Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts,
416 Mass. 114, 1993
- The defendants are practicing Christian Scientists and believe in healing by spiritual treatment. They failed to seek medical treatment during their son’s illness. And finally, their son died.
- Ds were charged with involuntary manslaughter.
- D argued that spiritual treatment provision in G.L. c. 273, 1 protected them from criminal liability for manslaughter.
- The trial court rejected the D’s claim.
- The case was then appealed.
- Parents have duty to seek medical attentions for a child’s illness. If they violate such duty due to their wantonness or recklessness, they shall be charged of involuntary manslaughter.
- The spiritual healing provision in G.L. c. 273 did not block a prosecution for manslaughter.
- Attorney General gave an opinion which may lead to a misunderstanding that parents who fail to provide medical services to children on the basis of religious beliefs are not subject to criminal prosecution in any circumstances. But no evidence shows that Ds were aware of such opinion. The Christian Science publication added the Attorney General’s opinion.
- The affirmative defense that D reasonably believed that they could rely on spiritual treatment without fear of criminal prosecution based on the Christian Science publication shall be presented to the jury as a matter of fact.