Faith Healing vs. Child Protection

by L-M-B on September 13, 2016 - 8:44am

In 1977, Rita and Doug Swan, both Christian Scientists, did not believe in modern medicine, thinking that having “faith in God” was the only necessary “medical treatment”. According to them, being ill was an illusion, so instead of bringing Matthew, their sixteen months old baby who suffered from severe fevers, to the hospital, they paid a Christian Science practitioner to do some prayers for their baby. The practitioner told the parents that the fevers were caused by fear, and that the baby would recover with the prayers. Unfortunately, the fevers did not go away, but the parents did not want to reject their life-long beliefs. They decided to call a more specialized practitioner, who accused Rita of losing faith, therefore sabotaging her work. As the baby started convulsing, the mother decided it was time to bring Matthew to the hospital. However, she told the doctor that Matthew was suffering of a broken bone, as it is one of the things that the Church allowed to be treated by a doctor, and never mentioned the fevers. The baby was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and a brain abscess. Because the parents waited to long to bring Matthew to the hospital, the treatments did not work for him and he died afterwards.

In this case study, the moral question being asked is: Does religious freedom justifies child negligence? One can argue the principle of autonomy, which, in this case, would be letting adults reject the idea of medical treatment because of their religious beliefs. However, as children depend on their parents, they have the responsibility to do what’s best for them. With the case of Matthew, the “do no harm” rule could apply, as so for the sanctity of life. A sixteen months old baby cannot take the decision for himself as whether or not he wants to heal his fevers with the power of faith. It is the parents’ responsibility to know when faith is not working and medicine is necessary. 

Society has the duty to protect the children from harm and, in my opinion; people’s religious beliefs should not interfere with the care of their children. For example, in Georgia, United States, an eight years old child, Josef Smith, was beaten to death by his parents due to an exorcism. This is a serious case, and even though I can understand that the parents believed they were doing the right thing to “save” their child, death should not have been the outcome of their act. This is a tragic situation that could’ve been avoided, as any responsible parents should’ve known better than beating their child to death. It seems to me that the same principle applies for the case of Matthew Swan or in any other case of child neglect. Why should the life of an innocent child is put at risk due to his parents’ beliefs? 



Hall, Harriet. Faith Healing: Religious Freedom vs. Child Protection. Skeptical Inquirer, vol. 38.4, 2014, . Accessed 9 September 2016. 


Nice work! I was impressed with the title and the question that you asked in this article. I totally agree with your opinion since no one should die for one's belief. I think that it is totally immoral for the practitioner to lie to the parents about the fact that he did not know how to heal sickness. He was just using the parent's belief in God to make a profit. Also, the fact that he told the parents to lie to the doctors in the hospital made the child lose his life. As we can see, the practitioner wanted to keep his reputation by asking the parents to give wrong information to doctors in order to make them fail. I do not believe that Christianity teaches us to use someone's as a tool to gain money, and to harm. Why would people use the name of religion to hurt others even though the bible never taught us to do so? If the parents were less blind, the child might not lose his life.

Amazing text structure, you explained both opinions very well. I totally agree with you, what the parents have done is wrong. However, those parents might be devoted believers in Christian Science, therefore we must look at both side because saying that they neglected their child. Is it really child neglect if the parents genuinely didn’t believe in modern medicine and thought that only prayers could save him? Just Imagine for an instance that modern medicine was the wrong option and that faith in god was the way to go. Would it be categorised as neglect if you taught you were doing the right thing? To continue, I think that the main issue here is the practitioner. I don’t know if there are certain laws that protect the client but I believe it should be more regulated in the sense that if a patient has a severe illness they must recommend a professional. Also, Christianity teaches to not lie, however, the practitioner tells the parents to lie about the child’s sickness. In my opinion, the child died because of the practitioner and he should be accounted responsible because it is unethical to force someone to lie to a doctor when the life of someone is on the line. I would like to leave you on this question: Should religious practitioners be forced to refer a client to a professional if the person has a severe illness?

Your topic seemed very interesting to me because I've never heard of faith healing. I agree with your opinion because although some people would be willing to die for what they believe in or for their religion, it is wrong for someone's belief to decide the faith of another person's life. Some values I strongly believe in are family and security. According to my beliefs, I would never risk the life of a family member for God. In your example, the value of parental responsibility is not respected since the parents were the cause of their child’s death. They had the responsibility to protect and care for this child, which they didn’t do because they had faith that if they prayed enough; their child would miraculously get better. The moral claim “Human life is fundamentally valuable” is not respected since their belief was considered more important than that of the life of a child. Why didn’t the parents pray for their child while at the same time consulting a medical professional? The combination of the two would serve to respect both their beliefs and the life of their child.

I chose to comment on your case study because of your catchy title and because this subject is really important to me. Each of your paragraphs is well written and easy to read. In addition, I totally agree with your opinion: "It’s the parents’ responsibility to know when faith is not working and medicine is necessary." The child is too young to express his opinion if he wants to wait to see if the prayers work or if he wants to go to the hospital. Also, I think that since it was a matter of life or death, the parent should go directly to the hospital to save their child. Probably the child would have the chance to live longer.

I really enjoyed reading your post since the subject is extremely unusual and original. Also, it was well written, good job! I totally agree with you on the fact that one's belief should not put a child's life in jeopardy. It is obviously the parent’s responsibility to make sure that their child is healthy and receives all of the medical care needed. To me, the value of parental responsibility is extremely important since they take all of the decisions for their child that is too young to have his say. Even though the parent’s intentions were not to harm the kid, they were extremely irresponsible and their faith violated the moral principle of “do no harm”. What punishment do you think would be appropriate for the parent’s negligence?

Interesting topic! Sadly in the world we live in their are many Preachers and Evangelist who preach false doctrine or do not believe in the full word of God but let me state that Healing in the name of Jesus is accurate. If we refer to the Bible we have many examples of how People Are Baptized in the Holy Spirit in order to use God's Supernatural power in order to perform signs and wonders. When Jesus came to the world he healed many sick before he ascended into heaven but before he did he told his disciples that he would send a helper which is his the Holy Spirit in order to perform signs and wonders in the name of Jesus. Faith Healing is Real and does work today! The book of Acts records the many great healings done by the early church. What are your thoughts?

This is was great! It is legitimately one of the biggest struggles in highly religious families or families that do not believe in modern medicine. When it comes to your child's health and future, no parent should ever force their values onto their children. The kid could've had a future, but because of the mother's beliefs, she missed out on what could've been a bright future. The kid was far too young to even make a choice, and just because your faith is on the line, you're just going to throw away the kids life. Faith healing may work sometimes, but in a kid who doesn't understand the concept itself, how is she suppose to have faith? The baby is 16 months old, what faith does it have? Like I'm guessing, they forgot to think about that part in the end. Your argument was solid, and well written good job.

It is so hard to find an answer to your subject, because it such a delicate issue. Never the less, it is really well writing. In my opinion, even though i do believe in god, but i am not really that religious, i believe that there is a limit to putting somebodies life in the hand of faith, instead of taking a course of action. We are a highly evolved society, both technologically and scientifically, meaning that We know the reason for ones sickness and most of the time, how to cure it except for cancer maybe. If i was to give my opinion on a religious point of views , i would also believe to say that god gave use the intelligent, will, and the technology needed to not always depend on him. And yet in another point of view i could easily say that though values and believes are important, in a life and death situation, the right course or decision is quite obvious.

It really hurts to hear about a baby who has died at such a young age. But it is also sad to think that not only the parents have to suffer the loss of their son, live in constant worry feeling that they should have done things different and maybe he would be still alive now. But then you have to add the extra pain that some other people are judging them, and trying to accuse them of having neglected the child.
A minimum care for a child should be to feed them, change their diapers, give the child a soft safe crib to sleep in, hug the baby with love. You hear of parents beating a child, breaking their bones, burning a baby with cigarettes. These are people that are neglecting and harming their baby and should be charged with neglect, and put in jail. But meningitis is a very fast killer, and sometimes you hear that meningitis killed a child or a teenager. It is very rare and strange. Lots of kids have convulsions with a high fever.
It was a mistake, the parents really cared about the child, they tried many things to save the baby. Should we punish them some more? Is it not punishment enough for them to live in the hell that is now their life without the son they loved so much?