Shortly after a girl died of diabetes after her religious parents refused to seek medical treatment, believing that "God would heal the child," a mother has gone on the run with her cancer-afflicted 13-year-old son in the face of being threatened with legal action after refusing to continue her son's chemotherapy due to religious objections. The child's father, while baffled as to why the authorities have gotten involved, said that he supports chemo in this and other "extreme" cases.
The mother is part of a fanatic Roman Catholic sect that advocates "natural" healing. Her son, in addition to having Hodgkin's disease, is also learning-disabled, leading doctors and authorities to conclude that he didn't fully understand the process and effects of chemotherapy. He did fear that it would "kill him," but who knows if he came to that conclusion on his own or if he was influenced by his mother.
The question is, can parents refuse to treat their children? The obvious answer appears to be yes, since, if the government orders "conventional" medicine to parents who may not support it, this is a slippery slope in government intervention of civil liberties and freedom of choice. If they force chemotherapy in one extreme case, what will stop them from continuing to enforce specific treatments? Another, almost as obvious answer, is that the government has a duty to protect its citizens, including children when parents fail to do so. The state where the chemo-dodging mother lives has a law enforcing medical treatment for children, and states that "alternative and complementary medicine are not enough." "Alternative" medicine, consisting of homeopathy, herbs and "natural" medicine, have not been proven effective. Even less effective is the method of prayer and divine intervention, practiced by the religious zealots who most frequently refuse medical treatment.
Further complicating this issue is the fact that religious fanatics are not easy to get through to in terms of crime and punishment. If a suicide bomber is willing to die for his god, how is a court on earth going to punish him so it will make an impact? Similarly, religious fanatics who believe that God will heal ailments and, if he doesn't, than it was due to some divine plan. If a religious parent is convinced that they were acting according to God's will, no earthly judge or jury will convince them otherwise. They will go to their prison cell, or to their execution, confident they are still good in the eyes of God, and, to them, that will be the only thing that matters.