Is it neglect?

baby_and_doctorAs stated in the Illinois General Assembly-

 (8) Parents or legal guardians who object to health, dental, or eye examinations or any part thereof, or to immunizations, on religious grounds shall not be required to submit their children or wards to the examinations or immunizations to which they so object if such parents or legal guardians present to the appropriate local school authority a signed statement of objection, detailing the grounds for the objection. If the physical condition of the child is such that any one or more of the immunizing agents should not be administered, the examining physician, advanced practice nurse, or physician assistant responsible for the performance of the health examination shall endorse that fact upon the health examination form. Exempting a child from the health, dental, or eye examination does not exempt the child from participation in the program of physical education training provided in Sections 27-5 through 27-7 of this Code.

Cases (not necessarily in Illinois) of children who died after parents failed to request medical intervention in a timely manner-


Andrew Wantland, age 12, died of untreated diabetes in LaHabra, California, in 1992. A Christian Science practitioner attempted to heal him with prayer for four days. He lost thirty pounds. On the last day of his life, he was emaciated, vomiting, and urinating frequently. Later in the day he was unable to eat, drink, make eye contact, speak, or move around.

His mother, Gayle Quigley, lived in Philadelphia and was not a Christian Scientist. She had joint custody of Andrew and had made it clear that she wanted medical care provided for her children.

Nevertheless, neither Andrew’s father, the Christian Science faith healer, nor other church officials informed Mrs. Quigley that her son was ill.

No criminal charges were filed in the boy’s death. Mrs. Quigley filed a civil wrongful death action against the Christian Science church, the practitioner, Andrew’s father, grandmother, and others. The district court, however, ruled that only the father could be held responsible, and an appellate court upheld the ruling in a split decision. Quigley then dropped the suit.


At the age of five, Nancy Brewster of El Paso, Texas, developed lumps on her neck and threw up repeatedly. She was too sick to go to school after first grade. A Christian Science practitioner prayed for Nancy. She urged the girl and her mother to deny the symptoms of the illness as an illusion. Nancy was constantly told that she was God’s perfect child and nothing could be wrong with her.

Nancy was made to exercise in 100 degree–plus heat and forced to eat even though she was vomiting. Both her mother and the practitioner believed that Nancy was just being stubborn. Her mother sometimes even beat Nancy and blamed her for not getting healed. Nancy got no pain relief, even an aspirin. She was not held or comforted because that would be giving reality to the disease.

Nancy died September 29, 1963, at age 7. Her death certificate lists “probable malignant lymphoma” as the cause.

She had no obituary or funeral service. Her mother told her siblings to think that Nancy had just gone on a trip to Africa. In her family home, Nancy was never spoken of again. Like illness, death was considered unreal in Christian Science theology.

Her mother later became a Christian Science practitioner and published a testimony in the January, 1984, Christian Science Journal with a disturbing omission. “Rearing four children with total reliance on God for healing was a joy. I cannot remember an activity missed because of illness,” she wrote.

As Caroline Fraser writes, however, “In fact, Mrs. Brewster had five children. The unmentioned fifth child who has been revised out of this testimony—indeed, out of life itself—was Nancy Brewster.” (Fraser, God’s Perfect Child, 428)

Nancy’s big sister published an obituary and held a memorial service for Nancy on the 40th anniversary of her death, and publishes an In Memoriam every year to honor and remember Nancy.

And now in Illinois-

Families seeking a religious exemption next year, or transferring after Oct. 16, will have to complete a certificate explaining their objection on religious grounds before kindergarten, 6th and 9th grades. That certificate also must include the signature of a doctor, attesting that he or she counseled the parents about the risks of skipping vaccines.


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