Heal or No Heal

By Bill Maher

In all 50 states, if you’re an irresponsible or drug-addicted or just plain impoverished parent and you don’t actively seek medical care for your sick child, you can be prosecuted for medical neglect. And if that child dies, you can be charged with manslaughter.  But in six states, if you behave the exact same way in the name of Jesus – you try and pray your child’s illness away, instead of seeking medical treatment – you’re shielded from prosecution. 

The Guardian recently ran a story about a 20-year old girl named Mariah who’s suffering from congenital heart defect that could’ve been treated in her infancy. Instead, Mariah’s fundamentalist Mormon parents decided to let Dr. Jesus take the wheel, “believing that illnesses could be healed through faith and the power of prayer.” Now the damage is irreversible and her only option may be a heart and lung transplant.

Mariah lives in Idaho, one of the six states where faith healers are not held criminally responsible if their sick kids die. In fact, a recent study of a faith-healing sect in Idaho called the Followers of Christ reveals their child mortality rate is ten times higher than that of the rest of the state.

In America, the rule of law is supposed to be applied evenly to all. Parents are either legally responsible for providing their children with adequate healthcare or they’re not. Why this special “Get Out of Prosecution Free” card for crackpots who supplant common sense with wishing upon a star?

And how far does this go? There are some states that have “duty to rescue” laws where you are required by law to stop and provide aid to someone in peril. If I see a bicyclist bloodied on the side of the road, can I just keep driving and say, “I prayed for him”?