Entries in Medical Care (4)


Parents Deal with the High Cost of Food Allergies

Tooga/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- Having a child with a food allergy can not only be tough on the child, it can be expensive for the parents.
The cost of a food allergy in an average American child is more than $4,000 a year, according to a new survey from Northwestern University in Chicago.
What's surprising is that most of that cost is not from direct medical care, but in money lost by parents taking care of their allergic child.
Researchers say that having to change jobs, or take part-time work in order to provide proper care, cost parents an average of $2,400 a year.  Many parents in the survey said they had to quit jobs or had been fired in connection with their child's allergy.
All told, the survey estimated that the total annual economic cost to the United States due to food allergies in children was $25 billion.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Oregon Faith Healer Parents Get Probation in Son's Death

Hemera/Thinkstock(PLEASANT HILL, Ore.) -- The "faith healer" parents of an Oregon teenager who died due to a lack of medical care will be required to contact a doctor when any of their other six children are sick for more than one day, according to the terms of their probation.

Russel and Brandi Bellew were sentenced to five years of probation on Tuesday after they pleaded guilty to negligent homicide in the death of Brandi's biological son, Austin Sprout, 16. An autopsy found Austin died of an infection caused by a burst appendix.

The couple, along with their six surviving children, belongs to the General Assembly and Church of the First Born, which eschews modern medicine. The group takes its belief from a New Testament passage in the Gospel of James that says the sick should be prayed over and anointed with oil, according to Rick Ross, an expert on cults.

"They take this verse out of context and take it to mean this is the only thing you can do while sick," Ross said. "In their mind they see it as a choice not between the church and saving the life of their child, they see it as a choice between God and me."

Bob Schrank, an attorney for Brandi Bellew, said despite the couple's beliefs, they are "committed to complying with their conditions of probation."

In December, Sprout became ill with cold and flu-like symptoms. Instead of getting him medical attention, the couple chose to pray. Sprout died five days before Christmas.

"According to the group and its leaders, if someone goes to the doctor for medical care, they have gone against God," said Ross.

After an autopsy, the Bellews were arrested in February and were barred from speaking to each other since they were co-defendants in the case, Schrank said.

"[Russel] was allowed to come to the home to visit the kids but [Brandi] couldn't be there. The rule was they couldn't have contact," Schrank said.

Schrank said the Bellews, who did not offer a statement in court, are "great parents" and "at least 20" people sent letters vouching for them.

In August, prosecutors met with members of the Bellews' church to discuss state child neglect laws and to let them know choosing not to seek medical care for a child would not be tolerated, the Eugene Register Guard reported.

Prosecutor Erik Hasselman told the newspaper congregants seemed to be receptive.

"This is not a denomination that feels that its faith is at odds with the laws of the community," he said.

The case is one of many in which parents have been held criminally responsible for neglecting to seek medical attention for their children.

Earlier this year, an Oklahoma woman was found guilty of second degree manslaughter and sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

Prosecutors said Susan Grady, who belongs to the Church of the First Born, chose to treat her 9-year-old son's diabetes complications with prayer. He died days later.

Last year, Dale and Shannon Hickman, an Oregon couple who belonged to the church, were sentenced to 75 months in prison after they failed to seek medical care following the birth of their premature son at home. The baby died nine hours later.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Deeply Religious Parents Often Reluctant to Cease Medical Care

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When a child is seriously ill or injured, parents understandably move heaven and earth to save them.  However, a new study has found that sometimes deeply religious families test the limits of medical science by asking doctors to go to extremes to prolong life.

Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics, the investigators reviewed 203 cases over a three-year period that involved end of life decisions.  In the majority of instances, parents ultimately agreed to end treatment after meeting with caregivers and discussing the options.  But in a small number of cases -- just 11 -- the parents insisted on continuing intensive care while they prayed for divine intervention and a complete cure, even after being told there was no hope for recovery.

Such scenarios bring up all sorts of ethical and legal dilemmas for medical caregivers who must try to balance a parent's wishes with what they think is best for their patient.  Arthur Caplan, the head of the division of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, says in most cases, they ultimately advocate for the patient.

"You have to take beliefs into account but you can't let any parent for any reason hijack what you as a doctor believe is in the child's best interest," he says.  "If you think what they want will cause pain and suffering and further treatment is pointless, a doctor should not do it even if the parents say Jesus spoke to them."

In situations where parents refuse lifesaving medical care on religious grounds the law is clear: Doctors can go to court and legally compel them to accept treatment if it is deemed life saving.  But when the tables are turned and parents insist on sustaining life by any means, few doctors are willing to make it a legal matter.  The authors of the study say it's time for this to change.

"Spending a lifetime attached to a mechanical ventilator, having every bodily function supervised and sanitized by a carer or relative, leaving no dignity or privacy to the child and then adult, has been argued as inhumane," they say in an accompanying editorial.  "We suggest it is time to reconsider current ethical and legal structures and facilitate rapid default access to courts in such situations when the best interests of the child are compromised in expectation of the miraculous."

Not all religious leaders agree.  J.R. Brown, a spokesman for the New York chapter of Jehovah's Witnesses, says that parents should be allowed to do everything they can so long as it doesn't violate scripture.

"How many times have we heard stories where physicians say the situation is hopeless and the patient goes onto make a miraculous recovery?" he asks.

The majority of physicians are not unsympathetic to parents of faith.  Dr. Ian Holzman, chairman of the medical ethics committee at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, stresses that the main thing caregivers must do is respect parental faith and try to honor their beliefs as long as there is no undue harm to the patient.  And he points out, sometimes it's just a matter of demonstrating a little empathy.

"Some parents will never make a decision to discontinue life support.  They will never say don't do everything even when they understand that 'everything' may mean torture for their child," he says.  "But often they are OK when the physician says enough is enough."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Nine Questions You Need to Ask Your Doctor for Good Care

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- ABC News' chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser has compiled a list of nine essential questions to ask your doctor in order to make more informed decisions about your care, along with a couple more helpful tips for good measure:

Questions You Should Ask Your Doctor

What is my condition called?

What are my treatment choices, and what are the pros and cons of each one?

What's the LEAST treatment I can get for this? What would the effects be? Will I feel better? Will I live longer?

What's the MOST treatment I can get for this? What would the effects be? Will I feel better? Will I live longer?

Knowing the "least" treatment and the "most" treatment, which would you recommend for me, and why?

What does medical science say is the best answer for me? In other words, what's the most up-to-date recommendation for people who have the same issue I do?

How can I get a second opinion on this? (You're not being rude, you're being thorough. Ask about websites, medical centers and another doctor with whom you could have a consultation.)

Do you have written information about my condition that I can read? Can you recommend a good website or support group?

Can I follow up with you by phone if I have any additional questions?

More Tips for Your Doctor's Visit

Take someone with you. They can take notes for you, help you ask questions or ask questions you find embarrassing.

Get answers in plain English. What you can't understand can't help you. Make sure you know what your doctor is saying.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio