“Medical Care for Dependent Children: Manslaughter Liability of the Christian Scientist”
Trescher, Robert L. and Thomas N. O’Neill. “Medical Care for Dependent Children: Manslaughter Liability of the Christian Scientist.” University of Pennsylvania Law Review 109, no. 22 (1960): 203–17.
Reading this article now in the decade of the 2020s gives a decidedly anachronistic perspective on the ongoing debate over the legal and moral issues related to the medical care of dependent children whose parents practice spiritual healing based on the teachings of Christian Science. The value of the article now lies in its historical evidence of the evolution of the debate. Trescher’s and O’Neill’s basic argument was that while the gradual judicial, legislative, and social acceptance of the development and spread of Christian Science (in the 1950s) was growing, a major question had not yet been resolved. Had the “healing effects of prayer been so far accepted that a death resulting from failure to secure medical aid because of that religious conviction … constitute involuntary manslaughter” (204)? Trescher and O’Neill concluded: “With the possible exception of cases involving contagious diseases, a parent’s decision to forego [sic] medical remedies and to employ spiritual means of healing—where that decision is based on a sincere belief in a religious tenet of a denomination whose beliefs and practices have been determined both legislatively and judicially to be lawful and not injurious to the community—will no longer subject him to criminal penalty if the healing be unsuccessful” (217).
Print ISSN: 0041-9907
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