Wisconsin Helps Country Take A Step In The Right Direction

Some people just suck at being parents.  It’s an unfortunate fact.  In most of these situations, there are mechanisms in place to protect the child and punish the parents.  They may be imperfect, but they exist to help those who can’t yet help themselves.  Laws in the United States (and most civilized societies) state that parents are responsible for providing the basic necessities of life for the child.  One of these would be basic medical care.  Failure to do so often results in removal of the child and prosecution of the parents.  At least that’s what happens as long as the parents are just garden-variety assholes.  If they’re neglecting or abusing their child as part of a religious belief (the term ‘religious belief’ casts a wide net in this instance), they are protected by law in many situations.

As of 2007, 41 of 50 US states had religious exemption laws on the books which protect parents from prosecution if the neglect or abuse of their child is part of a religious belief.  Many of these laws were inspired by anti-vaccinationist parents who didn’t want to vaccinate their children but still wanted to send them to public school (yet more collateral damage from the anti-vaccers).

As a result of these laws, you get cases like this one in Oregon, where parents have refused to have an apparent brain tumor removed from their 13 year old daughter.  In this case, the child was born with glioblastoma multiforme, a highly aggressive form of brain cancer.  She had four surgeries from the time of her birth.  After the fourth surgery, she experienced a prolonged remission.  Around the time of that fourth surgery, the parents visited a psychic healer named Nicolai Levashov (the same man who treated Susan Strasberg for breast cancer before she died of the disease) who claimed to heal their child by psychically reaching inside the girl’s body and altering the diseased cells and curing the cancer.  Now that the cancer has returned, instead of admitting he’s a fraud, Levashov has told the parents that his treatment worked so well, that the mass now seen on the CAT scan is actually, new healthy brain tissue.  The DHS has backed the parents, stating that the care of the child is up to them, and that the same law that applies to immunization applies to this situation.  I have, unfortunately, been unable to find any follow-up on this story.  I hope Isabelle is okay, but I expect the worst.

Many of these laws were passed under the radar.  Most people, until recently, had no idea they existed.  The tide, however, may be turning as more of these cases come to light.  Many are familiar with the case in Minnesota in which a mother was ordered by the court to allow her son to undergo chemotherapy.  Another high-profile case testing the religious exemption defense, and the impetus for this post, was decided yesterday (at least temporarily, an appeal is planned).  The father of an 11 year old girl with undiagnosed diabetes was convicted of second-degree reckless homicide (his wife was convicted on the same charge this past spring).  Instead of seeking medical treatment when their daughter fell ill, the parents called on fellow church members who who joined them in praying over the child until she died.  This is obviously an important step in the changing of these laws.  However, any jubilation is highly tempered by the infuriatingly needless loss of a child and all the potential that she represented.  Be happy progress is being made, but always remember what has had to happen to get us to this point.

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