A new concern is rising among doctors, how to provide proper care for patients especially children whose parents refuse them medical treatment. Recent criminal cases have exposed a number of parents who believe in faith-based healing and reject modern medical treatment for their children; a form of abuse that has resulted in young preventable deaths.
Dr. Lace told American Medical News, "We're not going after religion or people's rights to go to church. We're going after neglect," he said. “These children are dying of simple diseases that you can treat."
A study conducted in 1998 showed that of 140 child deaths in the United States when parents denied treatment, about 90 percent would have lived with proper health care.
“These kids take days or sometimes weeks to die or live with disabilities for their whole lives," said Dr. Asser, a Rhode Island-based pediatrician. In 2004 he helped repeal a Rhode Island law that gave parents religious exemptions.
Controversial religious groups such as Jehovah Witnesses and Christian Science believers have come under fire for their extremist views when it comes to healing. The Christian Science Church believes only in spiritual treatment of sickness, and Jehovah Witnesses are against certain medical procedures like blood transfusions. Dr. Asser said he has had issues in the past with patients refusing transfusions.
In 2008, a 17-year-old male teen died after his mother Kay Lynn Burdette of Auburn, Ala rejected treatment for his flu symptoms that he had for weeks. She prayed with her son at her church instead of seeking treatment and she has recently pleaded guilty to negligent homicide.
Lawyers and doctors are trying to prevent these situations by seeking to change laws in states that allow parents a form of religious exemption from medical treatments.
Asser told the American Medical News: “Any child in my ICU who is dying of lack of medical care will either get medical care or we'll get a court order."