Seth M. Asser, MD


San Diego, California, USA

“As a pediatrician who has spent most of my career caring for
criitically ill infants and children, I’m here today to tell you about some folks who, in the name of their religion,
allow their children to die without the benefit of modern medical care and about government policies
and laws that lead to failure to provide these children with the equal protection of the law.”

Seth M. Asser, MD, is a pediatrician who has been a leading voice for the rights of children to receive science-based medicine when facing life-threatening illness.

In 1998, Dr Asser and Rita Swan published a benchmark study in Pediatrics of their investigation of 172 child deaths where medical care was withheld on religious grounds in the two decades after states began exempting faith healing. Their study showed that 140 of these children would have had at least a 90% likelihood of survival had they received routine medical care.

Dr Asser obtained his medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, and completed his residence in pediatrics at the University of California Medical Center, San Diego.

Selected Publications:

  • “Child fatalities from religion-motivated medical neglect” (with R Swan), Pediatrics, 1998 Apr; 101(4):625-9. [abstract]

In the News:

  • “What more in the name of god?: Theologies and theodicies of faith healing,” by Courtney S. Campbell, Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, 2010 Mar, 20(1):1-25. [DOI] [abstract]
  • Child deaths test faith-healing exemption,” by William McCall, Associated Press, 2008 Nov 22. “What struck me was the fact that it was obvious from the expressions on the headstones that the children were loved,” Asser said, “so it was especially troublesome they were not afforded the care that most parents would give their children.”
  • “Religion and medical neglect,” by Sara Sinal, Elaine Cabinum-Foeller, Rebecca Socolar, Southern Medical Journal, 2008 Jul, 101(7):703-706. [abstract]
  • A child’s death and a crisis for faith,” by Suzanne Sataline, The Wall Street Journal, 2008 Jun 12.
  • Some 2005 state legislation: Maine,” Children’s Healthcare is a Legal Duty, 2005, No. 5.
  • Bill would make it illegal to withhold medical treatment from children,” Press Release, State of Rhode Island General Assembly, 2004 Mar 30.
  • “Bush’s initiative could help groups that promote faith healing,” by Fred Charatan, British Medical Journal, 2001 Mar 3; 322:512. [excerpt]
  • “On statutes depriving a class of children of rights to medical care: Can this discrimination be litigated?” by Rita Swan, Quinnipiac Health Law Journal, 1998; 2(1):73-95. [excerpt]

Selected Presentations:

The Amazing Meeting 3, Las Vegas, 2005 Jan 16.