Another US state drops 'faith healing' defence

OREGON has become the latest US state to repeal criminal code exceptions that allow ‘faith healing’ as a defence in homicide or neglect cases. 

The exemption, overturned in May, led to “confusion around the laws” where child protection services could intervene, and more pressure on families within some religious groups to reject medical care, opponents argued.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, most US states had ‘faith healing’ exemptions.

There were 172 faith healing-related child deaths in the US from 1975 to 1995 – including a two-year-old girl who choked on a banana and showed signs of life for an hour as her parents prayed.

Nineteen US states still allow religious defences for crimes against children. 

CMAJ 2011; online 11 July