The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Bioethics issued the following position on religious objections to medical care in 1997:
“The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) believes that all children deserve effective medical treatment that is likely to prevent substantial harm or suffering or death. In addition the AAP advocates that all legal interventions apply equally whenever children are endangered or harmed, without exemptions based on parental religious beliefs. To these ends, the AAP calls for the end of religious exemption laws and supports additional efforts to educate the public about the medical needs of children.”
“The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recognizes that religion plays a major role in the lives of many children and adults in the United States and is aware that some in the United States believe prayer and other spiritual practices can substitute for medical treatment of ill or injured children. Through legislative activity at the federal and state levels, some religious groups have sought, and in many cases attained, government recognition in the form of approved payment for this €˜nonmedical therapy’ and exemption from child abuse and neglect laws when children do not receive needed medical care. The AAP opposes such payments and exemptions as harmful to children and advocates that children, regardless of parental religious beliefs, deserve effective medical treatment when such treatment is likely to prevent substantial harm or suffering or death.”
“The U.S. Constitution requires that government not interfere with religious practices or endorse particular religions. However, these constitutional principles do not stand alone and may, at times, conflict with the independent government interest in protecting children. … Constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion do not permit children to be harmed through religious practices, nor do they allow religion to be a valid legal defense when an individual harms or neglects a child.”
“Each year, some parents’ religious views lead them to eschew appropriate medical care for their children, resulting in substantial harm or suffering or death due to treatable conditions such as meningitis, bowel obstruction, diabetes mellitis, or pneumonia. … The AAP considers failure to seek medical care in such cases to be child neglect, regardless of the motivation.”
“The AAP calls for all those entrusted with the care of children to:
1. show sensitivity to and flexibility toward the religious beliefs and practices of families;
2. support legislation that ensures that all parents who deny their children medical care likely to prevent death or substantial harm or suffering are held legally accountable;
3. support the repeal of religious exemption laws; and
4. work with other child advocacy organizations and agencies and religious institutions to develop coordinated and concerted public and professional action to educate state officials, health care professionals, and the public about parents’ legal obligations to obtain and necessary health medical care for their children.”
• Original title: Child’s death: Pediatrics group calls religious objections ‘neglect’
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