“Faith Healing, Christian Science and the Medical Care of Children”
Swan, Rita. “Faith Healing, Christian Science and the Medical Care of Children.” New England Journal of Medicine 309, no. 26 (1983): 1639–41.
Swan, whose young son had recently died of meningitis after being attended by a Christian Science practitioner, argues that particular to Christian Science, prayer in support of patients not under medical treatment is within the state’s realm of comment because Christian Science calls itself an independent system of health, yet it does not conform to state health regulations. Therefore the state should not be required to protect the Christian Science health care system. However, the Christian Science church has argued before Congress that it is a health care system, so the state has a responsibility to protect its health care practices. Although the U.S. constitution forbids the state to establish religion, the prevailing attitude in legislatures is to protect Christian Science parents who rely on faith healing from state charges of abuse and neglect. Christian Science practitioners do not report diseases to the state, because they are not trained in the diagnosis of disease. Therefore, since Christian Science practitioners usually have no knowledge of the disease they are treating, and they do not report diseases, how will the courts discover sick children in time to save them? Furthermore, when church members choose to go to a doctor, the church directs its practitioners not to pray for them. “A health care system should have some responsibilities, both to the state and to its patients” (1641a), Swan concludes.
Print ISSN: 0028-4793
See also annotation:
“The Position of the Christian Science Church” by Nathan A. Talbot
(Note that Talbot’s article immediately follows Swan’s in this edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. Talbot and Swan were invited to write on this topic without seeing what the other wrote first. According to Dr. Relman: “Neither author read the other’s statement before preparing these articles.”)