In the midst of criminal charges against parents for embracing faith-based healing methods, what role should prayer play in medical treatment?
William Standish Reed was not your typical doctor. If you were suffering from an ear infection, he would likely prescribe you some penicillin... and a healthy dose of prayer.
"Science offers much, but not everything. Faith gives us hope when there isn't any," Reed once said.
Reed was the champion of a branch of medical practice that encouraged the use of faith in treating patients. The backing was part spiritual and part science. On one hand, believers argued that it couldn't hurt to have God on your side. On the other, patient morale had been proven to play a major role in a patient's ability to recover from an illness, which faith boosted by providing hope. These conclusions have lead to programs of study that mix medicine and the Maker at schools like .
Not everyone is on board. In the past month in and , parents have been tried and convicted of neglect and even death for relying on prayer to heal their sick children. explains that parents aren't always held responsible for these actions, as some states have child abuse exemptions for religious beliefs. explains that the decisions are often defended as a matter of Freedom of Religion.
Fortunately, a very clearly states, “The right to practice religion freely does not include the right to expose the community or the child to communicable disease or the latter to ill-health or death . . . Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full and legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves."
This decision is defining judicial and legislative movements across the country on the subject. But with prayer such a hot topic in city council meetings and even with the President being criticized by the Prayer Caucus for failure to pray frequently enough, to what extent should the government be involved in the prayer decisions of Americans?
What's the verdict? Had you asked Reed, he'd have told you balance. The idea is to reinforce the treatments that science knows will work with the patient's beliefs in divine works. Relying solely on one or the other decreases the success rate of either approach. Though Reed is now deceased, here's hoping that his advice lives on for years to come.
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