cover image Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine

Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine

Paul A. Offit. Basic, $27.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-465-08296-4

Where does one draw the line between the needs of the immortal spirit and the health of the mortal flesh? A pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Offit (Deadly Choices), uses research and interviews to examine cases of faith-driven medical negligence. Recounting cases of individual endangerment as well as instances of religious sectarian beliefs that had fatal outcomes, Offit is unflinching in his examination of the lethal costs of belief taken to irrational extremes. The examples also help readers understand how people come to make decisions that endanger others, risking epidemics and legal consequences, as a result of isolation and zealotry. Yet religion itself is not the target of the author’s concern; the book also chronicles examples of reason and compassion involving believers and clergy. Faith as a foundation of ethics and community is not at fault—the surrender to cultish superstition is. As one of the book’s subjects, a former Christian Scientist turned medical advocate, said after decades of coping with the preventable death of her son, “Religion has to serve the good of humanity.” Agent: Gail Ross, Ross Yoon Agency. (Mar.)