Faith healing bill protects kids

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board May 30, 2011 11:56 am

Oregonians are as a rule pretty tolerant of unconventional behavior.

We let people grow, and smoke, marijuana for a whole host of reasons.

We allow people to enlist the help of a physician to complete suicide.

But our tolerance must have reasonable limits.

To its credit, the Legislature last week acted to impose such a limit — one that’s long been lacking and that has, sadly, contributed to the deaths of at least two Oregon children.


The state Senate approved by a 25-5 vote a version of a bill that the House passed earlier. House Bill 2721, which should end up on Gov. John Kitzhaber’s desk soon, would forbid parents who withhold medical treatment for their children in favor of “faith healing” from using the latter practice as a defense against certain criminal charges.

The bill also would potentially subject parents to harsher penalties, including mandatory minimum prison sentences, should their children die because they were purposely denied medical treatment.

This legislation addresses a real, not a theoretical, threat to innocent children.

During the past few years, two children have died from readily treatable conditions after their parents chose faith healing instead of medical attention.

A trial is under way in Oregon City for a couple whose daughter was nearly blinded because they refused to take her to the doctor for a relatively minor ailment.

The central issue in each of these cases is not religious freedom.

Oregonians already have that, as guaranteed in both the federal and state constitutions.

As we noted above, Oregon is one of just three states that extend freedoms even farther to include doctor-assisted suicide.

But that’s a personal freedom, legally available to adults who can prove they are of sound mind.

Adults, whether in Oregon or anywhere else, should not have the freedom to allow their innocent and helpless children to die from minor afflictions that could be easily cured in any hospital or medical clinic.

That’s not suicide — it’s homicide.

Withholding food or water, or leaving a child in a hot or freezing car, is a criminal act. Denying life-saving medical care leads to the same tragic end, and should be treated equally.