Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Death of Children After Prayer Alone Raises Homicide Prosecution Issues

Should parents who elect faith healing rather than traditional medical treatment for a child be criminally responsible if the child dies? That is the question posed in two recent cases. In Clackamas County, Oregon, parents Carl and Raylene Worthington have been indicted by a grand jury in the death of their 15-month old daughter last March. She suffered from bronchial pneumonia and a blood infection, both of which could have responded to antibiotics. Her parents, members of the Followers of Christ church, yesterday plead not guilty to charges of manslaughter and criminal mistreatment. Their religious beliefs prevented them from seeking out traditional medical care for their daughter. In 1999 Oregon changed its law, repealing the former religious exemptions from child abuse and homicide statutes. Yesterday's Oregonian and today's London Guardian report on the case.

Meanwhile Marathon County, Wisconsin, District Attorney Jill Falstad is deciding whether to file criminal charges against the parents of 11-year old Madeline Neumann who died from a diabetic reaction. Yesterday's Green Bay Press Gazette reports that her parents, Leilani and Dale Neumann, prayed for her recovery from a diabetic reaction rather than getting her medical help. Prosecution may be difficult because Wisconsin law specifically exempts from punishment parents who treat their children "through prayer alone in lieu of medical or surgical treatment." [Thanks to Rev. Jeanene Hammers for the lead to part of this posting.]