When most people are dangerously ill, they visit a doctor, but a small segment of the population believes that if they are meant to heal, prayer will cure their ailments. While this could result in deadly consequences for diseases that may be easily treatable with medication, it is still that person’s choice to trust in God rather than the doctor. When it comes to children though, that is not a valid choice under California law if it means the child’s life was at risk. If your child died because you relied on faith healing, you will need the help of a lawyer to help you fight any potential manslaughter charges you may face.
California’s Religious Exemptions to Child Abuse Laws
While some states provide no religious exemptions to what would ordinarily be child abuse or neglect cases, California does. Even so, these exemptions only extend to misdemeanor cases, meaning that if a child has been harmed in a way that would normally result in felony charges, you can be arrested and prosecuted even if the injuries were a result of your faith.
In cases involving discipline guided by religious practices, these charges could be dismissed with the help of an attorney because child abuse charges can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony. If the child dies as a result of discipline or neglecting treatment for a medical malady though, parents will face felony manslaughter or murder charges and it does not matter if the reason was related to religious beliefs or not.
When Refusing Medical Treatment is Manslaughter
Proving that a child’s death due to lack of medical treatment is manslaughter can be a challenge for the prosecution though. That’s because they can’t just say “the child obviously wouldn’t have died if they received treatment.” Instead, the prosecution must prove the medical community is generally in agreement about a treatment for the child’s condition, that the expected outcome of that treatment is a reasonably healthy, normal life, that the child died because they didn’t receive the treatment and that the parents denied the treatment.
So, for example, the child was suffering from a relatively mild case of strep throat that most doctors would not expect to have taken his or her life, the parents should not be found guilty. Additionally, if the parents relied on faith based healing until a condition became serious and the child died as they were seeking treatment, they should be found innocent. Alternatively, if the parents chose a faith-based treatment after learning the medical solution would leave their child paralyzed, they have that right and cannot be charged.
Call a Lawyer Immediately
These types of cases can be incredibly complex and particularly difficult on parents who are already suffering from the loss of their child. If you have any questions about a parent’s rights when it comes to faith-based healing or if you are being charged with a crime related to your religious beliefs, Peter M. Liss can help. Please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 today to schedule a free initial consultation.