Prosecutors in Oregon City, Ore., are reviewing the death of a 15-month-old girl who a medical examiner says could have been saved if she had been treated with antibiotics.

If prosecuted, the child’s parents would be the first members of Oregon City’s Followers of Christ group to face charges for failing to seek medical treatment for a gravely ill child.

And police in Weston, Wis. are investigating an 11-year-old girl’s death from an undiagnosed, treatable form of diabetes after her parents chose to pray for her rather than take her to a doctor.

An autopsy showed Madeline Neumann died Sunday from diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition that left too little insulin in her body, Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin said.

She had probably been ill for about a month, authorities said.

These are not the first cases where religious fanaticism and outright ignorance have caused death to children.

Freedom of religion has wide parameters in our country, as it should. But there comes a time when a child’s physical health and the civil laws that guard the child should trump religion. That’s a time when civil law must prevail, both in preventive and punitive venues.

If adults want to play with poisonous snakes and refuse modern medicine, that’s their choice as long as they are not endangering anyone else. When it comes to children who may have no choice or intelligent guidance in such actions, then civil authorities must take action, if they are aware of the situation of course. These children should have the opportunity to grow up with the advantage of modern medicine to help them along their way.

This is not to say that prayer should not or could not be a component of that process.

History has proved to us that religious fanaticism, whether it fuels wars or withholds medical care for children, generally has sorry outcomes. But learning from such mistakes requires an enlightenment that some small sects either fear or for which they simply have no desire to embrace.

God help the little children. And their doctors.

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