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PA Couple Loses Second Child due to Belief in Faith-Based Healing

Update Date: Apr 24, 2013 02:03 PM EDT

A Pennsylvania couple has just found themselves in legal hot water after their son died due to their adherence to faith-based healing. Their son's death is the second time the family has lost a child due to their unwillingness to take him to the doctor.

According to, Herbert and Catherine Schaible belong to the First Century Gospel Church, a fundamentalist church that believes in faith-based healing. In 2011, they received probation for involuntary manslaughter when their two-year-old son died from bacterial pneumonia in 2009. They had received 10 years of probation and told a judge that they would never again choose their religion over their faith.

However, in a test of that proclamation, their eight-month-old son Brandon suffered from diarrhea and breathing problems, NPR reports. Instead of taking their son to the doctor, like they had stated, the Schaibles attempted to pray for his health. The baby died last week; the couple called a funeral home upon their discovery.

As a result, the Schaibles were once again in a courtroom facing a judge. "I am sorry for your loss. Deeply sorry," Judge Benjamin Lerner said to the pair. "But in all honesty, I am more sorry for the fact that this innocent little child will not be able to grow up to be what he wanted to be...When asked why you didn't call a doctor or seek a medical professional, you said, 'Because we believe God wants us to ask him for healing. You did that once, and the consequences were tragic."

The couple has not yet been charged with a crime, though the judge said that they had dangerously and hypocritically violated the most important portion of their probation. However, their remaining seven children were removed from their home because they lost custody. The judge said that the couple was not a danger to the community, but a danger to their children.

According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the majority of the United States had exemptions for faith healing for child abuse and neglect laws. Even today, 19 states allow for religious defenses for felonies against children.

Between 1975 and 1995, 172 children died after faith healing, 140 from illnesses that could have been easily treated and cured.  "Children who have died in these cases suffer seizures, vomiting," Dr. Seth Asser, a Rhode Island pediatrician, said to CAMJ. "Their deaths are agonizing, slow and extremely painful."

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