Sunday, November 8, 2009

Praying for a Cure - and jailed for it

We often hear from people in the D-community about praying for a cure. We have hope that someday, God will provide men with the science and resources they need to discover a cure.

But here's a story out of Wisconsin that takes that prayer to a different level. Parents who basically refused to take take their 11-year-old daughter in for diabetes care, and instead prayed that she would be healed without any medical help. Last month, they received six months in jail for letting her die and not seeking medical care. As it turns out, a story about his case aired on the D-Life show a few hours after I'd written this blog. Here's the video page, which also mentions another case about a California teenager who died from undiagnosed diabetes after his father and family declined to get medical care because of their faith.

This reminds me of the Schmidt case out of Franklin, Ind. that I covered a few years ago, when reporting for a daily county newspaper there. Here's one story and a subsequent jury verdict story I wrote on that case back in 2005. These parents' religious beliefs prohibited them from seeking medical care for their daughter, Rhianna Rose, who died of a blood infection typically treatable with antibiotics. In that case, the judge suspended most of their sentence and gave them each about a year total at a work release center, scattering the sentence for each so that one could be out to take care of their other child.

These are tough issues, particularly as they deal with people's religous beliefs. It was difficult writing about the Franklin case as a reporter, being objectionable and trying to understand both sides. Many outside that particular religous community wanted to crucify them and called them bad parents, even though that wasn't the case. They didn't see anything wrong with what they did or didn't do, and both said during their trial that they'd again choose prayer rather than medical care if the same situation ever happened again. In the end, the judge ruled that their daughter would be alive if not for her parents' inaction - and that was enough by society's standards.

But in these instances, our system is basically telling parents that they must get medical care - even if they don't believe in it and it goes against their beliefs. That's a blurry and complicated line, but in my eyes, I suppose it comes down to looking not at the parents but the children involved. Those kids may not have the voices to protect themselves or decide what's right for their own lives, and in that sense it why we have a government and legal system - to protect the most helpless who need it. I may not want to impose on parental rights or intrude into someone's medical and religous beliefs, but we're talking about something more - a child who can receive medical care to at least reach the age when they can then deny it for themselves. But, they deserve to be allowed to make that choice and put their faith in action on their own.

Personally, I believe in God and believe that he guides what happens in our life. But most importantly, as most Methodists and Protestant-related denominations do, it's important to realize that God gives us the tools to care for ourselves and survive. We have free will and critical thinking, and he gave us those characteristics in order to think for ourselves and help ourselves in order to best prepare ourselves for His Will and everything that comes after this short life on Earth. We have doctors and hospitals to help us do that, and we should use what he's provided us with.

So, while I pray for a cure and in doing so entrust our medical experts to use what's given to them in finding one someday, I also use the tools that God allows me to have - blood testing, health care, free will to manage my care - in taking care of my diabetes.

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