Tragic Deaths Raise Difficult Questions

According to news accounts, Catherine and Herbert Schaible are fundamentalist Christians who believe in faith healing over medicine. They are third-generation members of the First Century Gospel Church in Philadelphia.


In 2009, their two year-old son, Kent Schaible, died of pneumonia after being “prayed over” rather than cared for medically. As a result of Kent’s death, Mr. and Mrs Schaible were convicted of involuntary manslaughter and placed on probation for 10 years. They were required to get annual checkups and medical care for their children, seven of whom are now in foster care.

The Schaibles have recently been charged with third degree murder in connection with the death of a second child, eight-month old Brandon, under similar circumstances and again without medical treatment. Court of Common Pleas Judge, Benjamin Lerner, has ruled that a jury can infer legal malice, a required element of the crime, in connection with the second death based upon the parents’ pattern of conduct. A trial date has not been scheduled but, over defense objection, the Judge has ruled that the elements of the crime are present and the trail can proceed.

First Century Gospel Church Pastor, Nelson Clark, blames the deaths on a “spiritual lack” in the couple’s lives and faulted public officials for imposing a “flawed medical system” on his church’s members.

Let’s ask ourselves a few questions.

1. Should the religious views of the parents prevail over the well-being of the eight-month old child?

2. Does the eight-month old child have a right to medical care even if he is unable to assert it himself?

Now we get to the more difficult questions.

3. How do your answers to questions 1 and 2 square with your views on abortion?

Many elections are scheduled in the next 18 months during which battles will be fought over divisive and difficult questions.

2 Responses to “Tragic Deaths Raise Difficult Questions”

Susan Borden, August 12, 2013 at 8:49 am said:

Haven —

I am not sure that the issue raised by this article is as complicated as it sounds. The Schaible children — a two year old toddler and an 8 month old baby — were in the world and, if necessary, could have been cared for by responsible, unrelated adults taking ordinary measures to ensure the physical and mental health of each child. Segueing to the matter of abortion, my view is that the mother and her doctor should be left alone to decide the fate of any fetus that, for reasons of maturity or impairment, would require extraordinary interventions by others to keep it alive were it to enter the world.

Pastor Clark, on the other hand, should be drawn and quartered for his cruelty to parishioners.


Haven Pell, August 13, 2013 at 11:04 am said:

Thank you Susan, I find myself in agreement though perhaps not enjoying a warm feeling of consistency.


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