Jonathan and Grace Foster

Jonathan and Grace Foster argued that traditional medical treatment is a violation of their religious beliefs.


Two-year-old Ella Foster died when her parents didn't seek medical treatment for her

Ella Foster was just two years old

A Pennsylvania couple has been convicted on charges of manslaughter in connection with the death of their 2-year-old daughter. When Ella Foster became ill with pneumonia in the fall of 2016, her parents, Jonathan and Grace Foster, opted for “faith healing” treatment instead of taking her to a doctor. They claimed that traditional medical care goes against their religious beliefs, so they decided to have God tackle the illness.

In lieu of a hospital visit, the parents relied on prayer and anointing oils to heal their daughter. They called Ella’s grandfather, a pastor, and asked him to come pray over the child in the hopes that God’s power would cure the pneumonia.

After hours spent struggling to breathe and denied proper medical care, Ella died in her father’s arms.

Parents Defend the Decision

Not long after Ella’s death, Jonathan and Grace were placed under arrest. During the trial, they were provided an opportunity to explain their actions.

Jonathan appeared contrite, claiming that he meant only the best for Ella. “I didn’t want her to die,” he said. “I’m not discounting anything the professionals say, but to me she was not going to die.”

Grace Foster, on the other hand, remained steadfast. Asked why her daughter wasn’t taken to see a doctor, Grace argued that it wouldn’t have mattered because the child’s death was preordained: “I think God just wanted her back,” she explained. “I believe that whether she died of this or we were in an accident that morning, He knew she was going to come home that day.”

A review by medical professionals concluded that a simple course of antibiotics could have easily saved the child’s life.

Is Faith Healing Real?

Jesus was known for his faith healing abilities

The Bible tells many stories of Jesus as a healer

Throughout history – and especially prior to the advent of modern medicine – religion was a central aspect of healing efforts. Prayer was commonly utilized to treat patients, and an illness that miraculously became cured was frequently attributed to divine intervention. And the origins of this belief are no mystery – the Bible tells numerous stories of Jesus healing people.

While most of the developed world has since embraced science-backed medical treatment, some religious communities continue to practice faith healing without apology.

The medical community has repeatedly condemned this blind reliance on faith as both dangerous and – in the case of parents denying care to children – incredibly abusive. In one such public statement, the American Medical Association laid out a convincing case:

“Available scientific evidence does not support claims that faith healing can actually cure physical ailments… One review published in 1998 looked at 172 cases of deaths among children treated by faith healing instead of conventional methods. These researchers estimated that if conventional treatment had been given, the survival rate for most of these children would have been more than 90 percent, with the remainder of the children also having a good chance of survival”.

Where Does the Law Stand?

Despite overwhelming evidence that children in ultra-religious households are systematically denied basic medical care by their parents, the laws on faith healing remain frustratingly ambiguous in some places. Certain states allow parents tremendous leeway in making medical decisions for their children. Others, such as Idaho, go even further by providing specific legal protections for parents who choose faith healing – no matter the consequences.

The Future of Faith Healing

Some faith groups claim this is a matter of religious freedom. They argue the government shouldn’t be allowed to dictate what type of medical care their children receive – especially if receiving it is an explicit violation of their beliefs.

Critics counter that they have no issue with mature adults refusing medical care, it’s a totally different ballgame when children are involved. Parents are expected to care for their children, and if their decisions place those children at risk, the government is legally obligated to step in.

What do you think – does faith healing have any role to play in our society? Are parents justified in refusing medical treatment for their children, or does this constitute child abuse?

 

45 comments

  1. atatakaidanjp says:

    What a horrible action by the parents. I understand some thinking which states that it is because of sin, the person gets sick, but to deny anyone medication to conquer the disease and then conquer the so-called sin would make much more sense instead of having the poor person die, especially when suffering to such a horrible extent to cause death.

  2. Barry says:

    Time to end the fairy tale ideas of faith
    Healing.When an innocent child who cannot speak for themselves dies because of their parents strange ideas,
    Things need to be done.

  3. James says:

    Spiritual healing is real. But that is for spiritual issues and they can cause discomfort. But God have us brains to invent tools like medicine to combat physical issues. The churches must direction their flocks to be smart. Use discernment and gather all evidence and then form a plan to heal. Not just hope prayer will fix a compound fracture.

    1. bob says:

      James: NO! Churches must direct their flocks to trust in the Lord in all their ways; to cast all their care upon the Lord; to discover that the Lord is their Way, Truth, and Life. ONLY then will the community find Jesus to be its Healer: of all their ills, concerns, and problems.

      1. Alan says:

        I would like to see his peer reviewed publications then. On the other hand, Darwinsm at its’ finest I guess.

  4. DrRGRivera says:

    THEY ARE AS MISGUIDED AS THE GUY IN THE STORY WHO DIED AND ASKED GOD WHY AND GOD SAID I SENT YOU HELP 3 TIMES.

    GOD IS HEALING BUT WHEN HE EMPOWERS US WITH MEDICAL KNOWLEDGE,
    WE BETTER REACH OUT FOR IT.
    BECAUSE IT IS FROM GOD AND MAN IS NOT THE AUTHOR OF MEDICINE.
    MAN IS THE APPRENTICE.
    MAN IS ALSO THE IDIOT WHO WILL LEAD YOU ASTRAY BECAUSE SOME OTHER IDIOT TOLD HIM MEDICINE IS OF THE DEVIL.

    THESE DUMMIES BETTER LEARN GOD IS THE GREAT PHYSICIAN AND
    THIS IS WHAT HE’S DECREE IT HAPPEN AS REACH FOR MEDICAL HELP BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT HE HAS SENT.

    IT IS GOD WHO BLESSES OR CURSES THE WORK OF MAN’S HANDS WHETHER THEY BELIEVE OR NOT.
    INSTEAD OF CHOOSING THE MORON QUACK FAITH HEALER, CHOOSE THE MEDICALLY MINDED MAN. YOU’LL BE BLESSED OUT OF JAIL AND NOT CURSED IN IT. YOU DECISION WON’T CAUSE ANYONE’S DEATH.
    DUM DUMS

    PAY NO ATTENTION TO WHAT I’M SAYING: GOT A TOOTH ACHE AND AN ABSCESS THE SIZE OF A WATER MELLON. YOU BETTER GO SEE THE DENTIST.
    DON’T TRY FAITH HEALING FROM THAT DUMMY. THAT IS NOT JESUS OF NAZARETH.

  5. Robert French says:

    Luke 5:31 Here Jesus was making a point when he said to the Pharisees “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick”. These parents must have missed this when studying the Bible.

    1. bob says:

      French: Just WHOM do you think the Great Physician is?

      1. James says:

        The great physician? We are the author of our own disorders. Thru love all things are possible.

    2. James says:

      French’s biblical quote hold truth. ON THE GROUND we follow a well rounded believe system. Robert quote is also true, As a stand alone comment they are open to phaneron. Thy shall not defyth our temples. As Rivera stated… “Sent you help 3 times”. Copious instances ppl deny what is sent to them. In my case, I hear how I come across as a “know it all”. But, I also study meta-physician teaching they not. Yes, I’m blunt & to the point. If the teacher is not hard on you. Life will be harder. If the messenger is unacceptable, find another. Few ppl do as they look to western medicine to force their bodies to accept unhealthy vices. Faith healing is good & acceptable. But get a professional ND, Meta-physician, Natural-path, etc etc on board to work WITH your prayer efforts. Ever wonder why some prayers appear to go unanswered? Few ppl are trained to change the (lack of a better term) “laws of physics” to make the “pray it away” mentality to work.

  6. bob says:

    Physicians were mentioned only twice in the Scriptures; and not in a positive way. In the first instance, the Bible said the suffering king sought physicians and not the Lord . . . . and he died. In the second mention, the lady with a ‘bloody issue’ sought numerous doctors, wasted her money . . . . .and got worse. Doctors do NOT heal. They just assist our God-created body to effect its own healing. I’d give God first chance in securing my health.

    1. DAG says:

      Yeah, all that prayer fixes all. It worked so well in this particular case, perhaps they weren’t good Christians so their plans were unanswered, the justification of a nutty religion.

  7. James says:

    Faith healing? Does it work? YES it does. BUT, it must be understood that medical practitioners DO serve their place. They might have feed the kid western foods, sleep on western bedding & wear western clothing (ALL contaminated w/chemicals & unhealthy compounds). Exposed the kid to EMF’s and other unhealthy energies. BUT, then deny the kid Western Dr’s? I do consider that negligence. Take care of the problems at the start, not a few hrs B4 death. Always call a professional when unsure or if it looks like its over ones head. Like a ND or a natural-path or a Metaphysician or some holistic practitioner that knows more than you. Dr of any kind must go hand in hand with a well rounded approach. No one is a know-it-all. Call a plumber, call an electrician, call a cement worker, etc, etc. Know ones limits.

    1. Sophie says:

      I totally agree . Exposure to EMF’s , Geneticslly Modified food and vaccines laden with mercury make it very difficult not to get sick . But the problem nowadays is that doctors are just the puppets of the pharmaceutical companies whose interest is to make people more sick. Faith and natural remedies are the best way . Faith because if your brain believes it your body will get that message and the body is designed to heal itself. Natural remedies because nature has always had all the answers . I have not taken antibiotics , pain killers , headache pills , or anything for 20 years and my father is 87 and on no medication whatsoever . Stay close to nature and nature will reward you.

  8. James says:

    W/ out getting to deep into the metaphysics of fate & destiny. Looking at the parents earlobes & their YIN-sanpaku eyes, etc etc. Not sure this couple is spiritually adept in faith healing. The child appears to have Yang eyes (not quite a good straight on shot) But, this maybe a sign of destiny also. Could be a sign of an imbalance in a myriad of ways this child had a short life be it pneumonia or ???

    1. Lea Weis says:

      Was this necessary?

      1. T'Keren Valmaz says:

        No it wasnt but some people feel the need to vent their thoughtless bile.

    2. Sophie says:

      I have to agree with you again as I am a specialist in energy ( medicine ) rebalancing . When it comes to practitioners , there are good and bad doctors we all know it . They have gone to the same school but some are good and some are mediocre . The difference is in the intention of the practitioner , be it a MD , a ND or anyone involved in healing, and his / her faith in the process . And not everyone can be a healer ….

  9. Jim says:

    All I can say it is a shame that this little angel had to die. I watched my grandmother slowly pass because she felt God would heal her of the cancer that was eating her alive. She prayed I prayed and it got to the point where she finally had to see a doctor. (this was back in the 60’s) but by that time it was to late. She lasted another 3 months. I believe that the good lord gave us the knowledge and we must use what he has given us along with prayer and sometimes miracles do happen but these folks need to come out of the dark ages when it comes to the children. You want to go the spiritual healing route on yourself that’s fine but children should be taken to the proper health facility.

  10. T'Keren Valmaz says:

    While I do feel that having spirituality and practicing meditation etc can help reduce stresses on the body to help it stay strong and resist illness, I no less feel a good diet and practicing things like good hygiene are equally vital in one staying healthy.

    What these parents did was allow archaic beliefs to be an excuse for neglecting the childs needs. This child suffered horribly at the hands of people who called their mental illness faith. When you put faith above reason you are choosing self delusion.

    This is why in a modern society we need those who want to be parents to pass strict psychological evaluations and to see a family therapist regularly as a proactive preventive measure to insure those taking on the challenge of raising kids are fit for it and have help to deal with the stresses that come with it.

    We are a global population of more then 7 billion people. Not everyone has to have kids and it certainly should not be viewed as some right. People should have to meet high standards physically, mentally, and psychologically to have kids or raise them via adoption. One of the big warning signs should be parents planning on indoctrinating their children into a religion and letting their bible act as a parenting manual

    1. Lea Weis says:

      Amen..Namaste

      1. T'Keren Valmaz says:

        Always nice to see that some people see the bigger picture, thanks Lea.

  11. rabbi jim says:

    Greetings all! Oye! Should have given the child aspirin instead. Shalom and have a wonderful day!

  12. Tom says:

    What “faith healers” miss is that we are all part of one God/universe…this means that what we call “science” and ” medicine” are part of the same God/universe, and these methods of healing are just as valid as “faith healing”…the actual issue is whether there should be “laws” of man that allow or do not allow parents to let their children die…in the end, it becomes solely a karmic issue, and is ultimately resolved…Peace…Tom

  13. Miranda Allison Young says:

    They belong in jail for what they did to their daughter. It comes under the definition of abuse, severe abuse. She would still be alive if they had taken her to the doctor. I call that murder, pure and simple.

    1. T'Keren Valmaz says:

      Id say prison for the father as he showed some contrition, but a needle in the arm for that mother. She is radical in her faith and a danger to others.

  14. Lea Weis says:

    Faith healing is nothing but crapp. No religion has the right to put people in harms way and religion is not above the law…These stupid parents that give their money to the church should of spent it on a Doctor..I hope there are more parents that follow this B/S that kill their kids go to jail. This is so 😢

  15. gail says:

    westnern medicine is a sham. GOD HEALS TRUE BELIEVERS. atheists and muslims are given unnatural long life due to this medicinal devilry, IF GOD wants you alive then HE WILL HEAL YOU. ban all medicine and let GODS chosen people inherit earth as HE intended. don’t believe me? BILLY GRAHAM lived to 99 years and GOD only took him to his holy kingdom because REV. GRAHAM humbly asked for his heavenly reward after a long life of earthly service for our lord.

    1. Carl Elfstrom says:

      It looks like Billy Graham fooled you. He was a demon who came from hell and has finally gone back to hell.

  16. Carl Elfstrom says:

    They should have tried healthcare and medicine first, and faith healing in addition to it. It could have possibly contributed to the healing process, but should only be attempted secondary to medical or other proven forms of healthcare. For faith healing to work at all, or even reiki, as Jesus may have practiced, it requires a lot more faith than mere belief, and can only be administered using certain procedures of which those two fools obviously knew nothing about. They probably thought that healing through simple, self formed prayers was what was meant by faith healing. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. It takes various forms of faith healing practitioners years of training and practice to succeed at what those simpletons thought they could accomplish by simply praying about it. It doesn’t work that way people. Even for well orchestrated prayers to work they require a lot more faith when said individually than most people could ever possibly muster. It takes the combined energies of multiple people of the same faith, praying in the exact same way, at the same time, for such prayers to be amplified and acted upon by the creative forces. Even simple folk magic stood a much greater chance, and even that should never be banked upon. I hope they get they get the maximum prison sentence and are too old to have children when they get out.

    1. Carl Elfstrom says:

      Some people like Gail truly believe their own BS.

      1. Carl Elfstrom says:

        I hope Gail doesn’t have any children. I’ll pray that she always miscarriages. Hopefully she’s in a mental hospital.

        1. gail says:

          GOD has blessed me with six lovely children and 18 GRANDCHILDREN! and I RAISED THEM RIGHT , except my oldest grandson, who has fell to the temptaiton of homosinuality. he is currently in therapy to cast out the gay demon, please pray for his recovery.

          1. T'Keren Valmaz says:

            You madam horrify me. I will send vibes to your grandson to help him find the strength to leave such hateful bigots as you behind and live happy as himself somewhere else

  17. Lea Weis says:

    People that think they can play god and make magic in the name of miracles is nothing more then there egos at play. And praying to harm another is just as bad..

  18. Lea Weis says:

    Billy Graham lived so long was because he had the best medical care payed for by fools like these 2 parents. God has no religion. Its peoples egos that carry on this B/S of manipulation of words in the name of religion that to me is a crime.

    1. Brian Brandis says:

      “God has No religion”? There is one way to be saved. YOu are either running towards your savior Jesus Christ or tuning away. There is no inbetween and no compromise.

      1. Tom says:

        Brian…respectfully, religions are man-made, not made or supported by God…and there is no “saving”; there is the on-going balance of karma, as we pass through our many lives…Peace…Tom

  19. Susan Weiss says:

    Carl …… you don’t even know what you are talking about……. and you proved it by opening your mouth…. and there you showed the whole world how dumb you really are

  20. Rafael Martinez says:

    What I think ,before taking a desition like that, they or whoever, should talk to their Pastor first or someone capable enough to give a good advise.
    Doctors are very good professionals.

  21. Bill says:

    I believe in using modern medicine when it is available. I also believe in spiritual or “faith” healing. If the parents can go to jail because they choose spiritual treatment and the child died, then parents who choose antibiotics or chemotherapy for their children’s illnesses must also go to jail if the children die.

    1. Tom says:

      Bill…that is an interesting aspect of the question, that I never considered, but will now…thank you…Peace…Tom

    2. Sophie says:

      Well said ! Chemitherapy is a big scam . And medications have more side effects than the cobdition they are supposed to treat . Oh but I forgot they don’t treat conditions , only symptoms , to make sure that you are on medication for the rest of your life .

  22. Bill Fox says:

    No children die in the care of doctors. Be sure to get your flu shot.

  23. Sandy says:

    It’s great that they put all their faith in the Lord, but he has also given healthcare the know how to help heal the sick as well — these people were very misguided, as well as lame-brained!
    Prayers and medicine go Hand in Hand— and treating pneumonia now days is much easier than in the past— I think God heals more on a spiritual realm than physical, anyway— too bad these people were stupid enough to not use medicine in their case—

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