State Supreme Court: Parent's Liable For Faith Healing Death of Their Son
From the website Courthousenews.com:
The Oregon Supreme Court upheld the manslaughter convictions and prison sentences of a couple whose newborn baby died after they chose faith healing over medical treatment. The Followers of Christ church in Oregon City has a history of its members’ children dying from this.
The Oregon-based Followers of Christ Church has attracted controversy for its practices of faith healing and of shunning members who violate church doctrine, including those who seek medical care. According to authorities in Oregon and other places where church members are found, numerous children have suffered premature deaths from treatable causes due to their parents’ refusal to seek medical care; a former Oregon state medical examiner claims the infant mortality rate within the Followers of Christ community is 26 times that of the general population.
This particular case involves Dale and Shannon Hickman. In 2009, their premature son David died nine hours after being born. David died of staphylococcus pneumonia within nine hours of his birth, as determined by the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s office. If the Hickmans had called emergency services as soon as their son was born, one state doctor estimated that he “would have had a 99 percent chance of survival.”
In 2011, the court sentenced Dale and Shannon to six years in prison. Attorneys for the couple argued that it was incumbent on the state to prove that the parents acted “knowingly” that withholding medical treatment for their son would result in death. The trial court disagreed with that assessment, an appellate court upheld the judgement, and just a few days ago, the state’s supreme court codified the ruling. The charges of second-degree manslaughter are upheld. From Judge Virginia Linder’s written decision:
“We granted review to consider whether the state must prove that a criminal defendant acted with “knowledge” that an unlawful result would follow when that defendant’s conduct was motivated by a sincerely held religious belief … We conclude that it does not.”
While the news from this case focuses more on the legal maze a conviction such as this must wind through before it is upheld (or rejected), the canvas on which this entire sad portrait is painted bleeds through from beginning to end. Specifically, it is a dangerous thing to believe in nonsense such as faith healing. Many people pay an emotional price, some people pay a financial price, and unfortunately, there are people who pay the ultimate price with their own life, or the lives of their loved ones. The freedom of religion has its limits, such as the welfare of children, which supersedes such “freedoms”.
The only possible silver lining is that perhaps this precedent will make the members of the Followers of Christ in Oregon City rethink their positions when it comes to neglecting the lives of their children.