Christian Science & children
apm5 at PO.CWRU.EDU
Tue Feb 4 09:08:05 PST 1997
Fred Gedicks wrote:
>To save a believing Christian Scientist child by medical intervention could
>be a fate worse than death.
My understanding of Christian Science (as a non-believer) is that the
motivation for using Christian Science treatment rather than conventional
(or allopathic) medical care is that CSers do not believe that allopathic
medicine is effective and that CS treatment is. Allopathic medicine treats
the symptoms, not the underlying "cause" of the belief that disease exists
-- separation from God.
It seems to me that this offers a _stronger_ case for non-intervention than
the example of an individual who believes that allopathic medicine works,
but simply chooses not to use it on his or her child as a test of faith.
Further, if you take away spiritual healing from CS, there won't be a
Christian Science church after a generation or two. It is difficult to
imagine a religion more centered on spiritual healing; denying parents the
ability to transmit their faith to their children would be intrusive indeed.
As a non-specialist in First Amendment law and a mere lurker on this list
(precisely for discussions of this sort of case), I would offer the
following query to those who support intervention in the Christian Science
case -- if the question of what treatment a sick child ought to receive
depends on justifying the treatment against socially determined norms of
what constitutes effective treatment (currently studies based on the
scientific method), what happens if Christian Scientists become a majority
in the country and the norm shifts to the type of analysis they do (case
histories)? (Mark Twain, who was very hostile to CS doctrine and Mrs. Eddy
in particular, predicted semi-seriously that the US would become a Christian
Science theocracy by 1940.) Could the state tell parents "You are free to
see the quack doctors for yourselves, but for your children you must seek
effective treatment through a CS practicioner." (I recognize the obvious
problems with respect to Christian Science doctrine, in which the willing
participation of the family would be crucial, but it's just a hypo...) Don't
we need a neutral principle to decide what parents' responsibilities are,
one which is not dependent on the belief system of the majority at any point
in time? If so, how can we ask that CS parents do more than behave in good
faith toward their children, which would require them to seek CS treatment
for any illnesses their children might experience?
Associate Professor of Law &
Associate Professor of Economics
Case Western Reserve University School of Law
11075 East Blvd.
Cleveland, OH 44106
apm5 at po.cwru.edu
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