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Bioethics Case Study Analysis: Faith-Healing Parents Arrested for Death of Second Child


The Faith Healing Parent’s case is a typical example of where religion conflicts with the law, ethics, and opinions, considering the underlying factors of faith, rights, and generally accepted ethical principles. Death is a supernatural occurrence that should not be taken lightly in the plight of faith-based causatives. In contrast, basic principles and guidelines define the most policies and procedures that should be followed while addressing diseases and patients regardless of their religious affiliations. Thus, I highly present deductive reasoning supporting my stand, which advocates for harsher punishment on the faith-based parents whom I believe are the cause of the death of their two sons—sentencing them to 10 years probation. They are negligent and ignorant and deserve a little harsher punishment that should serve as an example to like-minded parents who use faith to subject their children who lack consent to anguish and, more importantly, death.

Case Brief

The case involves parents who neglect their children’s health concerns based on their religious faith and beliefs. Shockingly, the neglect has culminated in the deaths of their two sons, who should have most probably survived through medical treatment, an element against which the faith is rooted. Being already on probation for prior choosing prayers over medication, the couple is again facing similar charges for losing Brandon, an innocent 8-month boy. This is after having suffered from diarrhea and breathing complications for a week, and four years back, the other son, Kent, died from bacterial pneumonia. As noted by Vaughn (2020), there is a great deal of neglect and child abuse as the basis of the Schaible’s sentence concerning their failure to choose medication over prayers as a faith rooted in First Century Gospel Church in Philadelphia, where they have been teaching. Vaughn also highlights other religious factions, such as Followers of Christ Church and Christian Scientists and Scientology, among similar religions propagating the gospel of prayers over medical interventions.

From the parent’s perspective, they had already lost their 2-year-old son four years prior, and now their 8-month-old son was also ill. In their situation, any worried father would do anything possible to save their son. They felt uncomfortable going to a doctor because, in their minds, their religious instruction had caused them to have bad feelings about contemporary medicine (Motloba, 2019). They believed using modern treatment would have prevented their son’s condition from getting worse, and they did not intentionally want to make their son any more miserable. The only option left to them was to turn to God in prayer and have trust. Ironically, though, they did their child more harm by shunning modern medicine in an attempt to protect him.

Do you agree with the court’s sentence of ten years of probation?

Yes, I highly contend with the 10-year probation sentence on the couple, considering the parent’s lack of responsibility for causing the death of two innocent boys. The verdict, however lenient, should always remind the couple and the church of their gross mistake in allowing their children to perish in their hands, subject to backward religious doctrines that violate human rights. Given that it was the parents’ second offense, it stands to reason that they had not grown from their mistakes and continued to act selfishly. To emphasize the need to take proper precautions, their sanctions for the death of the second kid should be more severe than just a 10-year prohibition.

Should the sentence have been harsher? Why or why not?

Faith and health concerns should not be used co-currently, especially with children who don’t even know what faith denotes. Respecting individual lives should not be limited to cases where children are concerned, considering their inability to make decisions based on their thinking and knowledge about faith and its constructs. Generally accepted moral principles should be used to gauge the parent’s ignorance, child abuse, and neglect. Notably, several religious factions operate on the same doctrines, which don’t seem to consider the lives of the follower’s children. They typically assign a religious faith without considering the consequences. This case is just a single one among the other unreported cases that happen on a global scale. Religious faith should not be an excuse to neglect, abuse, and denial of fundamental human rights, such as Brandon and Kent underwent at the hands of their parents.

From another dimension, there is a gap in religion and governance concerning the beliefs propagated in the religious institutions concerning fundamental human rights and when the faith doesn’t have a hand in issues concerning the element of life. While life is predominantly hooked to an individual’s belief, there is a need for the government to clearly illustrate the boundaries upon which the faith should not cross in respect of human life, regardless of their beliefs.

Do you think parents should have the right to reject medical treatment for their children based on religious beliefs?

No. Parents should respect their children as much as they are separate lives existing as individuals who will later align with a religion of their choice. It should not be that simply because a parent worships in a particular church that that’s the child’s choice and that a parent can decide everything for their children based on their own decisions.

What moral principle would support your judgment?

The moral principle of fairness should support my judgment. Parents should seek to be fair to their children concerning their inability to make their own decisions which led to their deaths. It is morally upright to respect the right of others on the fairground to ensure that our beliefs do not limit that of others (Brandon and Kent). Sticking to their faith is based on their understanding, not the children’s. (Vaughn. 2020). Landman (2018) noted that transgression of certain moral principles elicits emotions, something that the Schaibles have not yet experienced through their abuse and neglect of the first son, Kent.

Another principle that supports my stand is the principle of justice. As a sick child, Brandon or Kent deserves to be treated accordingly while seeking medical attention for their underlying condition. This principle is based on the tenets of access, equity, and access, as noted by the Workforce Council (2022). There is a need to promote access to health care for children regardless of the parent’s religious affiliation, gender, or ethnicity. The case is a typical illustration of violating the principle through parents denying their children justice based on their faith. This is a gross violation of justice.

What ethical principles support your argument?

The child’s autonomy and the parents’ paternalism present the first major ethical conflict. As the primary caregivers in this situation, the parents believed that prayer would be more effective than modern medicine in treating their son because they held firm religious convictions. But they also removed the child’s autonomy to choose what he wants by prioritizing their faith over modern medicine (Varkey, 2021). Additionally, as a caregiver, parents have a responsibility to respect the cared-for, pay attention to the needs of the cared-for, and take responsibility for the cared-for.


However, if we prioritize religious liberty over other considerations, we risk hurting someone directly or indirectly. Therefore, the actual dilemma is not which principle is crucial but which direction we can forgo in exchange for picking the other. From this vantage point, a person’s well-being- in this instance, the child—justifies sacrificing one’s right to practice one’s religion. This is so that we can uphold the moral requirement of nonmaleficence, which is our moral obligation (Motloba, 2019). Deontologically speaking, what is reasonable depends on our rights, and our rights are our obligations. Therefore, in this instance, the parents were responsible for protecting their children, but because they followed their own religious beliefs, they did not fulfill that responsibility. As a result, their acts are viewed negatively.

Should religious liberty be construed to allow parents to do anything with their children as long as the actions are based on religious considerations? If not, what sorts of activities should and should not be allowed?

Placing the child’s welfare above all else could help ease the conflict between a parent’s religion and their child’s wellbeing. Yes, the parents have the right to their religious convictions, but those convictions are not in the best interests of their child; as a result, instead of giving in to their beliefs, the parents should have sought advice and support from friends or dependable professionals (Quaye et al., 2019). The parents should have benefited from the experience and changed their course of action for the assistance, given that they had previously gone through a similar process with their 2-year-old boy. They may have kept on praying while also bringing them to a physician.

Religious liberty should not be construed in any manner that should cause any issues concerning their children. Any faith likely to culminate into child abuse should be met with more vigorous opposition from the government and other organizations. Thus, there is a great deal of considering the tenets of each religious faith. Among the measures that should be enforced in religions is respect for children’s rights, including the right to health and protection, as noted by the Children’s Rights Alliance (2022).

Among some acts that should be prohibited in religious practice is using faith to inflict pain, torture, and death on children. This phenomenon should entail the scrapping of all denominational religions that goes against basic human and children’s right, such as denial of access to healthcare, education, and other essential elements which could conflict with a particular faith. They failed in their responsibility as caregivers by thinking that prayer would fix the problem rather than doing what was best for the child. Therefore, it might be argued that they harmed their child by neglecting to provide care, and the state has every right to hold them accountable for their conduct.


The Schaibles represent a group of people who typically think they have complete control of their children and deny them their rights. This case is among the many which go unnoticed, considering the widespread of similar-based denominations, which ultimately cause more harm to children and other members of society. The basic moral principles should be used to ensure no significant conflict between religious freedom and children’s rights. Thus, all religious factions should be assessed to ascertain their compliance with the fundamental laws protecting human rights. Parents should always act in a manner that shows care and compassion and promotes the moral principles which safeguard the children’s welfare. Notably, safeguarding children’s interests should be an excellent consideration for the law in determining the legality of any religious faith in society. Access to healthcare should not be limited to anyone regardless of age and other factors due to being ingrained in certain beliefs. Religion should be construed to promote the wellbeing of the followers, not the opposite. I highly uphold the 10-year probation sentence, which should be amplified subject to the second child’s death.


Children Rights Alliance. (2022). What are children’s rights? Children’s Rights Alliance.

Landmann, H., & Hess, U. (2018). Testing moral foundation theory: Do specific moral transgressions elicit specific moral emotions? Journal of Moral Education47(1), 34-47.

Motloba, P. D. (2019). Non-maleficence-a disremembered moral obligation. South African Dental Journal74(1), 40-42.

Quaye, A. A., Coyne, I., Söderbäck, M., & Hallström, I. K. (2019). Children’s active participation in decision‐making processes during hospitalization: An observational study. Journal of clinical nursing28(23-24), 4525-4537.

Vaughn. L. (2020). Moral arguments. In L. Vaughn (Ed.). Bioethics: Principles, issues, and cases (4th ed., pp. 19-29). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Varkey, B. (2021). Principles of clinical ethics and their application to practice. Medical Principles and Practice30(1), 17-28.

Workforce Council. (2022). Principle of justice – Google search. Google.


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