A proposal to drop legal protections for parents who choose faith healing instead of medical care for sick children has gained support from a professional association of pediatricians.
“The Idaho American Academy of Pediatrics encourages a re-evaluation of Idaho law,” President Scott Snyder and Legislative Liaison Paul McPherson wrote in a January letter. “We recommend a repeal of the current legal exemption of criminal and civil penalties of parents that — because of religious beliefs — do not seek to obtain life-saving care when a child’s death or severe disability is imminent and preventable by the administration of evidence based medical care. The law would not be used to mandate routine medical care.”
The Child-Friendly Faith Project, a group that supports changing the law, sent out a news release Monday drawing attention to the doctors’ letter.
Idaho law says parents can not be prosecuted if they choose to treat sick children “by prayer or spiritual means alone.” The issue has drawn attention over the past few years both here and in Oregon due to a higher-than-usual number of child deaths among children in the Followers of Christ church.
Boise Democrat John Gannon introduced a bill in 2014 to change the law but was unable to get a hearing on it. Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, said last month he would hold a hearing on a bill if one were to be introduced. Gannon has said he wants to continue to work on the issue this year.
Members of the state’s Child Fatality Review Team found two child deaths in Idaho in 2012 that could have been prevented but weren’t for religious reasons, and recommend in their 2015 report that the law be changed, a finding that backers of changing the law have been pointing to as evidence supporting their cause.
The Child-Friendly Faith Project is also organizing a panel discussion of the issue at the Capitol next week. It is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11 in the Lincoln Auditorium.
Organizers said in a news release the speakers will “include experts in the fields of medicine, child advocacy, and faith, as well as survivors,” and audience members will have the chance to ask questions and express their opinions.