Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 4th 2013 Contents Parents refusing medical care for their child due to their religious beliefs persist.
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Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, November 4, 2013
Paediatricians and child-abuse agencies should
step in when parents religious beliefs keep kids
from getting necessary medical care, doctors said
In a policy statement, the American Academy of
Paediatrics Committee on Bioethics also said states
should repeal any exemptions to child abuse and
Those exemptions mean some states don t always
consider parents negligent if they forgo medical treat-
ment for a child because of their religious beliefs.
Finally, the committee said public healthcare funding
should not be used for religious or spiritual healing.
That would mean Medicare and Medicaid would
no longer cover services at Christian Science sana-
toriums, for instance. People with government-funded
insurance could still get care at hospitals run by reli-
"I think it s important that all children get appro-
priate medical care, that state policies should be clear
about the obligations to provide this care and that
state monies directed toward medical care should be
used for established and effective therapies," said Dr
Antommaria directs the Ethics Center at Cincinnati
Children s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio and is
one of the lead authors of the statement. He told
Reuters Health that cases of parents refusing medical
care for their child due to their religious beliefs persist.
People of certain faiths, including many Christian
Scientists, advocate prayer before or instead of medical
treatments when a person is ill. Jehovah s Witnesses
do not accept blood transfusions.
Parents have the right to weigh the risks and
benefits of possible treatments and make medical
choices for their children, the Committee writes in
the journal Pediatrics. But that s no longer the case
if their choices rise to the level of medical neglect
"The main considerations would be whether the
lack of medical treatment would cause death or
serious disability," and whether good treatment is
available, Antommaria said.
In one recent case, an Ohio court ruled that a hos-
pital could force a ten-year-old Amish girl with
leukemia to resume chemotherapy. Her parents had
decided to forgo the treatment in favour of "natural
medicines." The family had been told the girl had an
85 per cent chance of survival with treatment but
would die within the year if she did not receive it..
That part of the committee statement reiterates
an earlier policy, Antommaria said. So does the rec-
ommendation that states overturn religious exemp-
tions to child abuse laws.
What is new is the call for government-run insur-
ance not to cover unproven spiritual and religious
therapies. Those include services provided at sana-
toriums and other religious nonmedical health care
institutions, as the Committee calls them.
"Part of it is the issue of, if the public funds are
going to be used for medical care, they should be
used for established effective therapies," Antommaria
said. "These other uses aren t appropriate (based on)
When it comes to public funding for health services,
"The question would be, not so much whether they
are science-based or faith-based, but whether they
work," Dr John Lantos said.
He is director of the Children s Mercy Bioethics
Center at Children s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City,
Missouri, and was not involved in the new recom-
"There are some complementary and alternative
treatments that work and therefore ought to be cov-
ered, I think. There are others that have never been
shown to work." He said Medicare and Medicaid
should not cover any service until it has been rig-
Antommaria said government coverage for religious
nonmedical institutions could also be seen as unfair.
That s because people may get services there like
custodial care that aren t available to Medicare and
Medicaid patients at medical facilities.
A spokesperson for The First Church of Christ,
Scientist said the organisation had no comment on
the statement. (Reuters Health)
Doctors: Dont let religious
beliefs impede childcare
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