I tried twice to write a blog post recently (in case you thought I had forgotten about you guys – I hadn’t). But in the first case, and then in the second case, I decided that I was wrong to try to make an issue of it (no, Stephen Hawking was not ascribing human or deity-like characteristics to his complete theory of everything in A Brief History of Time, you just read that wrong).
But now I think I finally have something I can run with.
I caught this article today about Tennessee deciding to repeal a 1994 law exempting parents who opt for “treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone” from the state child abuse and neglect statute. The governor of Tennessee is widely expected to sign the bill repealing this law. It’s pretty amazing in this day and age, when politics can be so divisive, that only one person in the Tennessee House opposed the bill, and no one in the Senate.
So where does that leave you, if you’re a member of this Universal Life Church, or a Christian Scientist, or a member of any other religion that doesn’t believe in medicine? Screwed, probably. But I can’t feel that sorry for you. I appreciate that you’re in a tough position, but I believe in medicine.
It’s actually quite difficult for me to put myself in the shoes of these people, because even though I was raised Catholic, I was also raised with a healthy belief in medicine. Medicine saved my dad’s life in 1972, when he was in a severe vehicular accident, and my mother is a retired certified nurse’s aide. So I was never in a position where I had to choose between medicine and faith. But being raised Catholic is not the same as being raised Christian Scientist, for instance.
I think for me it comes down to imposing your beliefs on your young children who are not old enough to make that decision for themselves. I guess this issue is similar to one that I have blogged about before, but there is at least one cogent difference. In the earlier story, it was clear that the little girl’s wishes went a certain way. In the case of Jessica Crank, the Tennessee case, we don’t know for sure what 15-year-old Jessica’s wishes were, although this article implies that she agreed with the prayer treatment. But even if she had, like the district attorney said, that’s not a decision that she was old enough to make. The age of majority in Tennessee is 18, and there is a certain amount of development that occurs between ages 15 and 18.
I can see religious conservatives getting riled up over the Tennessee bill, if the governor does sign it like everyone expects him to. “Government intrusion into the practice of religion,” they’ll say, and yeah, it kind of is. It’s hard to refute that argument. But it’s to save lives.
I don’t know. It’s a tough one. What do you think?
One thought on “The religious, the secular, and the parents who don’t treat their sick children”
I’m with you. I was also raised Christian (Presbyterian) but with a trust in medicine. I did biomedical research before I started teaching. It saves lives.
And I also agree that before the age of majority, people are not old enough to consent to things like “prayer treatment.” It may be a gray area in some cases, some people are very mature at younger ages, but I think that as a society we have to draw a line somewhere and we’ve drawn it at 18, which I think is reasonable.
I’m glad to see some sanity coming out of the Tennessee government!
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