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When faith kills: parents who avoid medical attention for their very sick children
Posted: 03 September 2008 10:33 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I’ve made blog postings about two ongoing child neglect or abuse cases resulting in the deaths of children because their parents prayed instead of seeking medical help.

When faith kills: http://lambdadelta.wordpress.com/2008/09/03/when-faith-kills-part-1-kara-neumann/
When faith kills 2: http://lambdadelta.wordpress.com/2008/09/04/when-faith-kills-part-2-ava-worthington-oregon/

There’s no harm in praying for help, if you think it will speed recovery.  These are cases where, for whatever reason, the parents somehow got the idea that prayer is a substitute for medicine.

This poses questions about the limits of religious freedom.  To what extent is a parent ever justified in keeping his or her very sick child away from the doctors?  In particular, does religion provide an adequate justification?

[ Edited: 06 September 2008 12:29 PM by Tony Sidaway ]
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Posted: 04 September 2008 02:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I was going to create a thread on the related topic of the HPV vaccine jab.  I have been thinking about those parents who object to the jab. I simply cannot understand their mindset.  Are they trying to restrict their childs behaviour through the fear of cancer? does it represent some form of symbol they disagree with?  What is the child going to think when grown up and is informed that she has cancer which could have been prevented, except her parents refused to allow it? What are the parents going to think when their child does get cancer?

I would appreciate some insight into this, as it makes no sense to me whatsoever.

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Posted: 04 September 2008 09:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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SkiCarver - 04 September 2008 02:20 AM

I was going to create a thread on the related topic of the HPV vaccine jab.  I have been thinking about those parents who object to the jab. I simply cannot understand their mindset.  Are they trying to restrict their childs behaviour through the fear of cancer? does it represent some form of symbol they disagree with?  What is the child going to think when grown up and is informed that she has cancer which could have been prevented, except her parents refused to allow it? What are the parents going to think when their child does get cancer?

I would appreciate some insight into this, as it makes no sense to me whatsoever.

No, the main gist of their argument (as far as I can see) has to do with sexuallity. There are two separate arguments. (1) My daughter will be a virgin until she is swept off her feet by prince charming and consummate the marriage on their wedding night where they will both lose their virginity! Therefore my daughter doesn’t need the vaccination(2) You will be encouraging my daughter to become sexually active by vaccinating her against this cancer causing agent. Therefore I refuse to allow my daughter to be vaccinated.
It’s the old Madonna/whore complex played out with their daughters! shut eye  And the price could be their lives.

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Posted: 04 September 2008 09:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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asanta - 04 September 2008 09:25 AM
SkiCarver - 04 September 2008 02:20 AM

I was going to create a thread on the related topic of the HPV vaccine jab.  I have been thinking about those parents who object to the jab. I simply cannot understand their mindset.  Are they trying to restrict their childs behaviour through the fear of cancer? does it represent some form of symbol they disagree with?  What is the child going to think when grown up and is informed that she has cancer which could have been prevented, except her parents refused to allow it? What are the parents going to think when their child does get cancer?

I would appreciate some insight into this, as it makes no sense to me whatsoever.

No, the main gist of their argument (as far as I can see) has to do with sexuallity. There are two separate arguments. (1) My daughter will be a virgin until she is swept off her feet by prince charming and consummate the marriage on their wedding night where they will both lose their virginity! Therefore my daughter doesn’t need the vaccination(2) You will be encouraging my daughter to become sexually active by vaccinating her against this cancer causing agent. Therefore I refuse to allow my daughter to be vaccinated.
It’s the old Madonna/whore complex played out with their daughters! shut eye  And the price could be their lives.

I think i understand the actual situation, I just don’t understand how a parent can think like that.  “Hmm, I think I will use the threat of cancer to stop my child from having sex.”  I know a parent will not be conciously thinking that, but how do they convince themselves that denying their child the vaccine is the right thing to do?

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Posted: 04 September 2008 10:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Yes, it’s quite horrific.

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Posted: 04 September 2008 10:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Certainly, the substitution of religiouos mytholgy for reason and evidence in the practice of medicine is an infuriating tragedy, and I think our laws can and should step in to prevent minors and others not able to make their own choices from being victims of such religious extremisim, as well as quacks and scam artists of all sorts of unproven or clearly useless medical practices. And while I agree that the religious resistance to the HPV vaccine is silly, following in the great “Just Say No” tradition of burying one’s head in the sand, I do think there were some actual, substantive issues about making the HPV vaccine mandatory in schools. The data for safety and efficacy is pretty strong, but there is no question there was a lot of unethical lobbying on the part of Merck, and that the school mandate was initially pushed as much from a profit motive as a public health motive. The vaccine had not been in use nearly as long as most are before being required. If it turns out there are any unexpected adverse effects that emerge when the vaccine is used in a much larger population, this could have a disastrous effect on the public perception of vaccines and their willingness to go along with mandates, which are a vital part of sound vaccination strategy. So while I think ultimately a mandate for this vaccine will turn out to be the right thing to do, it shows how complicated the intricate dance among puclic health advocates, women’s advocates, religious fanatics, anti-vaccine groups, government, and for-profit medicine really is. Hmm, I wonder if there’s another way to organize our health care system? wink

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Posted: 04 September 2008 10:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I believe individual state laws vary on whether or not parents can be prosecuted for refusing medical help for a dying child. Cults who refuse medical treatment for babies can just pack up and move to another state.

I would have to do research to try and find the exact cases, but I vividly recall a couple of cases over the years where parents refused medical treatment for a dying child, and prosecutors were able to rip them apart as hypocrites in the trials. Something like a parent was found to have secretly seen a doctor themselves, yet when the child became sick they only prayed, or the child had recently seen a doctor for a broken bone, etc. yet died of infection at home weeks later.

There was a really good Law & Order espisode on this years ago. I know it’s fiction, but it’s based loosely on true stories and this one episode always stuck with me. A little girl died of infection and fever for something easily curable by antibiotics. They were trying to prosecute the parents, who insisted their religious beliefs prevented them from seeing a doctor. In the trial, they pointed out several instances of hypocritical behavior by the parents (if I recall correctly, drinking booze, maybe an affair, etc.) and ripped into them - how could they indulge in other “unreligous behavior” yet not save the life of their little girl? Wouldn’t they want to “sin” to save the life of their child, and ask forgiveness later as they had for their other sins?

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Posted: 04 September 2008 11:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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SkiCarver - 04 September 2008 02:20 AM

I was going to create a thread on the related topic of the HPV vaccine jab.  I have been thinking about those parents who object to the jab. I simply cannot understand their mindset.  Are they trying to restrict their childs behaviour through the fear of cancer? does it represent some form of symbol they disagree with?  What is the child going to think when grown up and is informed that she has cancer which could have been prevented, except her parents refused to allow it? What are the parents going to think when their child does get cancer?

I would appreciate some insight into this, as it makes no sense to me whatsoever.

I think panic over the jab is two-fold.

1) Ignorant parents are worried about vaccine “safety” based on all the online hysteria. Then we have a couple of parents whose children HAVE received the new vaccine complaining on major news outlets about “complications” including (Gasp!) “pain at injection site” and a low fever. I wonder, when their kids have a tetnus shot, and they get a lump on their arm that hurts and a fever, do they call major news outlets?

2) They are concerned the vaccine gives their child “permission” to engage in sexual activities. This is just stupid. It’s a myth propagated by the same people against sex education in schools who say their angels would never have sex until marriage. If the parents are THAT concerned about the impression of permission, tell the kid it’s a freakin’ measels shot for all I care.  (They should be discussing sex education with their children anyway, but that’s another topic for another thread.)

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Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it’s a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe.    - Lex Luthor

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Posted: 04 September 2008 08:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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My problem is that faith can kill at any age.  Medically, faith can kill both the young and the old.  The difference is that children don’t make their medical decision themselves, their elders do.  The thing is, religious belief takes over the mentality of people in a way that causes them to disregard modern medical science in favour of superstitious Darkage beliefs.

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Posted: 05 September 2008 03:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I was thinking about the whole cognative disonance thing.  Are these parents in the state where they know they will be harming their kids, but are able to compartmentalise that info and leave it ‘hovering’ while they concentrate on the distorted moral stance?  If that is the case, what would be the best strategy to resolve that situation? Also, would the initial reaction lose it’s strength as they think about the issue without outside interference?

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Posted: 05 September 2008 08:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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SkiCarver - 05 September 2008 03:24 AM

I was thinking about the whole cognative disonance thing.  Are these parents in the state where they know they will be harming their kids, but are able to compartmentalise that info and leave it ‘hovering’ while they concentrate on the distorted moral stance?  If that is the case, what would be the best strategy to resolve that situation? Also, would the initial reaction lose it’s strength as they think about the issue without outside interference?

(I think)It starts with ‘god’ will heal him/her. Then when they die, they take it as ‘god’s choice’, because ‘god works in mysterious ways’. If they survive, despite the lack of medical care, again it was ‘god’s will’. In none of the scenarios do they take responsibility for the end result…the decision is always ‘god’s’.

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Posted: 07 September 2008 09:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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asanta - 05 September 2008 08:28 AM

(I think)It starts with ‘god’ will heal him/her. Then when they die, they take it as ‘god’s choice’, because ‘god works in mysterious ways’. If they survive, despite the lack of medical care, again it was ‘god’s will’. In none of the scenarios do they take responsibility for the end result…the decision is always ‘god’s’.

What’s even more alarming about the first case, in Weston, Wisconsin, is that the news reports say that even after the girl died her parents convinced themselves that she would be resurrected, and said so to the Medical Examiner.

Considering this and similar cases, I think there is also the danger that misplaced respect for religious beliefs leads to indulgence of such dangerous and destructive thinking.  Religious believers are used to their own beliefs not being examined critically, and may hold back from expressing criticism of the beliefs of others in a kind of undeclared act of reciprocity, even when people act on those beliefs in a blatantly harmful way.

I believe that this reciprocity principle may be widespread among believers, and its absence in unbelievers is one reason why atheists who express concern are widely perceived to be acting in an unduly, perhaps deliberately, harsh way.

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Posted: 07 September 2008 11:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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As an aside, I seem to recall that the vaccine was quite expensive, and not 100% effective.  Possibly, some parents aren’t economically able to bear the cost.

Occam

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Posted: 07 September 2008 11:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Occam - 07 September 2008 11:14 AM

As an aside, I seem to recall that the vaccine was quite expensive, and not 100% effective.  Possibly, some parents aren’t economically able to bear the cost.

Occam

Ah, so no free vaccination program, then?

That seems a bit odd.  What’s the point of having thesejabs if you don’t ensure that everybody gets one?

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Posted: 07 September 2008 04:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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As I understand it, the HPV vaccine is patented by one pharmaceutical company, and many insurance plans don’t cover it. 

The point is that for a woman getting HPV increases her risk of uterine cancer.  Getting the shot reduces her chance of getting HPV thereby reducing her risk of that cancer.  It’s about personal protection; it doesn’t significantly reduce the incidence of HPV in the population. 

Occam

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Posted: 07 September 2008 06:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Occam - 07 September 2008 04:17 PM

As I understand it, the HPV vaccine is patented by one pharmaceutical company, and many insurance plans don’t cover it. 

The point is that for a woman getting HPV increases her risk of uterine cancer.  Getting the shot reduces her chance of getting HPV thereby reducing her risk of that cancer.  It’s about personal protection; it doesn’t significantly reduce the incidence of HPV in the population. 

Occam

It does not protect against all forms of HPV, only the most common forms that are the usual causes of cervical cancer, so women still need to protect themselves. I think the FDA is considering recommending it for boys as well. Since males are the HPV reservoirs it makes sense.

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