Last Thursday, a couple was arrested in Oregon and charged with first and second degree manslaughter in the death of their daughter who died in February. It appears to be that their daughter died from untreated T1 diabetes.
This has happened before and I am sure it will happen again.
In as much as we tend to immediately become angry, it is important to note that this is not a cut and dry established precedent in criminal law. When it comes to religion, faith, and the healing and medical process, the two do not always mix, and more than that they are not easy to examine separately. Here is a copy of the story but my article today is to go further than just share the story.
The child died in February, they were arrested last week. For months to pass without an arrest is a clear sign that this is not a slam dunk case. This got me to thinking.
I remember when I had written about another case like this a few months ago. I found it interesting at both the outrage and also the compassion felt towards the parents’ who some believe were not fully understanding; for whatever reason they didn’t.
Today, my goal is to not only just inform you of this story, but to also inform you that I went a bit further. I had questions as to how this could even happen and I wanted to know more than ‘just the story’. I figured you would want to know more also.
There was a study done on 172 children. In the study there was evidence that parents withheld medical care because of reliance on religious rituals and document sufficient to determine the cause of death between the years of 1975 through 1995. The study was done by an MD, Dr. Seth Asser; and a PhD, Dr. Rita Swan.
The study revealed that 12 of the children who died during this time frame, due to withholding medical treatment, were children with T1 Diabetes; the largest among all specific disease states with the exception of pneumonia in varying degrees (cancer was broken down into various forms of specific cancer).
The entire study can be read here.
I tracked down and spoke to Dr. Swan who told me that she has ‘been at this’ for over 30 years. She shared a horrific story of one of the T1 deaths that I will not share (it was truly disturbing) but will tell you that Dr. Swan stated the death, and what happened during the trial, was ‘disgusting’. She created a website called CHILD, Inc which is an acronym for Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty.
She has been an advocate since she herself was part of this practice and she reveals her story on her website (you can scroll on the picture over the home page, when you see Matthew Swan, you can read their entire story). In part she writes:
After nearly two weeks of serious illness, a practitioner said Matthew might have a broken bone and that Christian Scientists are allowed to go to doctors for setting of broken bones. The Swans took Matthew to a hospital, where the disease was diagnosed as Hemophilus influenza meningitis. He lived for a week in intensive care. The Christian Science practitioners would not pray for him while he had medical care.
My conversation with Dr. Swan was extremely enlightening. To speak to a mom that had been caught up in turning their backs on conventional medicine due to a faith-based means of strictly healing by prayer; then realizing that may not have been the correct choice; and then to try to achieve goals to help children who seem to have no choice in the matter whatsoever; just left me breathless.
I asked Dr. Swan why it would take so long from the time the child died to the time officials brought charges against the parents; and she stated that in this recent case in Oregon, “It was actually pretty quickly”. There are many reports from the medical examiner’s office that must be evaluated to know the specific cause fo death and whether or not it could have been prevented. Everything must be weighed to determine that there are charges strong enough to be bought forward. Remember; the parents did nothing wrong and must be proven otherwise; not the other way around.
She stated also that it is a difficult situation because in many cases specific churches will state that they actually did not tell the parents they should not get medical attention but she knows first hand that they will say that ‘God will heal (their child)’ and ‘God doesn’t like for them to do that.” (seek medical attention). That can weigh heavily on an individual active in a church believing in this approach.
She informed me that in the thirty years she has been fighting, changes have been made. Religious exemptions have been repealed in many states when it comes to withholding medical care but the sound in her voice makes me think it is a lonely fight. A long fight.
I could not find much more than what I found in Dr. Swan’s site and other stories where this unfortunate turn of events occurs.
The legal system is surely in place for a reason but I kept coming back to the same thought; how my heart breaks for the child who could have been saved. Seems senseless to me. Just all so senseless.
I am a diabetes dad.
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