislators in hot debate. Fundamental rights of freedom of expression are always hot button issues, but what if a fundamental right is harming not only your child, but others as well? Where is the line drawn? And if it harms only your child, is it considered abuse?
Religious Exemptions in Medical Situations
Religious exemptions can be applied to other medical situations other than vaccinations. In many of these religious sects, there are specific tenets that oppose specific medical procedures. For example, Scientologists oppose treatment for some neurological disorders like depression, autism, and ADHD, but are accepting of treatment for physical ailments. Jehovah’s witnesses are opposed to blood transfusions, which seriously limits the possibility for surgery.
Faith Healing as an Alternative Treatment for Children
Many of these religions believe that faith healing – treatment coming from prayer – is the only medical treatment that should be provided. Studies show, however, that faith healing has little to no positive effect on the patient, and an article published in the journal Pediatrics in 1998 found that of the 172 children who died because their parents refused medical care for the child, 140 died from disorders and diseases that have a 90 percent success rate for treatment. The placebo effect of faith healing is no match for modern medicine.
Is a Denial of Medical Attention Child Neglect or Abuse?
The major issue is not about adults denying medical treatment for themselves, but when their beliefs dictate the provision of medical care for others, namely their children. Generally minors require parental consent for medical treatment, except in cases of medical emergency (even then they may bar treatment). If a minor’s parents are against certain medical treatment or against all treatment, the minor may end up dying from an easily-treated illness. The law, however, is still protecting religious freedoms at the cost of children’s lives.
Criminal Liability on Parents
According to the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse, 39 states have laws in place that do not impinge criminal liability on parents whose children die as a result of their religious beliefs against medical care. Most of these states have in place religious exemption laws that permit parents to take a possibly harmful position against medical care for their children because they have a sincerely held religious belief, without criminal liability or negligence charges.
Illinois’ Stance on Religious Exemptions for Medical Care
In Illinois, parents who forgo medical care and treatment for their children may be considered negligent or abusive under Illinois statute. However, a parent or guardian who decides to heal through spiritual means because of a genuinely held belief is not automatically considered abusive or negligent. Illinois, however, has outlined that a neglected child is one whose parent or guardian refuses to provide medical treatment that is recommended by a physician or group of physicians where that medical or remedial care is considered under state law to be necessary for the well-being of the child.
Experienced Family Law Attorneys in DuPage County
Religious beliefs and the right to raise your children are both fundamental rights. If these rights are being threatened due to your decision on how to raise your children, it is important to speak with the experienced family law attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC. Contact our experienced DuPage County family law attorneys today for a free and confidential consultation.
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