A 16 year-old Oregon boy named Neil Beagley is dead from complications of a treatable urinary tract blockage because he refused to seek medical treatment for the disease. Beagley, a member of Oregon's Followers of Christ church, instead opted to rely on faith-healing to fix the problem. It did not, leaving him to an excruciating death due to organ failures. A simple catheter would have saved his life.
Beagley's parents don't face charges in this particular case because Oregon laws allow children 14 and older to refuse medical treatment for themselves. Now, I believe in the right of adults to refuse medical treatment or even elect to be euthanized if their afflictions are untreatable, but let's think this through a little bit. A 14 year-old kid can't drink, smoke, drive, vote, drop out of school, or legally have sex - If they can't be trusted in these matters, why should they be trusted in matters of their own life and death? The Supreme Court has found that minors do not have the full set of rights as an adult - For example, in the 2007 Morse vs. Frederick case, the Court found that minors do not necessarily enjoy full freedom of speech rights in certain situations. Thus, one may rationally conclude that if minors do not necessarily have a full compliment of rights, it is logical to withhold above all the right to refuse medical treatment. While there is apparently no legitimate way to prosecute Beagley's parents because of Oregon laws, this case should be sufficient cause for the Oregonian legislature to reconsider whether or not children can be trusted to act in their own rational self interest with regards to matters of their own mortality.
Oregon has done quite a bit over the past few years to destroy legal shields by which parents who kill their kids by refusing them treatment for religious or other reason can avoid prosecution. Interestingly, the case Beagley's own cousin, 15-month old Ava Worthington, who died in March from from untreated pneumonia was the first case to be prosecuted under this new set of laws. Worthington's parents intend to use a religious freedom defense in the case, but Oregon laws will make that a tough sell.
For those of you keeping score, the government generally contends that it has a pertinent interest in stopping parents from condemning their children to agonizingly painful deaths due to willful negligence. Religious convictions are not a trump card to parental responsibilities (and homicide laws), no matter how you try and dress them up. To my way of thinking, refusing a child medical treatment in favor of prayer is child abuse on the scale of intentionally starving a child to death.