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The Wages Of Zealotry

Feelings about Nancy Grace aside, this story of how an 11-year-old Wisconsin girl slipped into a diabetic coma and died because her parents sat around praying rather than seeking medical attention for her--as relatives had been begging them to do for weeks--is horrifying. Though the parents insist they don't regard themselves as religious, they also note that laying on of hands is their preferred method of healing in general.

With apologies to similar believers everywhere, my first reaction to this is, Wow, these people are some kind of crazy. My second reaction: time to consider a little court-negotiated sterilization.

Seriously. This is America, so people should be allowed to be as religiously crazy as they wanna be--until their beliefs begin endangering other folks, most definitely including their young children. At that point, since you can't practically compel people to give up their beliefs, you need to start thinking about limiting the number of other people they can harm. In this case, that means limiting the number of children these faith-healers can control.

At this point, criminal charges have yet to be filed. But assuming they do, and that jail time becomes a possibility, my argument would be to put sterilization on the table as an alternative. These people clearly didn't go into this with the intent to harm their child. But it's also clear that neither member of this couple is to be trusted with offspring. Ever. And unless they wind up locked up forever--which seems unlikely--you can't trust them not to do something irrational--and lethal--again. 

Yeah, I know sterilization carries ugly baggage. But my argument for semi-voluntary snip snip snipping is similar to the one I made (lost somewhere in the archives) back during the saga of  Andrea Yates, the post-partum-psychotic mom who brutally drowned her five kids in the bathtub. Since Yates was clearly insane, I could see not sending her to prison forever. But authorities also needed to make damn sure she could never have another kid. Thus the choice: incarceration or sterilization. (As things turned out, of course, Yates' murder conviction was overturned and she wound up in a low-security mental health facility. We can only hope no one is stupid enough to set her free until her child-bearing years are behind her.)

In no way am I suggesting this Wisconsin couple is psychotic. Nonetheless, if early reports are even close to accurate, Mom and Dad just let their child waste away for a month and die--from an easily treatable ailemnt--in the name of faith. (Shouldn't the coma have been a tip off that the prayer-only course of treatment needed some sort of supplement?) So we can argue about religious rights and parental rights and reproductive rights from now until Jesus returns. But, I'm sorry, these people should not be allowed to procreate again.

--Michelle Cottle