This case has been controversial from day one. It has brought on all sorts of arguments, from issues of religious freedom, to parenting rights, medical neglect, and child abuse. And what’s interesting is that all sides have made some valid points. But what remains an indisputable fact, regardless of anyone’s perspectives and beliefs, is that one baby is dead, and two parents are now required to answer for their choices in the Supreme Court.
It all started last year, when a baby was born…
Joshua and Rachel Piland’s baby daughter was born last year, in early 2018, with jaundice. The couple refused medical treatment for their daughter, citing their religious beliefs, and the baby died as a result. At the time, CPS investigated the family and took their remaining three children into custody. But Rachel Piland became pregnant shortly after their daughter died, and the cycle started all over again.
The second baby was born this year, also with jaundice…
Verity Piland was born with jaundice, just like her deceased sister from last year. And just like last year, her parents refused any medical assistance for her, preferring to wait until God healed her. However this time, after arguing with the family about Verity’s need for life-saving medical intervention, CPS seized the baby. Medical staff were given permission by the state to provide her with whatever she needed to survive, which in this case was blood transfusions.
According to DHHS, the parents were negligent.
Standing before the Michigan Supreme Court Justices, Attorney for the Department of Health and Human Services Kahla Crino what had happened a year ago with the first baby. “The evidence will show that they watched her suffer, they watched her skin turn yellow, that they watched her eyes turn orange, that they watched her slip and they did absolutely nothing. Ultimately, because of that decision to do absolutely nothing, the child died.” And that, she claims, is why CPS stepped in and took this baby, and why they won’t give back the couple’s other three kids.
It’s a difficult decision because Michigan law isn’t clear.
After hearing from the Piland’s attorney, and from DHHS, the Justices have to debate the meaning of neglect. Under Michigan law, parent’s can refuse to provide specific medical treatment to their child based on religious beliefs, and it wouldn’t be considered negligent treatment. And while many states have exceptions to that rule when the choice causes severe harm to a child, or costs a child their life, Michigan doesn’t. “We all make choices, and at what point does the refusal in it of itself become negligent?” asked Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard H. Bernstein.
It’s a good question, and we’ll be waiting to hear exactly what conclusion they come to…