Autopsy finds cancer killed Philadelphia boy whose family shunned medical care

Associated Press, Feb. 4, 2003

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Authorities investigating the sudden death of a 9-year-old boy whose father belongs to a religious sect that shuns all medical care said Tuesday that the child died of cancer.

The medical examiner’s office ruled that Benjamin Reinert died on New Year’s Eve from acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a disease most children survive if they receive prompt treatment. Prosecutors plan to review the finding before deciding whether to file charges against the father, officials said. Paul Reinert is a member of the Faith Tabernacle Congregation, a devout Christian sect whose members believe that only God should heal.

Social workers who visited the Reinert home three days before the boy died didn’t notice any common symptoms of leukemia, said Liza Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Human Services.

Doctors said it is unclear whether the boy’s family could have detected the disease if he was seeing a doctor regularly.

A man who answered the phone at the Reinerts’ home Tuesday and identified himself as a relative said the family would have no comment.

At least 10 children whose parents belonged to the church have died of treatable illnesses in the past 10 years. Several church members have been prosecuted for failing to seek medical care for their dying children.

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