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Religious Tolerance logo

Prayer as a supplement to, or
a replacement for, medical treatment

Medical reports, web sites, etc. that
are skeptical of the use of prayer alone

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Medical reports skeptical of faith healing alone:

  • Committee on Bioethics of the American Academy of Pediatrics published an article titled: "Religious Objections to Medical Care"  in Pediatrics, 1997-FEB, Vol. 99, #2, Pages 278-281. Online at: http://www.cirp.org/

    They reported:

"Government obligation arises from that interest when parental religious practices subject minor children to possible loss of life or to substantial risk of harm. Constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion do not permit children to be harmed through religious practices, nor do they allow religion to be a valid legal defense when an individual harms or neglects a child....."

"The AAP asserts that every child should have the opportunity to grow and develop free from preventable illness or injury. Children also have the right to appropriate medical evaluation when it is likely that a serious illness, injury, or other medical condition endangers their lives or threatens substantial harm or suffering. Under these circumstances, parents and other guardians have a responsibility to seek medical treatment, regardless of their religious beliefs and preferences. Unfortunately, certain groups have obtained exemptions from legal sanctions and state child abuse and neglect reporting laws based on the child's 'treatment' by spiritual means, such as prayer. The overall effect has been to limit the government's ability to protect children from abuse or neglect."

They recommended:

"The AAP calls for all those entrusted with the care of children to:

  1. show sensitivity to and flexibility toward the religious beliefs and practices of families;
  2. support legislation that ensures that all parents who deny their children medical care likely to prevent death or substantial harm or suffering are held legally accountable;
  3. support the repeal of religious exemption laws; and
  4. work with other child advocacy organizations and agencies and religious institutions to develop coordinated and concerted public and professional action to educate state officials, health care professionals, and the public about parents' legal obligations to obtain and necessary health medical care for their children."
  • An earlier statement by the same committee published in 1988-JAN and titled "Religious Exemptions From Child Abuse Statutes" is available at: http://www.cirp.org/

    They note:

"...the constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion do not sanction harming another person in the practice of one's religion, and they do not allow religion to be a legal defense when one harms another."

"Two important sets of interests are in apparent opposition - those of children in the benefits of proven medical and health care and those of parents in making a decision about their children's well-being. Some parents believe that a constitutionally protected freedom of religion allows them to deny their children some or all of the benefits of standard medical intervention. However, this interpretation of the US constitution is in contradiction to important court rulings to the effect that parents may not martyr their children based on parental beliefs and that children cannot be denied essential health care."

  • Seth M. Asser & Rita Swan authored an article titled "Child Fatalities From Religion-motivated Medical Neglect" in the Pediatrics journal of the American Academy Of Pediatrics, 1998-APR-04, Vol. 101 #4, Page 625-629. 1998-APR-26.

    They reported that:

They had found information on 172 known faith-related child deaths in the U.S. between 1975 and 1995. The chance of survival of 140 of these children if they had received medical attention would have been 90%. Eighteen other children would have had a survival rate of 50%. All but three could have benefited from medical treatment. See abstract at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/

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Web sites skeptical of faith healing alone:

Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" religious topics > Faith healing > here

Copyright © 2005 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2005-DEC-14
Latest update: 2008-NOV-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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