Governor’s Task Force Reports
In 2015 and 2016, the Governor’s Task Force on Children at Risk’s Idaho Child Fatality Review Team published two reports on child deaths caused by “refusal of medical treatment due to religious beliefs.”
According to the report, the children died of such causes as meconium aspiration, intestinal blockages, and sepsis, and their deaths “may have been prevented with proper and timely medical treatment.” The report also found that 5 additional children had died from similar neglect, 3 in 2012 and 2 in 2011.
The team concluded that Idaho’s religious exemptions “may prevent authorities from investigating and monitoring neglect cases and discourage reporting of these incidents. Apart from strengthening laws to protect children from preventable deaths, current law is confusing for medical providers and investigative agencies.”
The 2015 report reviewed the cases of 2 children who died in 2012. One was a 2-year-old boy who died of diabetes. The other was a 15-year-old girl who died of a ruptured esophagus after repeated vomited from food poisoning. Click here to download a condensed pdf of this report.
The death review team concluded, “Both of these deaths may have been prevented with proper and timely medical treatment.” Furthermore, team members stated that they “encourage re-evaluation of Idaho law.”
A Legislative Work Group Begins to Study the Issue
A 2015 letter written by the Chairman of the the Governor’s Task Force on Children at Risk strongly urged the Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter to help change Idaho’s religious exemptions. The letter stated that the child death rate in the Followers of Christ, a religious sect that opposes medical care, is possibly more than ten times higher than the child death rate of the state. The task force “is concerned for the well-being and protection of Idaho’s children in circumstances where children have no voice in medical choice,” the letter stated.
After a bill that aimed to improve the laws was filed during the 2016 legislative session, Gov. Otter requested that legislative leaders form an in interim work group to study the issue. (The bill was not given a hearing.) The work group held their first meeting on August 4. Click here to view an archived video of the meeting, (From the dropdown, select “Interim, Task Force, and Special Committees.” From the second dropdown, select “Children At-Risk Faith-Healing Working Group.”)