Continuing the assault on anti-scientific beliefs and quackery that he thoroughly eviscerated in his previous book, Do You Believe in Magic-The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine, Dr. Paul Offit, the chief of the division of infectious diseases at Children s Hospital of Philadelphia, has now set his sights on another appalling practice the substitution of prayer for proper medical care.
His new book. Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Medicine is reviewed by Abigail Zuger, M.D. in today s New York Times.
Dr. Zuger s review focuses on some horrendous instances of what should accurately be described as child abuse. She begins with a horrifying story of an infant, who in 1997 had signs of bacterial meningitis, a life-threatening infection. The child s parents, both Christian Scientists, waited for two weeks, during which time the Christian Science practitioners provided no effective treatment. By the time the child was admitted to a hospital two weeks later, he died with pockets of pus throughout his brain.
The infant s parents later became outspoken opponents of the religious restrictions that prohibited their son from being saved.
Even more horrifying is a case where a young girl choked on a piece of a banana. Rather than seeking help which would have almost certainly saved her, they prayed while she turned blue and died.
Dr. Offit goes on to examine the belief systems that cross the border from parental rights to child abuse, typically based on the clash between old religious philosophies that see diseases as punishment for sins, and those that see them simply as illnesses.
He covers other topics, such whether groups like Jehovah s Witnesses have the right to refuse transfusions, or whether hospitals have the right to give them, over that objections of the family.
Dr. Zuger describes Offit s tone as angry throughout the entire book, and even though Dr. Offit is probably only preaching to the choir, [t]hat doesn t make his messages any less important.
ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom says, Do You Believe in Magic, is both essential and maddening reading for anyone trying to grapple with different belief systems. I expect Paul s new book to be just as fascinating, but probably leave me in a terrible mood.