Study: Five more Idaho children died when religious beliefs blocked treatment

The Spokesman-Review/July 12, 2016

By Betsy Russell

A new government task force report finds five more Idaho children who died because their parents’ religious beliefs interfered with them seeking medical treatment.

Released Monday, the third Child Fatality Review Team annual report covers the 2013 calendar year and brings to 10 the total number of such deaths since 2011. The report relied on death certificates and coroner's reports to compile numbers but notes that the reckoning might be incomplete because of how records are kept.

All five who died in 2013 were newborns. Causes of death included birth-related respiratory ailments, intestinal blockages, and sepsis.

“The CFR Team determined that each of these deaths may have been prevented with proper and timely medical treatment,” the report states.

State code contains a religious exemption to laws regarding child abuse and neglect. In 2014, legislation was introduced to remove the faith-healing exemption. But it did not advance, and multiple efforts since have fallen short. Following Gov. Butch Otter’s request, lawmakers this year did agree to convene an interim panel on children at risk and faith healing. Its first meeting has not been scheduled.

Lauren Necochea, director of the advocacy group Idaho Voices for Children, said, "We need to come together to take common-sense steps that will ensure kids can get lifesaving care when they need it. We applaud the Legislature for taking this issue seriously and taking steps towards finding solutions."

Overall, the report looked at 182 child deaths in Idaho in 2013.

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