Original Publication
Open Access

Starchild Cherrix: Negotiating about Religious Beliefs and Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Published: December 9, 2009 | 10.15766/mep_2374-8265.3164

Included in this publication:

  • Facilitator's Guide.doc
  • Starchild Quiz Question Answer.doc
  • Starchild Quiz Questions.doc
  • Starchild CAM Case Study.doc

To view all publication components, extract (i.e., unzip) them from the downloaded .zip file.

Editor's Note: This publication predates our implementation of the Educational Summary Report in 2016 and thus displays a different format than newer publications.


Introduction: This case-based resource uses the real-life story Abraham Starchild Cherrix, a teenager from Virginia. The case was full of teachable moments, including lessons about the right to refuse treatment, the rights of teens and their parents, the role of religious belief in medical decision-making, and the use of complementary and alternative medicine. As the patient and his parents were taken to court by the hospital, there are also valuable legal lessons in the case. Almost nothing in the case ended up as his doctors expected, showing the educational value of presenting and discussing his case. Methods: The facilitator's guide provides a description of the case, the questions it raises, the lessons it teaches, and discloses its outcome. Results: This case has been piloted in a third-year course called Professionalism and Clinical Ethics. The course director and students found the case thought provoking, stimulating, and informative. Discussion: Facilitators may learn that today's medical students, and even residents, are more open to complementary and alternative medicine, including prayer, than was their own generation. Therefore, it helps for instructors to keep their own language very open-minded or neutral in order to encourage the students to voice what they think.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this case, learners will be able to:

  1. Clarify the mature minor doctrine.
  2. Understand the range of patient's religious beliefs and how doctors should manage them.
  3. Appreciate a patient's use of complementary and alternative medicine.

Author Information

  • Jeffrey Spike, PhD: University of Texas Medical School at Houston
  • Joe Rousso, MD: New York Eye & Ear Infirmary: Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery

None to report.

None to report.


Spike J, Rousso J. Starchild Cherrix: negotiating about religious beliefs and complementary and alternative medicine. MedEdPORTAL. 2009;5:3164. https://doi.org/10.15766/mep_2374-8265.3164