Faith Healing in a Modern Medicine World
by Cheryl Mathis on June 1st, 2009
Here at Citizen Wausau, we didn’t talk about the Neumann case. Maybe we weren’t interested enough; maybe we didn’t want to touch it with a ten-foot pole.
I’m nudging it a bit.
To tell you the truth, I was surprised by the verdict of guilty. I thought she would be acquitted.
To tell you the truth again, I thought a charge of child neglect was more reasonable.
This is an unpopular standpoint. Outrage is an understatement in regards to the response of our community to the tragic death of that dear girl. We pointed fingers and screamed that any responsible parent would have rushed their child to the hospital at the first of those symptoms. Kara was dead, but we could provide her justice.
I think it’s a complicated issue. This involves the rights of children who live in unconventional households. Bear with me on this while I try to explain. I’m going to go on a few tangents that barely relate, but I think they all share a common theme… interference and the right or duty to interfere.
Do we step in when whole families are living together in communes? Do we make sure the kids are getting proper medical attention? When cults are sequestered, do we storm the walls and take the children out of there because the parents aren’t providing their kids with a reasonable upbringing? Not often. Remember with that polygamy group down south, when the kids were all pulled out because they were living in an unnatural environment, and the girls were marrying too young? Didn’t we end up returning most of those kids back to their families after all? Why?
One of the shrill voices I hear in the anti-gay community says that gay people shouldn’t be parents. The couples shouldn’t be able to adopt, and if, God forbid, they manage to welcome a biological child into their home, the other parent shouldn’t be allowed to adopt their partner’s child. The Defense of Marriage people say that the heterosexual marriage is the best environment for families. They either state or imply that any other environment would be harming the children involved. These are children in unconventional households, and most of us don’t lose sleep worrying about the children involved.
But the Neumann case isn’t so grey. A child actually died as the result of the parents’ faith and their programmed responses to illness based on that faith. We can’t say… oh, what’s the harm? Let them be. We can’t, because someone died.
In the news now is the case of the teenage boy who refused chemotherapy. He has been court-ordered to undergo chemo. He and his mother went into hiding for a while to avoid the treatment. For a while there, it was a fuzzy issue because one parent wanted the treatment for their son while the other didn’t.
But here’s where my heart steps in. Every day we encourage people to sign for power of attorneys and fill out their DNR paperwork. We decide if we want medical intervention beyond a certain point, or if we want to die naturally. Some people just don’t want to be in a vegetative state for years; others don’t want any resusitation after a death, even though our medical knowledge is so advanced that we can bring people back from death sometimes with various means. We allow people to make those decisions, and the staff honors those decisions.
When a little boy I know was suffering from brain cancer, there came a point when they stopped trying to kill the cancer because the treatment was too harsh and the likelihood of success was too slim. Chemo hurts. It’s a terrible thing to have to go through, but most do, because life is what we all want. He died a natural death of cancer.
Without our medical interventions, people would be dying every day from influenza, asthma, cancer, diabetes, and a whole list of other ailments that are mostly treatable nowadays. When did that treatment become obligatory?
Still, Kara was a minor. She couldn’t chose. We can’t go back and take her aside and ask her what she wanted and assign a new guardian. Maybe she would have sided with her parents. I was raised with a Pentecostal mother who believed in faith healing. I believed in it too, because that’s what I was taught to believe. Parents raise children … governments don’t. Every day there are families who create their own dynamic of rules and values and guidelines, and we don’t interfere.
We wait until it’s too late… until someone dies as a result. Then we care. When everything is going fine, when one of the kids doesn’t have an illness they could die from, we stand aside and laud our civil rights and the rights of those families to live as they wish. We draw the line in the sand after the fact.
I say that if we are going to prosecute these parents for letting their daughter die of diabetes, we need to start stepping in at birth. All parents should be obligated to provide regular medical care for their children, and we should have a new bureaucracy to keep track of that care to make sure children don’t die of treatable diseases. Does that sound fair to you? Is that what you want?
What is the solution to this?