American Academy of Pediatrics
Conflicts Between Religious or Spiritual Beliefs and Pediatric Care: Informed Refusal, Exemptions, and Public Funding
COMMITTEE ON BIOETHICS
Although respect for parents’ decision-making authority is an important principle, pediatricians should report suspected cases of medical neglect, and the state should, at times, intervene to require medical treatment of children. Some parents’ reasons for refusing medical treatment are based on their religious or spiritual beliefs. In cases in which treatment is likely to prevent death or serious disability or relieve severe pain, children’s health and future autonomy should be protected. Because religious exemptions to child abuse and neglect laws do not equally protect all children and may harm some children by causing confusion about the duty to provide medical treatment, these exemptions should be repealed. Furthermore, public health care funds should not cover alternative unproven religious or spiritual healing practices. Such payments may inappropriately legitimize these practices as appropriate medical treatment.