Supreme Court hears case of Lansing parents fighting for their children


A decision based on religion has made it’s way to the Michigan Supreme Court this morning.

“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,” Attorney for the Department of Health and Human Services Kahla Crino said.

Joshua and Rachel Piland were charged with involuntary manslaughter for refusing medical treatment to their newborn daughter who was suffering from jaundice. The couple believed God would heal her. 

“Ultimately, because of that decision to do absolutely nothing, the child died,” Crino said.

The Piland’s are fighting for parental rights of their three children after refusing that same medical treatment to a newborn in 2018. This morning, justices debated the definition of neglect.

“We all make choices and at what point does the refusal in it of itself become negligent?” Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard H. Bernstein said.

In Michigan, parent’s can refuse to provide specific medical treatment to their child based on religious beliefs. 

“That is not considered negligent treatment under our under our juvenile code, child protective code,” Attorney for the Respondent parentsVivek Sankaran said.

Some states have exceptions to the law.
“California has an exception to the exemption where there’s serious physical harm or illness possible to a child. Oklahoma has an exception when there’s permanent physical that could occur to the child.”

Since Michigan does not, it’s now up to the Supreme Court to decide if the jury should be instructed to make a decision based on the way the law is written, and if necessary, prove a distinction between the terms “neglects” and “refuses.”

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