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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

State report: Five more Idaho children died in 2013 because parents had religious objection to medical treatment

The Idaho Child Fatality Review Team has published its third annual report, this one reviewing child deaths in 2013, and it found five more Idaho children died because their parents’ religious beliefs prevented them from seeking medical treatment. That brings the total over three years of reviews to 10 Idaho children. However, the report notes that because Idaho Vital Statistics doesn't compile the number of such deaths, the full number is difficult to estimate. The report drew on death certificates and coroner's reports.

All five who died in 2013 were newborn infants, the team reported; its full report is online here. Causes of death included meconium aspiration, 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. The report examines the causes of 182 child deaths in Idaho in calendar year 2013.

Idaho law provides a religious exemption to its child abuse and neglect laws. In 2014, legislation was introduced to remove the faith-healing exemption, but it didn’t advance. Despite multiple attempts, citizen lobbying and protests during this year’s legislative session, legislation to address the exemption never was introduced. However, lawmakers did agree, at Gov. Butch Otter’s request, to set up an interim “working group” on children at risk and faith healing. That bipartisan panel, which is co-chaired by Sen. Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston, and Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, has not yet scheduled its first meeting.

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."

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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