It's hard to know what to say about the mother who is letting her thirteen-year-old son die of cancer (Hodgkin's lymphoma) rather than get proper treatment, because of her religious beliefs. I'd like to call it outright murder, but that requires intent, and her religion has so completely scrambled her ability to form a rational thought that the idea of intent just doesn't apply. I suppose they'll only be able to convict her of reckless child endangerment, contempt of court, and if the boy dies, of manslaughter.
I've blogged about medicine-as-religion and religion-as-medicine several times in the past. All of these stories have an underlying theme: Children are raised on the Bible and Christianity, which by their very nature force believers to reject logical thinking, and accept magical explanations. And because of the weird, contradictory, inexplicable, and even horrifying stories in the Bible, believers also have to accept that "God has a plan" that is unknowable to mere humans, that in God's greater scheme for humanity, there is a purpose to all of the illogic, immorality, irrationality and pain. They're taught to reject their own ability to judge, to make rational decisions and moral judgements, and just accept stuff that doesn't make sense.
It's no wonder that people raised this way become adults who aren't able to distinguish real medicine from quackery, real science from charlatanism.
This story, of the misguided mother letting her son die of cancer, is just another sad data point in the ongoing saga of medicine-as-religion. It's not the first, it's not the worst, and it won't be the last. The only good thing that's coming out of this story is that most American Christians, even the most conservative Biblical literalists, are disturbed by this story. Nobody wants to see a child die from neglect, and no Christian wants his/her religion besmirched by people like this.
Let's hope they catch the mother and her son in time to save him. Without treatment, his chances of being alive in a year or two are 5%, but with treatment, he's got a 95% chance of a long and healthy life.