Anyone who has conversed with me in detail knows how I feel about parents substituting prayer or homeopathy for actual medicine in treating their children. In early 2008, the case of Madeline Neumann received international attention and once again brought the case of faith-based treatments to the forefront of international scrutiny.
On January 24, 2009, at approximately 9:30pm EST, 2 year-old Kent Shaible passed away from complications due to bacterial pneumonia at his family home.1 His parents — Herbert and Catherine Schaible, 41 and 40, respectively — were over him praying for him to get better.
Kent would’ve been turning 4 years-old on July 17.2
Bacterial pneumonia is very treatable. A regimen of antibiotics along with plenty of rest and fluids is all it takes.3 Instead of being dead in two weeks from onset, Kent would’ve been a living and healthy, happy toddler.
There was very little on this case in the news — I never heard about it until recently and I tend to read the news every day. Most of the news of this case didn’t surface until the trial for the parents was set, which occurred in October 2009. I’ve yet to find a news story about this case from January 2009 or shortly thereafter. Much of the discussion of this case happened instead in the blogosphere and opinion pages. So unless you read various religion-based blogs, which I don’t, you probably haven’t heard of this case.
When Madeline Neumann died in March 23, 2008, the press was all over it. Like I said, it received international attention. And Madeline’s case overshadowed the case of 15-month old Ava Worthington (d. March 2, 2008), but even Ava’s case was in the news shortly after her death.
But I still cannot help but ask the question whether Ava’s case would’ve slipped quietly beneath the waves if Madeline’s case hadn’t brought the issue to the forefront?
One of the big issues is that, with these cases becoming more frequent, the parents have yet to receive any kind of worthy sentence. Madeline’s parents received ten years probation each and were ordered to serve 30-days in jail each year for the next six years.4
And one of the things that allows these parents to walk out of the courtroom with little more than a slap on the wrist is the fact that many States have laws exempting parents from responsibility when they substitute prayer over medical attention.
Now I am a libertarian, meaning that I will fully defend someone’s right to practice their religion. However as I’ve said previously, you do not have the right to compromise the health or life of your child by refusing to seek medical attention.
When will these parents learn that prayer alone will not do the job? After all, why should God do for you what you can already do for yourself?
- Dean, Mensah M. (2009, October 8). "Faith-healing parents charged in death of infant son". Philadelphia Daily News. [↩]
- Search for Kent Schaible through the Social Security Death Index [↩]
- WebMD.com. "Bacterial Pneumonia: Symptoms, Causes, Tests, and Treatment". [↩]
- Riordan, Kathy. (2009, October 6). "Judge Shows Leniency to Parents in Wisconsin Prayer Death". Open Salon. [↩]