Northwest US fights against alt-med

By Phil Plait | February 24, 2011 11:56 am

Two bits of anti-medicine news, both from the United States northwest, and both dealing with difficult situations:

1) In Oregon, lawmakers are making it harder for people to use religion as an excuse to avoid medical treatment. The Followers of Christ, a fringe Christian group, advocates faith healing and not standard medicine, and as a result several children in that group have died in recent years. Because of this, a bill has been introduced into the Oregon state legislature to remove religious belief as a defense against homicide. If convicted, a parent whose child has died because they used faith healing instead of real medicine will be charged with homicide and have a mandatory sentence.

Stories like this always leave me conflicted. As a parent myself I always want the best possible medical treatment for my child, and I don’t want other groups interfering with that decision. However, the State has a right to protect the best interests of that child in case the parent cannot. Decades worth of evidence has shown that faith healing does not work, and in many cases the children in the Followers of Christ church had easily treatable illnesses and needn’t have died.

In the end, the right thing to do is save that sick child. If the parent cannot, then the greater society has the responsibility to do that.

This opens a can of worms, I know. Can you make a case about mental abuse by fringe cults? What about stunting their education? There are plenty of other arguments to be made here, but in this case we’re talking physical health, and while I may not like the idea of a government using in loco parentis powers, sometimes it’s necessary.

As I’ve said before, "In this country, we have a right to believe what we want. I agree with that idea. However, we do not have the right to necessarily act on those beliefs."

Tip o’ the gavel to Fark.


2) A doctor in Washington state is denying medical care to patients who are unvaccinated.

This one is a little more difficult in my opinion, as it seems to me that doctors should always give care to those who need it, no matter what incredibly bad decisions those people have made medically. But, the big difference here is that unvaccinated people put others at risk, including babies, who can die from diseases that are otherwise preventable. I am not a doctor, so I don’t know the legal ramifications here, but I do know that this case is poised to get very muddled. The link above goes to an interview with the doctor, and in the name of "balance" they also got a quote from the notorious antivax shill Barbara Loe Fischer, who gave this whopper with a straight face:

And [doctors] need to have a civil, rational conversation with parents, and not be bullying and threatening them.

That’s quite a statement coming from someone who is clearly trying to use lawsuits to silence her critics, and who ramps up nonsensical fears about vaccines.

Doctors have a duty to protect their patients, even if it means protection from other patients. Vaccination is a choice, but in almost all cases an obvious one. People who choose not to vaccinate generally make that choice for the wrong reasons, and if nothing else, I hope this doctor’s story helps get the word out.

I’d like to see reasoned comments below from care providers who are more familiar with this type of thing than I am. I find myself wrestling with this topic (and the one in the first half of this post), so more information is welcome.

Tip o’ the syringe to Martha Hoidal.


Related posts:

- When belief kills
- A real solution to antivax nonsense: higher insurance premiums
- Bill Gates lays it on the line about vaccines

Comments (104)

  1. I too am conflicted same as you on both cases. Although, since I don’t reach as many people as you do, and not many people care about what I think, I will weigh in with FULL SUPPORT for the law and the Dr. :D

    P.S. Check your gmail regarding my post on the previous thread please.

    And before I forget, http://factsnotfantasy.com/vaccines.php :D I do wonder if Todd has update any of the info as of late? I know I should pay more attention, I just keep forgetting how many times “anti” is in his URL. ;)

  2. Nick

    Misanthropic doctor? Sounds like something Dr. House would do on a bad day.

  3. thetentman

    I have a question for the group. My daughter (13) was riding her bike, sans helmet. She will be punished. She fell and cracked her noggin – 5 stitches. When we brought her to the Doctor she freaked out and would not let the Doctor stitch her up. She was hyper ventilating and screaming. She did not want stitches, a shot or anything else that might cause pain. It took her mother and I a few minutes to calm her down enough to let the Dr proceed. I am worried that her reaction of panic will impeed possible future medical attention especially if her mother or I are not present for example if she goes to camp for the summer. Should I be worried? Is her reaction normal or should we seek help in easing her irrational fears?

    thank you.

  4. grung0r

    There are plenty of other arguments to be made here, but in this case we’re talking physical health, and while I may not like the idea of a government using in loco parentis powers, sometimes it’s necessary.

    Do you seriously think that removing religion as a defense for murdering your children is the state acting in place of a parent? You are conflicted about this? I know you drank the Mooney Kool-aid, but I’m pretty sure even he would think you’re taking it a bit far on this one.

  5. Meg

    A doctor refusing to treat unvaccinated children for any health issue, related to vaccinations or not, is kind of offensive to me and seems to fly in the face of the Hippocratic Oath, even though I understand the importance of vaccinations.

    I think educating his unvaccinated patients calmly and with lots of supporting documentation, addressing every one of their concerns with verifiable information and clarity, would go a lot further and have a much greater effect. These patients will just go elsewhere for medical help — refusing to treat them out of a snotty superiority complex isn’t going to convince them that their fears are unjustified. A little compassion here, please, for parents who are confused and scared for their kids and don’t know enough about science to know better.

    Doctors are supposed to care about their patients’ health — this doctor clearly doesn’t. He just wants to punish patients he feels aren’t doing what they ought to do. What’s next? Refusing to treat obese people with diabetes who can’t/won’t lose weight? Refusing to treat lung cancer patients who were smokers?

    Seems like bad precedent to me.

  6. Meg

    p.s. thetentman — that behavior seems completely normal to me. Did the stitches/shots/etc. end up going okay? Once she calmed down and treatment proceeded, did she stay calmed down and realize it wasn’t the end of the world? If so, that’ll go a long way towards helping next time. Kids are often scared of doctors — shots suck. But they grow out of that (for the most part). I wouldn’t worry about this unless it happens over and over, every time you go in for any kind of healthcare visit. Trauma is scary, she was in pain, she’s pretty little — screaming and freaking out seems pretty logical.

  7. thetentman, sounds like your daughter’s choice to go helmetless was its own punishment, what with a nasty head wound, stitches, and a panic attack on top of everything else. I hope for her sake that she understands the connection between her poor safety decision and the ensuing terrifying experience so that she’ll learn from what happened and avoid repeating it.

    I’m hardly a doctor, but I have the impression from reading and personal experience that emotional extremes are a fairly normal reaction to injury, especially if the circumstances are somewhat frightening, as a bicycle accident might be. As I understand it, emergency medical personnel are trained to deal compassionately and gently with injured, frightened people, so while your daughter’s response might be a little out of the ordinary, an experienced EMT should still be able to calm and/or safely restrain her if her reaction is preventing essential treatment.

    It might be worthwhile to talk to her about the experience and ask her how she felt then and how she feels about it now, as maybe a little bit of post-processing will help make sure that particular response pattern doesn’t set too thoroughly. (I’m assuming from the way you tell the story that this was a somewhat unprecedented experience.) I suspect that it’s also likely that she’ll simply grow out of it, since adolescent brains tend to be a little more emotionally labile than those of adults.

    I hope her injury heals quickly. Good luck!

  8. truthspeaker

    Thetentman – seems normal to me. Seems like your best bet would be to reassure her that what the doctor is doing is necessary, without talking to her like she is stupid or immature for having those fears. It’s no shame to be afraid of a guy with a big hypodermic who wants to put stitches in you, you just have to learn to manage that fear.

  9. Grungor,

    I had a comment, and reread your comment, which you had edited…and deleted mine

    Never mind.

  10. Negligence is negligence no matter what the reason. It should be simple enough to say you have a right to your beliefs, you have a right to act on your beliefs, *AND* you have the right to be held responsible for your actions.

  11. Like it or not, we live in a society, not as individuals isolated from each other. As a society, we have to expect certain compromises to our personal beliefs in order that society as a whole gets on.

    Is it a constantly moving line that gets drawn between individual rights and the rights of society? Yes, it is. That’s why adults require critical thinking skills, so that they can deal with the on-going debates in a rational manner.

  12. grung0r

    Techskeptic:

    I had a comment, and reread your comment, which you had edited…and deleted mine
    Never mind.

    Well, that makes two of us, then. :)

  13. autumn

    In the first case, there is no question that actions (or deliberate inactions) which cause harm, even if done in the name of religion, should be punishable by law.
    In the second case, physicians are state licensed entities who are bound by that license to rules, which I am pretty sure the doctor in your example is flouting. He should be severely disciplined by the state(s) in which he is licensed to practice.
    Doctors should, however, do all that they can to “bully” patients and patients’ families into proper health practices. It’s their frakkin’ job.

  14. truthspeaker

    I find the second one very troubling. The first one I don’t find troubling at all – I find it troubling that Phil has any reservations about it. It’s already a crime to abuse or neglect your kids. This just removes one more of the excuses.

  15. Michael Swanson

    I have no reservations about removing religion as a defense against charges of neglect or wrongful death. None. In this case consensus is common sense. The entire scientific and medical community – enough of a majority that the exceptions are hardly worth mentioning – accepts as an irrefutable fact that viruses and bacteria cause disease. Some might argue that God sends them, but the end result is that these microorganisms are real, and they cause real, sometimes life-threatening harm.

    If the Church of Idiots wants to argue that it’s evil spirits or god or the ghost of Elvis making people sick, then they need to prove it. The burden of proof is on them! They need to do the studies that show that modern medical science is ineffective and intercessory prayer is the only viable option. Until then they’re only risking their own and their children’s lives, and the lives of others, because they’re too pig headed and too uneducated too frightened of the real world that we all live in to make rational decisions.

    I also fully support the doctor. Under normal circumstances, yes, doctors should give medical treatment to anyone who requires it. If an alcoholic won’t stop drinking, and is told time and time again that it will damage their health and kill them, they should still get medical treatment. I believe in always erring on the side of mercy and compassion. But an unvaccinated person is different because they are risking the health and wellbeing of those around them. Children and people who can’t be vaccinated for health reasons rely on the rest of us to the responsible thing. Who wants to bring their four week old, yet-to-be-vaccinated daughter into the doctor’s office for a checkup or a simple cough and sit down next to some unvaccinated jerk who just returned from a vacation in a medicine-fearing Third World country?

    I paradoxically wish there was a pending Rapture, so the religious nuts would all float into the sky and leave the rest of us alone! :)

  16. Robert E

    NO conflict in the first case. Poor education can be rectified and you can get counseling for mental problems, but dead is dead.

  17. The first case, I have very little apprehension. The law isn’t saying that parents cannot use religion as a reason to not seek medical care. (Or does it?) Rather, it says the parents can’t use religion as a defense should their choice kill their child.

    I’ll have to look into the second case further before I can give an informed opinion.

  18. Donovan

    For the first, I am not conflicted at all. Parents do not own children. Children are not extensions of their parents. To say a parent has the right to deny medical care from a child is the same as saying a husband can deny his wife: assigning arbitrary ownership to one human of another.

    As soon as the umbilical is cut, a child is his/her own person. They are entitled to the freedoms and protections every other human has. Granted, the child cannot make decisions yet. So the parents are entrusted by society to make those decisions. If they make bad decisions, society (the source of the child-parent entitlement) has the right to replace the parent.

  19. Leon

    I agree with truthspeaker. The first is unambiguously good: we shouldn’t allow parents to deny care to their children on religious grounds (we don’t let them use other excuses to do it, do we?).

    The second, of course, it much trickier. Personally, I understand why the doctor’s doing what he’s doing, but I think he’s chosen the wrong way to fight antivax. Doing the wrong thing for the right reason is still doing the wrong thing, and physicians have a special obligation to help their patients, even when they’ve opened themselves (and possibly others) to unnecessary health risks.

  20. K

    Well…it’s not like humans are an endangered species. If a few bad parents with sub-par genetics (dumb as rocks) kill their kids out of stupidity….so. It’s not society’s loss, we’ve got more people than we need already. It’s the parent’s loss and if they don’t particularly care, then we should all mind our own business.

  21. Donovan:

    Granted, the child cannot make decisions yet. So the parents are entrusted by society to make those decisions. If they make bad decisions, society (the source of the child-parent entitlement) has the right to replace the parent.

    This is the “can of worms” of which Phil speaks. Who decides which “bad decisions” society can use as a reason to “replace the parent”? Can society force a parent to vaccinate a child? Can society force a parent to allow major surgery on their child? Can society force a parent to give their child Ritalin? Can society force a parent to dress their child in a manner which will stop the kid from being teased at school? And so on.

  22. grung0r

    This is the “can of worms” of which Phil speaks. Who decides which “bad decisions” society can use as a reason to “replace the parent”?

    Well, we could stick with simple things, like just clarifying already existing laws . For instance: Disallowing the “an invisible man in the sky told me to do it” defense when one is accused of murdering one’s own children.

  23. Hyperlalia

    I belief the rough standard in cases relating to the medical care of minors is that parents possess a degree of “limited familial autonomy” meaning they are free to make medical decisions for their children within a scope of relatively acceptable options, but if their decision puts the minor in significant risk of danger the state can take over.

    M.D.’s are actually legally liable if they don’t report this kind of stuff to the relevant authority. I don’t know of such a case, but I would not be surprised to see if there had been a case somewhere where a family sued a doctor after the fact for not reporting them to Child Protective Services because whatever bonehead faith based treatment decision they insisted on resulted in the death of their child.

    Anyway, long story short is that the government (and doctors) already have the legal authority to provide necessary care to a minor in the event of an emergency. This holds true even if it is in direct opposition to the wishes of the parents. An example of this would be a doctor ordering a blood transfusion for a 5 year old who had been in a car accident even after his Jehovah’s Witness parents directly objected to it.

    It appears to me that the only change that this new law would make is on the prosecutory side, which would give the D.A. power to prosecute the parents for homicide and not just some variety of “child neglect”. I assume this would demand a harsher sentence.

  24. NiveusLuna

    There are people who are allergic to some vaccines. For example, my mom is allergic to eggs. I forget which part of the egg, but some flu vaccines are made in whichever part of the egg she’s allergic to. Taking a vaccine made this way makes her more ill than simply getting the flu would, so she avoids it.

    My mom’s profession? Pediatric nurse at a hospital. She knows very well the risks associated with vaccines (which mostly involve getting sick from the vaccine itself, not Autism) and the risks of not taking them, especially the risk she ends up posing to the children she takes care of.

    I hope that when this doctor refuses to treat non-vaccinated patients, he considers *why* the patients aren’t vaccinated. Yes, a lot of people avoid vaccines for entirely wrong reasons, but some are justified in avoiding them. If he refuses to treat someone with the flu who couldn’t take the vaccine because of an allergy…

  25. CB

    As a person of faith, the stories about faith-healers avoiding real medical care always makes me think of this joke:

    In the midst of a huge flood in the Mississippi Valley, there was a man sitting on his rooftop calmly watching the water rise. Soon, a man in a rowboat passed by, and called out “Hey! Don’t worry, I’ll pick you up!”

    “No thank you,” said the man on the roof. “God is going to save me.” The boat went on.

    Some time later, once the water had reached the bottom of the roof, a rescue boat carrying other people rescued from the flood, passed by the house. “Quick, get in and I’ll take you to safety!” the rescue worker cried.

    “No thanks! God is going to save me!” the man said confidently and refused to budge.

    As the water rose to the point where only the very peak of the roof was above water, a helicopter approached. A rescuer in the helicopter dropped a ladder and cried out “Sir! Hurry and climb up the ladder!”

    “No, I will not!” cried the man. “God is going to save me!”

    Having other people to save, and no time to fight the man over it, the helicopter left. Not too long later the entire house was submerged, the man was cast adrift, and eventually drowned.

    In Heaven, the man met his Creator.

    “Dear Lord,” he said, “Why didn’t you save me when I put my faith in you?”

    “What are you talking about?” said God. “I sent two boats and a helicopter!”

    It makes me laugh. I guess it’s easier to make a joke about a man getting himself killed, than parents letting their children die because their faith puts God in a tiny box.

    @ K:
    The value of a person to society is not that they help fill our quota of bodies so once our quota is filled children have no value. Also it’s extremely foolish to assume that because their parents are foolish, that it is because of genetics. The fact is that we have no idea what the loss to society these dead children represent, since we don’t know what they could have been.

  26. Nick

    I have a problem with the Oregon Law, because I can see it being used to help push laws to regulate your child’s diet, exercise, video game time, etc. I think it is irresponsible and immoral for a parent to deny their child medical treatment because they want to wait for a miracle, but there are way to many people who would find me irresponsible and immoral for giving my kid a happy meal, or letting him play video games on the weekends.

  27. Keith Bowden

    For the first case, religion is no defense against murdering a doctor who performs abortions nor flying planes into buildings; it should not be a defense against murdering your own children whether by action or inaction.

    For the second, as I understand it, the doctor is not refusing emergency room treatment, he is screening his clients for his private practice. He is reserving “the right to refuse service”, as you sometimes see posted in restaurants and elsewhere. Doctors refuse to take on more patients when they have as many as they can comfortably handle. I see no problem with restricting his patients to those who actively wish to participate in their own health by actually following prescribed measures. His time is limited, why waste it on those who will not follow his advice? (And if a woo-follower refused vaccines, there are other things they’ll avoid.) People who aren’t vaccinated are potential threats to the health of others. This shouldn’t be a problem, morally or legally.

  28. katwagner

    We just got our flu shots at the health district office (better late than never) & they’re on sale since they have so much vaccine left. The nurse told us soon we’ll be due for our tetanus which has the adult whooping cough booster in it. She said babies in California are getting the disease from adults. So sad. I love how public health has all our shot records and all the info we need. Jeez people, get your shots. By the way, the only time I think I’m dying is when I have the flu. And that it’s Ebola.

  29. TheBlackCat

    People seem to be under the mistaken impression that what is happening in Oregon is a new law that forces parents to get medical treatment for their children. That isn’t what the law is about.

    If you deny your child needed medical care and the child dies from it, that is considered negligent homicide. That is common, if not universal, in U.S. states, including Oregon.

    However, many states, including Oregon, make a specific exemption for people who refuse medical treatment for their children. In those cases it isn’t considered negligent homicide. The purpose of the law is to remove this loophole.

    So this law isn’t about of forcing children to receive medical care, it is about removing a loophole that was allowing religious people to literally get away with murder (as it is defined in that state).

  30. grung0r

    CB:
    Yes, that joke certainly is funny. I have another one along the same lines of ‘the lord helps those who help themselves’ as your joke. It might be even funnier:

    So there are these 100 million children in India, China and Africa under the age of 5. Each year 600,000 of them fail to help themselves enough to receive a boat, a helicopter, or even a clean glass of drinking water from God almighty and instead die of dysentery. *rimshot*

    Thanks folks, I’ll be here all week. Remember to tip your waitress.

  31. Ron1

    @16. K Said, “Well…it’s not like humans are an endangered species. If a few bad parent with sub-par genetics (dumb as rocks) kill their kids out of stupidity….so. It’s not society’s loss, we’ve got more people than we need already. It’s the parent’s loss and if they don’t particularly care, then we should all mind our own business.”

    ………………………………………………….

    Yours is an opinion with which I disagree strongly, but it is still a valid opinion.

    However, I’m curious to know if you are consistant. For example, do you agree that we should all mind our own business and allow women to have abortions? Do you agree that gays and lesbians have the right to marry, etc?

    Or, are you just another cheap, mean, wingnut Conservative?

  32. @thetentman,

    Your daughter’s reaction is completely normal. A few years ago, when my oldest son was still in daycare, he was running in the bathroom, slipped and hit his chin on the toilet. (Side note: My wife had put in a call that very morning warning them about the dangerous bathroom situation with water on the floor, kids running and no adult supervision.)

    Luckily, I work in a hospital and the daycare center is literally next door. So they brought him into the ER where I met them. (My wife came later.) They had to put stitches in but he wouldn’t hold still. They gave him some medicine. (I’m thinking the kiddie version of valium.) Even so, he was still squirming so they had to put him in a straight-jacket type of device. (Which my little Houdini managed to get out of mid-procedure.)

    He’s 7 now and still freaks out when he’s injured. His brother (3) hit him over the head with a Paper Jamz guitar and he wouldn’t let us see the lump. Then again, he has anxiety issues in general (which we’re working on).

  33. John

    Phil, I concur with this first point but it does bring up other issues obviously. Like circumcision for instance. Most people do it because it seems like a rational thing to do but the child has no say so and it cannot be reversed. The second issue is to me that a doctor should have the right to refuse treatment to any patient. They should not be forced against there will to treat someone. This has always been my problem with universal health care. You are taking the efforts of someone and “giving’ it to someone else. Where does anyone get the right to tell another person what to do with their talents? Again this is another bag of worms so to speak but if I had a private practice I would definately want to decide who I would take on as a patient.

  34. TomF

    The second case seems far less dramatic than made out. He’s not in an ER refusing to treat emergency patients with AIDS (which of course has happened, and is shameful). He is simply refusing to take new patients on his books that do not comply with a minimum set of requirements – one being that they listen to him on the biggest public health issue of the decade. Doctors can refuse to add people to their books for all sorts of reasons – they’re not qualified to treat the person (because of age or disability), or simply that their books are full. This is just another reason and as long as it’s not unfairly discriminatory (ethnicity, etc) it seems entirely within his right to ask them to find a different doctor.

    Relevant UK references: http://www.consciencelaws.org/issues-ethical/ethical062.html and http://community.lawyers.com/forums/t/105582.aspx

    California ref: http://www.medbd.ca.gov/consumer/complaint_info_questions_practice.html

  35. Skeptical DoDo

    I am a family physician and I treat patients who refuse vaccines. But I have a long talk with them about it. We had a teen die here couple years ago from meningitis. The doctor who treated him told his parents after he died that it did not need to have happened if he had gotten the vaccine for meningococcus. The parents brought in there two other children and immediately got them up to date on vaccines. My friend was criticized for telling the parents that their child died needlessly for not vaccinating, but the effect was the siblings were then vaccinated. Sometimes it takes a tragedy to bring one to ones senses. Like an alcoholic who will not seek help until he reaches rock bottom, such as divorce, loss of job health etc. But being that blunt is what is needed. I have those kind of talks with those who refuse vaccines.

  36. Idlewilde

    There’s nothing wrong with the first one, why would anyone have reservations regarding it?

    The doctor in the second issue has every right to refuse service to unvaccinated people. If he’s carrying germs after treating someone of a serious but easily avoidable disease, and his next patient is a newborn or an old person, there’s a big chance that something tragic could happen. Also, what about his colleagues or his own family? If he has a newborn child or relative, he shouldn’t have to risk their health just because someone wants to keep believing in an idea brought on by false reports.

  37. Kat

    Here’s the problem I have with the first one (and I speak as a parent of a kid with higher needs, who I did choose to vaccinate): In this country, we have a really hard time defining what is and is not legit medical care. In North Carolina, a women was just arrested for midwifery, with a licence that is acceptable in other states, but not in North Carolina. Does the woman have the right to practice midwifery? Does the mother have the right to choose who does and does not deliver her baby?
    Is acupuncture acceptable? Acupuncture, for me, was what stopped my kidney stones when the many doctors and specialists could not figure out why they were happening, or how to stop it. Is going to a chiropractor an acceptable treatment for chronic ear infections? How about an herbalist?

    On the other hand, letting a child die of cancer because you believe prayer will heal the child, is in my mind, abuse. I don’t have the answers to this. I don’t know where those lines are drawn. We use a variety of traditional and bio-medicine in our household, which works well for us, but if the government attempted to step in and tell me what medical resources were acceptable for me to use and what were not, that is where I would draw the line.

  38. James

    @Michael Swanson (#11)

    Interesting using the Alcoholic as an example for refusing medical assistance. In Australia if you need a transplant and the direct cause of the need for a new organ is due to addiction then you will be refused a transplant. I know this isn’t quite apples to oranges, the reasons for refusal are more about limited supply and the effectiveness of the transplant based on life style issues, however just wanted to show that there are exceptions.

    Despite that, I think that refusing medical services based on such choices for vaccinations is wrong as the doctor is not at risk, only other patients. I believe a more appropriate response would be to provide segregated areas for people that have not had their vaccines, combined with education in the segregated areas explaining the impact of their choices and how it can kill.

    Another option would be designated facilities that are flagged as non-vaccinated facilities and others that exclude non-vaccinated people, and making it clear which is which so people can choose not to go to facilities where non-vaccinated people go for medical treatment. If my kids were babies, I’d be choosing the vaccinated only facilities.

    I’m sure some civil libertarians will complain but I am not for choices in life that endanger other people. Do whatever you want that only impacts yourself, but when it comes to impacting others then it’s a whole new world.

  39. Daniel J. Andrews

    Yeah, I’m conflicted as well. These are the type of things where we need lots of input and rational debate. Is there a line, or do we have to look at case by case basis?

    It occurs to me that being conflicted may be perceived as a weakness. It may look indecisive. Alt-med/anti-vax mouthpieces and antiscience cranks are anything but conflicted. They very firmly, loudly, (irrationally) know what must be done, and know they are right.

    If the average person grappling with a problem sees a bunch of people who are framed as dithering versus a bunch of people who say, “Here’s the problem and here’s what you need to do”, the average person will want action, not inaction (providing the action doesn’t interfere with their own lifestyle or hasn’t been framed in such a way the action is seen as unpatriotic in some way).

    People seem to want dishonest certainty over honest uncertainty.

  40. CB

    @grungor:

    Yes, that joke certainly is funny. I have another one along the same lines of ‘the lord helps those who help themselves’ as your joke. It might be even funnier:

    What’s funny is how badly you misunderstood the point of the joke, thinking it was “the lord helps those who help themselves”.

    If you pay a little attention to the basic premise, the man did not at any point have to “help himself”. Help was provided by people who cared to rescue him, and he refused it because it wasn’t “divine” enough for him. The point is that Christianity is in part about loving your fellow human, and accepting help provided by a rescue worker, or a doctor, isn’t somehow unworthy or a sign of lack of faith, it’s a mirror of the love you should feel.

    So I’m just wondering, have you done your part to help those suffering children, or are they just a lever for you to use against the religious because their God didn’t magic-up a solution? Charitable donations count, for something at least I’d like to think since I haven’t done squat else myself.

  41. CB

    @ John

    The second issue is to me that a doctor should have the right to refuse treatment to any patient. They should not be forced against there will to treat someone. This has always been my problem with universal health care. You are taking the efforts of someone and “giving’ it to someone else. Where does anyone get the right to tell another person what to do with their talents?

    By being your employer, or otherwise paying the bills. If the government gives hospitals tons of money to provide universal healthcare, the hospital has to provide it, and when the hospital tells a doctor to treat anyone who comes through the door, they have to do it. Their other option is to walk away from the position, which of course they are free to do. But you don’t get to stay employed and do whatever you want to do with your talents. Employment doesn’t work that way.

    That’s seriously the weakest argument against universal healthcare I’ve heard in a while. I would have said worst, but that prize goes to the Social Darwinists/Eugenicists.

  42. Keith Bowden

    @CB
    Good job. I was going to respond to grungor but I was so flabberghasted…

  43. What happens when the parent’s decision to suspend medical care is not motivated by religious nuttery but is instead because they want to remove a permanently vegetative child from life support? Will that be murder?

    There’s clearly a problem with the slippery slope in point one, and I hate slippery slope arguments. This goes further as well- what if someone is raised by these Followers of Christ to adulthood believing the falsehoods they propagate about medicine and then dies from a treatable illness? In that case, the “adult” made a decision, but their entire world outlook was shaped by a warped upbringing. That person was effectively murdered by their beliefs, and never really had the opportunity to see life from a perspective that would give them the choice.

    Until people universally agree to stop being dumb, this will continue to be a problem. People will be dumb, and it will get them (and other people) killed. Drawing any line that attempts to protect people from themselves and each other is unfortunately necessarily flawed. We argue about justifiable homicide and some idiot proposes a law making it legal to shoot abortion doctors. Any given situation contains complexity and gray areas. Just because we can point to the followers of christ (or christian scientists or scientologists or pastafarians) and say, “those people are irrational” doesn’t mean there’s any useful way of parameterizing into law rationality. You can only legislate behaviors, not motivations and understandings.

  44. Lars

    In that case, the “adult” made a decision, but their entire world outlook was shaped by a warped upbringing.

    200 years ago, many people thought slavery wasn’t morally wrong. Since then, that has changed. Which for me sparks optimistic momens, in which I believe that 200 years from now, most people will realize that giving your child a religious upbringing is a form of child abuse.

  45. If we humans are simply animals (super-predators yes, intelligent yes, but nevertheless animals) why should we care about what happens to the other animals’ children? Some parent foolishly denying his children health care is no threat to me, my wife, or my children any more than a robin who kicks a chick out of the nest prematurely. In fact, by letting his children die, he is saving my children from having to put up with the wackiness in the next generation.

    Sure, seeing a child die needlessly might make us all feel a little uncomfortable, and those who think it’s their religious duty to defend others might not like it. But I perceive government intervention in my life as a far greater threat to my survival than random religious person abusing his kids.

    I guess I’d like to hear the “skeptics” around here explain the basis for their “moral indignation”.

  46. grung0r

    CB:
    If you pay a little attention to the basic premise, the man did not at any point have to “help himself”. Help was provided by people who cared to rescue him, and he refused it because it wasn’t “divine” enough for him.

    I see. So it wasn’t god who sent the 2 boats and a helicopter? That’s odd, because the punchline of your joke says it was. Let’s see if we can revise the ending to match what you now claim the punchline to be:

    In Heaven, the man met his Creator.
    “Dear Lord,” he said, “Why didn’t you save me when I put my faith in you?”
    What are you talking about?” said God. 2 boats and a helicopter came without any action on my part whatsoever!

    I don’t really see how that’s funny to be honest. To each his own I suppose.

    The point is that Christianity is in part about loving your fellow human

    Is it really? Let’s see what Jesus had to say about that in Luke 14:26: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” Maybe you need to have a sternly worded talk with him.

    So I’m just wondering, have you done your part to help those suffering children

    My bonafides on this issue, I assure you, exceed anything that your god has ever provided them.

    or are they just a lever for you to use against the religious because their God didn’t magic-up a solution?

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. Why doesn’t your god just magic up a solution, just like he did with the 2 boats and a helicopter for the flood victim?

  47. Old Geezer

    Let me preface by saying that I am what might be called Aggressively Pro-choice. Those who disagree with me say I advocate the killing of babies. I respond by saying my beliefs and yours are in conflict and you have no right to impose your beliefs on me.

    Now, how does my willingness to terminate a life,based upon my beliefs, differ from the nut cases who are willing to terminate a life, based upon their beliefs? Just because I am right and they are wrong may not necessarily justify codification of my beliefs – to the exclusion if theirs – as law.

    I have no answer for this conflict.

  48. CB

    I see. So it wasn’t god who sent the 2 boats and a helicopter? That’s odd, because the punchline of your joke says it was. Let’s see if we can revise the ending to match what you now claim the punchline to be:

    Now you’re failing to understand via a false dichotomy. God sent people to help, the man on the roof was not asked to help himself — the point was to show the severity of your first misunderstanding. God can work through people, yes indeed, which is what you’re misunderstanding now. There’s no change.

    My bonafides on this issue, I assure you, exceed anything that your god has ever provided them.

    Instead of trying to be smart, you should have just said “Yes” if that is the case, because from your point of view your comments in this thread constitute more than God has done, so your statement isn’t actually claiming anything at all.

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. Why doesn’t your god just magic up a solution, just like he did with the 2 boats and a helicopter for the flood victim?

    But He sent you! ;)

  49. @ Donald VR:

    Some parent foolishly denying his children health care is no threat to me, my wife, or my children any more than a robin who kicks a chick out of the nest prematurely.

    Two thoughts, for a question that requires many more than that:

    1) That un-medicated child could be a threat to you or your children. See the various anti-vax nuttiness linked with upticks in measles, et al. As a society we have a certain responsibility to maintain individual health and well-being in order to maintain society’s at large.

    2) Your example implies that underage children are the possessions of their parents. As noted by someone else above, that’s not strictly true in our society. We have many laws on the books regulating how children must be cared for, some of which may be counter to a (bad) parent’s beliefs. Again, we make these laws because we as a society have an interest in healthy children, not dead ones.

  50. grung0r

    God sent people to help, the man on the roof was not asked to help himself

    Yes, he was asked to help himself. He had two options: he could step onto one of the rescue craft, or he could not. One option would help him, the other wouldn’t. He choose the option that didn’t, thus failing to help himself. How can you tell this joke and not understand this?

    Instead of trying to be smart, you should have just said “Yes” if that is the case, because from your point of view your comments in this thread constitute more than God has done, so your statement isn’t actually claiming anything at all.

    What an amazing deduction! You’re right. When I typed that, I totally forgot I didn’t believe in god for a minute. I in no way intended to convey almost the exact point that you so cleverly deduced. Good job! Still, to even the score, I will deduce one further thing that can be infered from that clearly mistaken statement of mine. It could also be said, I think, that since we are talking about whether god helps people, a comparison between myself and him would be the only pertinent one.

    God can work through people, yes indeed, which is what you’re misunderstanding now.

    But He sent you!

    Now that have cleared up the fact that god did in fact work though people to send help, perhaps you can acknowledge the point of my parody of your joke: Either God failed to send help to those 600,000 children who died of dysentery, or they failed to step onto the proverbial boat when the help came. Which is it? Is there an option I’m missing?

    By the way, your lack of rejoinder to my Jesus quote is noted. Not even the “he meant allegorical hate!” gambit for my trouble? I’m somewhat disappointed.

  51. @ CB:

    Now you’re failing to understand via a false dichotomy. God sent people to help, the man on the roof was not asked to help himself — the point was to show the severity of your first misunderstanding. God can work through people, yes indeed, which is what you’re misunderstanding now. There’s no change.

    The trouble with that line of reasoning is that it can be applied to the bad as well as the good. In the case of the “joke”, presumably God sent the flood in the first place. Nice of him, hm?

  52. @ Old Geezer:

    Now, how does my willingness to terminate a life,based upon my beliefs, differ from the nut cases who are willing to terminate a life, based upon their beliefs?

    It comes back to society’s definition of human life. Currently, our society assumes an aborted fetus is not a human life – or at least not human enough to be protected by law – until…what is it now? third trimester? The same doesn’t apply for adults. By law, adults are fully human, and thus killing one in cold blood is defined as murder.

  53. Ron1

    @45. Donald VR Said:

    “If we humans are simply animals why should we care about what happens to the other animals’ children? … But I perceive government intervention in my life as a far greater threat to my survival than random religious person abusing his kids.”

    ………………………………………………

    You’re trying to turn a simple if/then logical statement into a libertarian reality that is simply stupid and paranoid — We are, of course, animals. The proof is in our DNA commonality with other animals.

    Also, your implication that animals are not altruistic is wrong — there are many examples of animals helping raise children that are not their own. Communal altruism takes place in the animal kingdom because it imparts a survival advantage to those individuals (and perhaps the societies of those) who use it.

    We are also social animals and, like many other animals, we have evolved complex social structures within which altruistic behaviour imparts an advantage. The motivation may be selfish, but, those whose families (and children) I help are more likely to help me and my family if I should have need.

    In the end, as for your comment about government, it is what we choose to make it. After all, we’ve freely given it away to the wealthy and the corporations and now we’re paying the price.

  54. Barbara

    As an Oregonian, I am entirely in favor of the law eliminating the religious exemption for prosecution for negligent homicide in these cases where children die because parents did not seek effective, available medical help.

    I feel that we all, individually and as a society, have a great responsibility to keep children alive, safe, and educated. This responsibility is not limited because the child is not “ours” or because the individual child’s non-existence would not obviously lessen our individual lives. It is partially limited by the right of parents and sometimes even of children to make their own decisions, for whatever reasonable or foolish reason seems compelling to them. But I cannot believe that there are many things that would limit a child’s basic right to stay alive, or our obligation to keel that child alive.

  55. Ron1

    @54 Barbara

    Well said. Bravo.

  56. Mo

    Conflicted? WTF?

  57. CB

    Yes, he was asked to help himself. He had two options: he could step onto one of the rescue craft, or he could not. One option would help him, the other wouldn’t. He choose the option that didn’t, thus failing to help himself. How can you tell this joke and not understand this?

    When you don’t distinguish between “helping oneself” and “accepting help that is provided by another” than you’re just engaging in semantic masturbation. Do you actually only consider it to count as an external entity providing help if the externally provided help is also impossible to avoid or refuse?

    What an amazing deduction! You’re right. When I typed that, I totally forgot I didn’t believe in god for a minute. I in no way intended to convey almost the exact point that you so cleverly deduced.

    Wow, I was completely unaware that you deliberately said nothing and I was in no way giving you a chance to realize that your snide remark was potentially covering up an actual answer to the effect that you really do care about the suffering of children beyond using it as a rhetorical device for your unrelated religion issues!

    And you of course were really oblivious to this, and haven’t thus made it completely clear what the real answer is!

    Now that have cleared up the fact that god did in fact work though people to send help, perhaps you can acknowledge the point of my parody of your joke: Either God failed to send help to those 600,000 children who died of dysentery, or they failed to step onto the proverbial boat when the help came. Which is it? Is there an option I’m missing?

    Yes, now that we can strip away all the failed parody of “god helps those that help themselves”, we can answer your real question:

    No, God did not send enough help to save all those children. Much help was sent, none can I imagine was refused, children survived who would not have otherwise, and yet, many, many children suffered and died. Many children everywhere have died. Many people have died. My loved ones have died.

    Pat yourself on the back for being the first to discover the paradox of an all-powerful loving God and mortal suffering.

    Or, you know, start actually caring.

    But taking the piss out of God is good too, I guess.

    By the way, your lack of rejoinder to my Jesus quote is noted. Not even the “he ment allegorical hate!” gambit for my trouble? I’m somewhat disappointed.

    Why bother? You are obviously aware of the concepts of context (beginning with but obviously not limited to the entire quote), translation, and other things said by Jesus about love and compassion. So by deliberately excluding all of this, this was clearly just another game of wankery.

    But it’s a game you play with yourself, so have fun with that.

  58. Anna

    Hmm. Just commenting on the doctor story . . . withholding medical care from a patient because you are making a moral judgment about them is highly problematic, if not outright unethical.

    I think supporting a doctor who refuses to treat unvaccinated patients makes it difficult to oppose, say, pharmacists who refuse to give women medications they consider to be abortifacients, such as Plan B pills.

    In both cases the medical professionals justify themselves by saying that they do not want to treat people they consider to be willfully causing harm to others.

    My husband is a doctor and gives medical care to all kinds of people who do not follow his medical advice, and whose lifestyle habits potentially endanger others as well. Heavy drinkers, for example, of whom there are many; and many of whom also have driver’s licenses, should be considered as potentially lethal as an unvaccinated person; decades after MADD, we still see many deaths of innocent people due to drunken drivers. Should he refuse to treat drinkers unless they either quit drinking or surrender their licenses?

  59. @49. kuhnigget I completely agree with you about the vaccination issue. I should have been more clear that I was speaking to the issue of parents who deny their kids medical treatment in favor of faith healing. But when you say: “As a society we have a certain responsibility to maintain individual health and well-being in order to maintain society’s at large,” you state that as if it some kind of universal truth, but to me it just sounds like wishful thinking – an un-befitting response from anyone who claims to be a “skeptic”.

    @53. Ron1 – I think my comment may have taken on some meaning for you that I didn’t intend. I’ve seen plenty of what you would call animal “altruism”. And sure altruism is beneficial sometimes, maybe even the majority of the time, but it isn’t always. Think of the mother giraffe who tries to save her offspring and ends up getting them both killed. Since we humans are self aware, we should be able to ignore our animal instincts (heroically altruistic as they may be) when they are not to our advantage.

    Am I wrong?

  60. Sparrow

    Private practice doctors may refuse to accept patients for all sorts of reasons, including whether or not they’re vaccinated, whether or not they have the correct insurance, or even if they’re just really bothersome to deal with.

    This isn’t a case of an emergency room surgeon refusing to perform life-saving interventions on the basis of vaccination status, it’s about a family care physician refusing to provide non-emergency care to certain patients who choose to disregard current medical standards.

  61. CB

    @ Ron1:

    Also, your implication that animals are not altruistic is wrong — there are many examples of animals helping raise children that are not their own. Communal altruism takes place in the animal kingdom because it imparts a survival advantage to those individuals (and perhaps the societies of those) who use it.

    Yes, and altruism will even go beyond species boundaries. Mixed bird flocks are common, where they all find greater success by pooling their resources.

    And people — especially the Social Darwinists — tend to forget that evolution is not ultimately about individuals, but populations. In a social group where the members behave altruistically, even if an individual ultimately ends up dying because they helped others to live by sharing food they found, the social group as a whole, and the altruism gene they carry, may survive when otherwise they would not. Altruism thus proves its worth and survives.

    In the case of our human social group, who can say what benefit would be returned by saving these children? If they are saved by being given medical treatment, there is a decent chance they won’t follow in their parents anti-science footsteps. Brilliant people can come from “backwards” backgrounds, it’s true. People who we would be worse off without.

    And so I see unchecked selfishness as a bigger threat to humanity than saving children from their parents.

    @ Barbara

    As an Oregonian, I am entirely in favor of the law eliminating the religious exemption for prosecution for negligent homicide in these cases where children die because parents did not seek effective, available medical help.

    This, and everything else you said.

  62. ThirtyFiveUp

    Apology if this is redundant. Many pediatricians have a separate waiting area for sick children (sneezing, coughing, etc.) to protect the babies who are in for a routine checkup.

    Unvaccinated children could be a similar hazard. Early stage measles, polio, whatever, are not immediately obvious.

  63. @ Donald VR:

    But when you say: “As a society we have a certain responsibility to maintain individual health and well-being in order to maintain society’s at large,” you state that as if it some kind of universal truth, but to me it just sounds like wishful thinking – an un-befitting response from anyone who claims to be a “skeptic”.

    Not a universal truth, just a truth that we as a society have adopted for the sake of our own well being. Other societies have chosen differently (the Spartans were rather fond of tossing imperfect infants out with the trash, so to speak; many cultures still view female infants as inferior to males and treat them accordingly). Our views – and laws – have changed dramatically over time. Witness child labor laws.

    Society is a human invention. We shape it as we see fit.

    How is the acknowledgement of that out of whack with being “a skeptic”?

  64. flip

    #56, CB

    No, God did not send enough help to save all those children. Much help was sent, none can I imagine was refused, children survived who would not have otherwise, and yet, many, many children suffered and died.

    I don’t understand why an all-knowing merciful and all-powerful god would let some children die and let some live. Wouldn’t it just be easier to press the “save everyone” button?

    Pat yourself on the back for being the first to discover the paradox of an all-powerful loving God and mortal suffering.

    I’m not sure I’d use the word paradox, but seriously, “all-powerful *loving*” just seems… well, odd in context of the above statements.

  65. RobertC

    On dealing with kids in emergencies, or for that matter, anything medical

    Or, what works for me…

    We’ve always been very matter of fact with the now college aged kids over medical stuff. Even when J was weeks old and going to the doc, we’d tell him that morning what was gonna happen.

    That built to a very open and age appropriate communications system over the years.

    Not much choice when the middle one has his first open heart op at 5 days old and is now on pulmonary valve #5.

    As to general anxiety, well, this is harsh, but kids take their cues from parents. So, if you are panicky, so will they be. If you are calm and cool, they’ll be calmer.

    So, if you want to panic. do it in private and on your own time, not the kids. Luckily, my wife and I have never gone off the plan at the same time. One of us always remains calm. It’s not pretty, it’s stressful, but it works for us.

    Kid needs a shot, tell them. It’s just a fact. They need a stitch? Stop the blood as best you can and be calm.

    They need CPR? Well I did good, got him jumpstarted, and about 5 hours later I went ballistic. But I was cool and calm when it counted. And true to my own advice, I panicked later.

    It sucks sometimes. It truly does, but when a 7 year old looks at you outside the OR and says “I don’t want to do this” you have to be cool.

    The rest of that went:

    me: “I know buddy, but you need to”

    Him: “I know, but I still don’t want to”

    Gotta go, something in my eye…..

  66. mike burkhart

    As Iv’e said it is not a sin to see a doctor ,of corse as a Christan I have no problem with people parying when ill I do it myself but they should also take medication.In fact I think its wrong to make a child suffer by withholding medication even for religous ones.

  67. ggremlin

    The first issue is a stupid idea, modify the law to allow the state to take away a child from the parents to allow medical care to be provided is a better solution. Charging the parents with murder of their child is a solution like shooting a dead horse because it lose the race. The parents are already in a hell of their own making.

    The second issue of a doctor refusing to treat a patient because his hasn’t been vaccinated is answered like any other reason a doctor will not treat a patient, like aids or religiousness views, he should have his license pulled and if the patient dies, charged with negligence homicide. A doctor has the responsible to treat a patient as needed or he shouldn’t be one.

  68. Monkey

    I would go with…

    Article #1: Agree
    Article #2: Disagree, although in moments of flaring anger at what is goin on in the world in find it understandable.

    Not a parent or a doctor, so Im without authority on both accounts.

  69. Joseph G

    I think the second one is perfectly appropriate, for at least 3 reasons:
    First, as others have pointed out, a parent who doesn’t vaccinate is less likely to take your advice anyway. If you were a mechanic, would you want a customer who tries to use chicken broth for oil and then demands that you fix the damage post-haste, and then goes out and does the same thing the next day? Eh, ok, perhaps you would, depending on your rates :) But we’re talking about children here, not cars.
    Second, many vaccine preventable diseases are spread in healthcare facilities. If you’re a pediatrician, you’re likely to have potentially vulnerable patients.
    Third, it’s not as if the parents don’t have other options. If it were an emergency situation, it’d be very different, of course, and professional ethics would have to come into place. But as far as booking appointments, you have no obligation to see anyone.

  70. Joseph G

    @65 Robert: 8-O You’re a better man than I am, Gungadin.

  71. Joseph G

    @67 Gremlin: Isn’t there a difference between “I’m pretty busy – you should probably make an appointment with one of the other doctors in the office” and “Yes, you’re bleeding quite a bit, but I saw that rainbow flag bumper sticker you have. Go away.”?

  72. grung0r

    CB:

    Do you actually only consider it to count as an external entity providing help if the externally provided help is also impossible to avoid or refuse?

    No. I just don’t think helping yourself and accepting help from others are mutually exclusive acts. I would define ‘helping yourself’ to mean ‘acting to improve or resolve whatever problematic situation one is faced with’. There is no reason to exclude the help of others in this definition, and in our interconnected world, short of randomly teleporting to the middle of the Sahara butt naked and hundreds of miles from the nearest human being, I can’t see how one could ever ‘help themselves’ using your definition.

    Wow, I was completely unaware that you deliberately said nothing and I was in no way giving you a chance to realize that your snide remark was potentially covering up an actual answer to the effect that you really do care about the suffering of children beyond using it as a rhetorical device for your unrelated religion issues!

    You have pointed out yet another failing of the statement I made when I forgot I don’t believe in god. I failed to make an irrelevant, undemonstrable and unprovable statement to prove to an anonymous commenter on the internet that I care about something!

    No, God did not send enough help to save all those children.

    Wow. And you worship this assface?

    Much help was sent, none can I imagine was refused

    Wrong. The problem of Christian missionaries demanding conversions in exchange for help with third world childhood diseases is a very real one, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Often mothers are forced to choose between saving one of their children from an easily curable disease and putting their entire families at risk of murder for having converted. If they do accept, they often can’t leave the missionary compound, and end up essentially enslaved to the missionaries. Refusing such help is neither surprising or uncommon.

    Another example would of course be vaccines. How many children have died of vaccinationatble diseases that their parents refused? Lots.

    Many children everywhere have died.

    No. Not everywhere. Not lately, anyway. Do you know how many children in the western world died of dysentery, cholera, or malaria last year? If the number wasn’t zero, it was pretty god damn close. How many children in the third world died of these diseases? Millions. It seems your god, when it comes to sending help to rich white people, does what could only be described as an infallible job. When it comes to helping poor brown children in impoverished countries not die by bleeding out their own asses while in excruciating pain until they mercifully die days or weeks later of dehydration or blood loss, his record is a bit spottier.

    Pat yourself on the back for being the first to discover the paradox of an all-powerful loving God and mortal suffering.

    I didn’t claim to have discovered anything. Further, it’s not really a paradox seeing as how it can be easily logically solved by concluding god does not exist, that he is not all loving, or that he is not all powerful.

    In any case, this isn’t about mortal suffering per-se. It’s about why a god whom you feel actively intercedes in the world to help people so predictably fails to help certain groups of people(poor children). Your appeal to paradox suggests you have no answer.

    Or, you know, start actually caring.
    Do you think that I don’t care because I don’t appeal to an invisible sky daddy to help them? Or because I refuse to engage in a Monty Python esque ‘who is more charitable’ contest? “To help feed Somali children, I get up at 10 oclock at night half an hour before I go to bed, eat a lump of cold poison for breakfast, and work 29 hours a day. Of course, you tell the young people of today that, and they won’t believe you.”

    Why bother? You are obviously aware of the concepts of context (beginning with but obviously not limited to the entire quote), translation, and other things said by Jesus about love and compassion. So by deliberately excluding all of this, this was clearly just another game of wankery.

    Robbed of the “Jesus Meant Allegorical Hate!” Gambit, CB is forced to play the rarely used “My God is a Terrible Writer and a Worse Publisher, Plus You Masturbate” defense. an interesting choice, to say the least.

  73. Brian

    For many years now in New Zealand the courts have had the legal authority to place children under state care to ensure they receive the necessary medical care to save their lives. This legislation has been used several times against members of religious groups who believe in faith healing and, to date, none of these groups have successfully challenged the ruling. In every case, as soon as the treatment has finished, these children have been placed back into their families’ custody with no noted consequences of any kind. This may be the answer to America’s problems as well.

  74. ggremlin

    @71 Joseph G:

    It is a extreme action when a doctor is talking about patient load and will not take on new patients, reading the complete article helps a lot. But to publish it as the reason why they are turning them away and encourage other doctors to do the same, I think some action should be taken.

  75. DennyMo

    72. grung0r Says: “The problem of Christian missionaries demanding conversions in exchange for help with third world childhood diseases is a very real one, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.”

    References please? I’ve met hundreds of Christian missionaries over the years, read accounts of thousands of them, haven’t heard of anything like this in my lifetime. When our church built a school in Haiti and dug wells in a couple churchyards there, we didn’t put up a sign that said “Members only!” When we send medical teams to Central America, we don’t have separate waiting rooms where they treat the “saved” first and the “unclean” only if they have time.

    I’m sure there there have been abuses like you describe. The same can be said about just about every group, profession, race, etc.: a few bad actors as opposed to the majority who act in good faith. To conclude that “It happens once in a while, so it must be that way with all of them,” is pretty bigoted on your part.

  76. Jim

    Christian, if it matters to posting here. Hasn’t in the past, but, things change.

    I have no problem with the first – while I agree that the best thing would be for the state to have the ability to take custody, I respect that baby steps needs to be taken towards that, and this is one of them.

    The second I have reservations about. It’s not entirely clear to me – and maybe I just missed something – whether he refuses to see patients who are unvaccinated or refuses to see patients who refuse vaccination. The latter I have no issues with. The former, well, as said above, there are legitimate medical reasons to be unvaccinated.

  77. Murff

    @DennyMo

    True enough, but it’s more about who you here about in the press. Thousands of churches DON’T protest at military furnerals, but I bet everyone here has heard of the ONE that does.

  78. @thetentman. I’ve been a patient most of my life, and I think your daughter’s behavior was perfectly normal. Kids don’t calm down just because we try to rationalize with them. If they’re afraid, they’re afraid. Often as a parent it’s important to just get them through the procedure with a no-nonsense attitude, while also not making them feel totally out of control. Docs are typically pretty good at showing the kid that they’re not losing control of the situation, as they do their work. Anyway, very normal – I hope everything went ok.

  79. Aubri

    On the first issue, that’s a rough choice to make. I have a Libertarian streak, so my first instinct is to come down on the side of the parents and oppose increased governmental oversight. Failing to provide medical treatment is skating really, really close to the line of “call Child Protective Services”, but micromanaging the parents that way is a can of worms I’m leery about opening. I’m not QUITE going to invoke the Slippery Slope here, but it seems pretty steep from up here. There are certainly cases of gross negligence, but the line between negligence and a reasonable decision (i.e., we don’t have the money to take Timmy to the doctor just for chicken pox) seems uncomfortably fuzzy.

    On the second, all I can say is that the doctor is a private businessowner and has the right to serve or refuse to serve any patient he chooses to. It would be different if this was, say, an emergency room, but it’s a private practice.

  80. Dan

    @ #76 Jim,

    I’m not sure if this specific case was one I read about before, but I’ve heard of several doctors turning away unvaccinated patients. In every case I’ve read they only turn away children who were healthy enough to get vaccinations and their parents refused. Some children have autoimmune disorders, cancer, or are allergic to specific ingredients in vaccinations and usually the pediatricians say that they turn away children that choose to be unvaccinated specifically to protect the children who are unvaccinated for real health reasons. It would be especially dangerous for unvaccinated children with autoimmune disorders to be exposed to those diseases during a visit, so keeping them seperated from kids who are unvaccinated by choice can actually be a compassionate thing to do.

    I see the point, but I still am conflicted. I don’t want to see children not receive regular medical care because of the stupidity of the parents, but at the same time children unvaccinated by choice are a danger to other patients.

  81. Ron1

    @45. Donald VR Said: “If we humans are simply animals (super-predators yes, intelligent yes, but nevertheless animals) why should we care about what happens to the other animals’ children? Some parent foolishly denying his children health care is no threat to me, my wife, or my children any more than a robin who kicks a chick out of the nest prematurely. In fact, by letting his children die, he is saving my children from having to put up with the wackiness in the next generation.

    Sure, seeing a child die needlessly might make us all feel a little uncomfortable, and those who think it’s their religious duty to defend others might not like it. But I perceive government intervention in my life as a far greater threat to my survival than random religious person abusing his kids.

    I guess I’d like to hear the “skeptics” around here explain the basis for their “moral indignation”.

    and,

    @59. Donald VR Said: “@53 Ron1 – I think my comment may have taken on some meaning for you that I didn’t intend. I’ve seen plenty of what you would call animal “altruism”. And sure altruism is beneficial sometimes, maybe even the majority of the time, but it isn’t always. Think of the mother giraffe who tries to save her offspring and ends up getting them both killed. Since we humans are self aware, we should be able to ignore our animal instincts (heroically altruistic as they may be) when they are not to our advantage.

    Am I wrong?
    ……………………………………………………………..

    Are you wrong?

    Well, what exactly is your argument? Is it that “denying children health care is no threat to you,” or is it ‘you don’t want to tolerate people who don’t think like you,’ or ‘you despise people who try to defend others’ or ‘you think government is a threat’ or that you use the standard Conservative form of arguing the exception or that you don’t have a clue about animal behaviour.

    Take a look at what you’ve said in your two comments and try to see what you’ve really said, as I’ve indicated to you in the paragraph above. After doing that, ask me again if you’re wrong.

  82. Thetentman @ 3:

    My older daughter had the same reaction…and it did get worse. Turns out to have been symptomatic of an underlying anxiety disorder. This is not to say that the same thing is true of your daughter; I’d keep an eye on her in similar situations and see if it seems to get worse. 13 is a great age for freaking out–kids have a lot of information, but not too much impulse control, and the concrete/abstract thinking line is very close to the surface; it may be a one-time thing. Some of her reaction may also have been because she knew better than to ride her bike without the helmet, and was seeing treatment as a kind of punishment for doing something stupid. But if this seems to be an escalating issue, it’s much easier to help your daughter get a handle on her anxiety earlier.

  83. Tom

    @Ron1

    What’s to say that your child won’t, in the future, be saved by Mr. Wacky’s child whom you save today by forcing him to accept real medicine.

    What’s to say that your child will avoid growing up to become Mr. Wacky? Should we not take the chance and force your child to be aborted?

    A human is a human. Until we can determine which humans in the future will be beneficial or not, we need to allow all humans the ability to grow to healthy adulthood.

  84. Ron1

    @82. Tom

    What exactly is your point?

  85. Yojimbo

    @26 Nick said

    I have a problem with the Oregon Law, because I can see it being used to help push laws to regulate your child’s diet, exercise, video game time, etc. I think it is irresponsible and immoral for a parent to deny their child medical treatment because they want to wait for a miracle, but there are way to many people who would find me irresponsible and immoral for giving my kid a happy meal, or letting him play video games on the weekends.

    The Slippery Slope? I'd only worry about that if you could demonstrate a lack of friction. Not that people wouldn’t argue that way, but I can’t see them making much progress. As has been pointed out, the Oregon law is not about how you have to treat your child – it just takes away an excuse for why you mistreated them.

  86. Ron1

    @84 Yojimbo

    Excellent response response to a line of argument that is really nothing more than paranoia.

    cheers

  87. Argus

    In the second case, the doctor’s decision looks like triage to me. Remember a doctor can’t just wave his stethoscope and send patients away cured. Effective treatment often relies on the patients and/or their families following the doctor’s instructions:

    – Take this course of antibiotics all the way to the end; don’t just stop as soon as you “feel better” and save the remainder for the next time you or someone else has symptoms that seem the same to you.
    – Do not take this medication with alcohol.
    – Bring him back in next month, and I’ll see about removing the cast.
    – This is a suppository.

    If someone is going to blow off the doctor’s instructions because they think the doctor is ignorant or part of a conspiracy, there are better ways for the doctor to spend his time.

  88. Dan

    @Argus #86,

    But the problem is that the child isn’t the one blowing off the doctors instructions; it is the parents. The question is, should a child lose his access to all regular medical care because his parents are stupid when it come to vaccinations? The official position of the AMA and the American Pediatric Association is that refusing to give access to medical care to a child in this situation violated medical ethics.

    I’m kind of torn on the issue, but this is more complex than if an adult patient was blowing of vaccinations.

  89. Ron1

    @87. Dan said, ” I’m kind of torn on the issue, but this is more complex than if an adult patient was blowing off vaccinations.”

    ……………………………………………….

    Dan, you’ve hit on the heart of this thread – complexity.

    This issue IS “more complex than if an adult patient was blowing off vaccinations.” It is more complex than “oppos(ing) increased governmental oversight (@79. Aubrey). It is more complex than “booking appointments” (@69 Joseph G), etc. etc.

    It’s about finding a solution that meets the needs of the parents while protecting the health of the child in a politically charged, litigious society immersed in an ocean of competing and often downright false information. It’s about religious belief in the face of science. It’s about people believing everything they read on the internet or watching on television. It’s about law not being about justice.

    While I personally think society has an obligation to protect children in spite of their parents and that physicians have a moral obligation to treat all patients, I realize that this is simply my opinion – it is neither right or wrong.

    In the end, it’s about values in a society that has yet to find a consensus about individual rights – a society that is, itself, dangerously divided.

    ……………………………………………………………………………………………..

    All in all, this is an excellent thread about an important subject. Nice work.

    cheers all

  90. QuietDesperation

    The State has no right outside what we the people grant it. Our constitution is based on defining the limits of government.

    Now, having gone all Founding Fathers on ya, I think such laws could be reasonably constructed to cover extreme cases where the life of a child is in jeopardy. Unlike most Internet commentators, I make no claims to the legal expertise required to evaluate such law. ;-) But, that’s what the courts are for: to judge the individual cases.

    That being said, my reservations arise from the many abuses that the government at all levels commits every day, and how existing law is applied to things the people who wrote the law never intended. Look up the abuses of the Patriot Act or DMCA. Look at how RICO is used versus its original intent. Especially look up stories of local child protective services taking children from parents for the flimsiest of reasons, or even based on false accusations, and it takes months or years to sort out.

    Let’s use a good old car analogy.

    How many exploding Pintos are you willing to tolerate from a piece of legislation? Or stuck accelerator pedals, to use something more contemporary.

    I’d want any potential legislation given a good shaking out by some hard core civil libertarians.

  91. Ron1

    @89. QuietDesperation Said, “But, that’s what the courts are for: to judge the individual cases.”

    ……………………………………………………………………………………..

    You make a good point but, as I said in @88, it’s still more complex than that.

    For example, your statement about the courts (I also am not a lawyer) — how does the process work when the judiciary is as politicized as it is in the US, when there is no legal consensus, when even the highest court in the land is politicized? How can a law be ‘reasonably’ constructed when society is so divided.

    As an aside, be careful about arguing the exception (ie. protective services taking children). Like the slippery slope argument, it’s based on emotion rather than fact. In this case, the vast majority of cases are legitimate — you just don’t hear about them very often.

    Cheers

  92. “In this country, we have a right to believe what we want. I agree with that idea. However, we do not have the right to necessarily act on those beliefs.”

    In every country in the world, everyone can believe whatever they want. That is nothing special. The first question is whether one is allowed to state that belief openly (e.g. “Obama is an islamic terrorist”) and the second question is whether one is allowed to act on that belief (e.g. “I will cut my daughter’s clit off”). We need government to protect people from what other people do (second example) and sometimes even from what other people say (because it might lead people to do something dangerous, e.g. yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre when there is no fire, which does not fall under free speech).

  93. I appreciate the “sense of conflict” felt by the author about the state telling someone what course of treatment they may or may not choose for their child.

    You might appreciate that I am an evolutionist orthodox Christian — and I’m the only one that I know. While I don’t understand the refusal of some denomenations of all contemporary medical practices, I do identify with those who refuse donor blood products, tissues and organs. The scriptural basis for these refusals is pretty clear, and even supported by the recent emergence of novel blood-borne pathogens such as HIV, hep C, and prions.

    As I see it, conflicts are going to be inevitable for the basic reason that secular medicine regards death as the worst case scenario, and for religious believers it is offense to an eternal authority. There are medical situations where the two beliefs cannot be reconciled.

    If Oregon is going to intervene in these parental decisions they should proceed in all due sensitivity. To anyone who values freedom I would say, “Well there’s a God for that.” Judeo-Cristianity holds freedom of the individual to be a gift of the divine, for the purpose of rendering service back to the divine; by choosing to act righteously. Take away that, and you’ve got basically almost any other nation’s philosophy other than the US. Freedom in most places is regarded like unclaimed property that fell out the back of somebody’s truck.

  94. Liath

    When a child is removed from the family by Family Services, for whatever reason, abuse, neglect, etc. if Family Services finds that child has not be vaccinated are they then allowed to have that child vaccinated? There are often several children in group homes, foster care, and juvenile hall. Anyone have any information on this?

  95. Dan

    Duff,

    I’m afraid I have to vigorously disagree with you that the Bible teaches the freedom of the individual as a divine right. The God of the Old Testament commanded genocide (including the slaughter of babies and pregnant women) because people are the “wrong” religion, says slavery is OK, and set up a society where women were treated as property. The New Testament also assumes slavery is fine, says women are to learn about spiritual matters from their husbands at home, says men are the head of women because women are weaker morally due to Eve’s sin, teaches unquestioning obedience to religious authority, and is against homosexual rights. The God of the Bible is also against religious freedom and limits freedom of speech.

    I’m glad that you believe in individual freedom, but those ideas come out of the enlightenment, not the Bible. When Christians say that natural right can come from God I am always puzzled, the idea of individual right, freedom of speech and religion, and thinking for yourself instead of reliance on dogma are written against strongly in many places in the Bible. Sure there is some good stuff in the Bible, but the rights of the individual, as we talk about it, is not there.

  96. me

    @ Duff’s -

    “Judeo-Cristianity holds freedom of the individual to be a gift of the divine, for the purpose of rendering service back to the divine; by choosing to act righteously.”

    Which branch of Christianity? What about groups like Calvinist Protestantism with it’s belief in predestination?

    “Take away that, and you’ve got basically almost any other nation’s philosophy other than the US. ”

    Funny that the US has the largest prison population in the world then, and most of them are in there due to drug prohibition laws.

  97. flip

    #93, Duff Smith

    Blood dontations are always screened for things like AIDs, etc. I’m not 100% sure, but I would think they do this for organs too.

  98. Julio E.

    If the doctor and all his patients are vaccinated, who’s health is the unvaccinated person putting at risk? Only the unvaccinated, like him! Whom don’t need it because they are inmmune to the desease in the first place! If not, what of it, the rest are vaccinated! If you want to argue that they’re carriers…yes, we all are, vaccinated or not! The doctor has a duty to provide health care no matter what, if he won’t, he’s not a doctor, suspend his license.

  99. Dan

    Julio,

    There are kids with cancer, autoimmune disorders, or who are allergic to vaccine ingredients who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons (also rarely vaccines don’t take, so those kids would be at risk as well). Those kids rely on herd immunity to keep from getting exposed to those diseases. When the parents of kids who can be safely vaccinated refuse it puts kids who can’t for legitimate medical reasons at risk (as well as infants who are too young to be vaccinated).

    There are many infants (and the few legitimately unvaccinated kids I mentioned above) that would be placed at an unnecessary risk for exposure if other patients in the waiting room might have those communicable diseases.

  100. JustDucky

    I’m coming in late to this (whee, busy weekend and whatnot!) but I’ve been following the Oregon thing quite closely, since I’m an Oregonian and all.

    http://media.oregonlive.com/oregon_city_news/photo/alayna1jpg-7e5bb9ccc2d6b094_large.jpg

    I look at that image right there, and I know that that baby wouldn’t have had a chance had she remained in her parents custody, and the state hadn’t intervened.

    I’m all for closing the loophole letting parents off the hook. It’s more humane to euthanize someone than to kill them off by letting painful disease run rampant in their body. Or, in this case, cause permanent eye damage and blindness.

    Just my $.02.

  101. Paige

    I’m from Portland, Oregon and we’ve been reading about the “Followers of Christ” and the many children they’ve let die for years. It’s made me so angry to read about these children who have often suffered long, slow deaths that could have been easily prevented — and then for the parents to get off scot-free, claiming it’s part of their religion!! There are literally rows and rows of chilren’s graves in Oregon City. The infant mortality rate among members of this cult is 26 times the average! I don’t care what your beliefs are as a parent; your CHILDREN should not die for them. And we, as a democratic society, cannot forsake those children for the sake of pandering to these people’s ridiculous beliefs. I’m encouraging my representatives to support this measure. If these people were some fringe Muslim group, or snake-charmers, we wouldn’t have allowed this to go on for so long.

  102. PayasYouStargaze

    @25 CB. I first heard the 2 boats and a helicopter joke from a Catholic priest.

  103. Tom

    @Ron1,

    My point is that we need to protect the children of the boneheads that won’t protect their own children. Be it religious beliefs or misguided anti-vax beliefs, these children need to be protected.

  104. Lew

    Frankly, I’d feel a lot safer taking my infant children to a doctor’s office where I knew there were no intentionally unvaccinated children. In the Seattle TV video accompanying story #2, Dr. Ari Brown cited three infants dying from measles contracted from a child unvaccinated by parental choice in the doctor’s waiting room. If one of my family became sick from an unvaccinated (by choice) children in a doctor’s waiting room, I would like the right to take legal action against them. Isn’t it time that people who cause harm to others by negligence or irrational beliefs be held accountable for their actions?

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