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Debate: Religious Beliefs over Life Saving Medical Treatment – Philadelphia Pennsylvania Jury Convicts Parents of Criminal Manslaughter Charges

By David Wolf, Attorney
Published by Child Injury Lawyer Network


In Pennsylvania and other States, some parents grapple with the dilemma of following religious beliefs and directives versus medical testing and evaluations for their children. An adult can make decisions for himself or herself as long as they are competent to do so. Since children are not legally competent and most do not have the maturity or knowledge to make an informed decision about medical care, children rely on their parents to guide them and direct them regarding health care. Unfortunately, some children suffer injuries and even death when a parent is guided by zealous religious beliefs that prevent or limit the medical care available for a child. Of course, each case or situation should be evaluated or judged on its own merits. While a person has the freedom of religion in the United States, there are often ethical, moral, and legal dilemmas when medical care is withheld from a child in the name ans spirit of religious beliefs. When these situations arise, there are many viewpoints to contend with including those of religious leaders, religious institutions, parents, medical doctors, medical ethicists, and, yes, the child. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a jury recently convicted parents of the criminal charges of manslaughter regarding their choice to exercise the act of prayer over available medical care for their child. You can read more about this story at Choice of Prayer over Medical Care – Death of Toddler.

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