Inquirer Letters Extra: Faith-based or not, it's neglect

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Herbert Schaible (left) and Catherine Schiable, members of a religious group that believes in faith healing.

The Inquirer's coverage of religion-based medical neglect of children quotes me as saying that such faith deaths are "extraordinarily rare," when I actually said prosecutions of these deaths in Pennsylvania are rare ("When faith clashes with medical care," April 28).

Rather than say that only 30 Pennsylvania children have died from religion-based medical neglect in the last 100 years, what I said was that since the case of Commonwealth v. Breth in 1915 we know of only six prosecutions in the state for these deaths.

Only two were in Philadelphia. Whether these deaths are rare or frequent, Pennsylvania should establish in law and policy that these children have a right to live and their parents have a duty to provide them with necessities of life. Pennsylvania's religious exemption from child abuse should be repealed.

The exemption may discourage reporting of sick children in faith-healing sects, giving parents the impression they have a legal right to withhold care. If the child is reported to protective services, social workers with no medical training are expected to decide when a child needs treatment. And the religious exemption prevents agencies from monitoring a family except during a child's illness.

As The Inquirer reported, the state Department of Human Services closed its investigation into a Philadelphia family, whose second child just died, only five days after their first child's death - due to the religious exemption.

Rita Swan, president, Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty, Inc., Lexington, Ky.

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