When faith kills: part 2, Ava Worthington, Oregon

A manslaughter indictment in Oregon shows that slow progress is being made.

Yesterday I wrote about the tragic death of Kara Neumann, aged 11, in Weston, Wisconsin on Easter Sunday.  Her parents had not taken her to see a doctor since the age of 3, because the bible told them that God will heal the sick if you pray.  She died, not from evil spirits as her parents believed, but from diabetes, a treatable condition if it is diagnosed.  Contrary to her parents’ expectations even as her corpse lay on a hospital bed, she was not resurrected by the power of prayer.  Because of “faith healing” exceptions to Wisconsin’s child abuse and neglect statutes, Kara’s parents cannot be charged with those crimes, so the state has taken the only other course open to them: they have been charged with second degree murder, a charge which is unlikely to stick.  By the way, this happened on Easter Sunday 2008, not 1808.  Those shocking exceptions, which explicitly place children in danger from ignorant and foolish parents, are still on the statute book in Wisconsin, and similar exceptions exist in most other states of the union.

I am astounded to find that the case of Kara Neumann is not an isolated one.  Three weeks to the day before Kara died, 15-month-old Ava Worthington, of Oregon City, Oregon, died of bronchial pneumonia and a blood infection, all curable, because instead of consulting a doctor her parents prayed.  There is a difference, however.  In 1998 11-year-old Bo Philips in Oregon died from diabetes, the same condition that killed Kara, while his parents prayed over him.  The Oregon state medical examiner said this was the third such case in a year in the same religious community.   A local newspaper investigated the community and found some 78 cases of deaths of children, going back to the 1950s.  The state medical examiner determined that some 25 had died because their parents had chosen prayer instead of medicine.  The state did not prosecute because of “faith healing” exemptions like the ones still existing in Oregon.

In 1999 the Oregon state legislature closed those loopholes pertaining to the charges of murder, manslaughter and child abuse after the 20/20 documentary series gave the scandal national exposure.  So now Ava Worthington’s parents have been charged with manslaughter and there is a realistic chance that the trial, set for January, 2009, will secure a conviction.

Progress is being made, but it seems the cost of that progress is the deaths of children due to religiously-motivated neglect and abuse.

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2 Responses

  1. These events are tragic. Those parents are fools. For children to die when their conditions were treatable is wrong.
    There is another shame in all of this, though. The parents claimed to be some kind of christian-type people. But their action (or lack thereof) is not according to the Bible. Yes, faith is a part of a true Christian’s life. But it is
    God that allowed medical advancements and technologies that these kids needed. God answered their prayers….there was help available. This reminds me of the guy at his house during a flood. Two boats and a helicopter tried to save him from the rising waters, but he refused, citing that God would save him. The man drowned and when he got to heaven, he asked God why He didn’t save him. God replied, “I sent 2 boats and a helicopter. Why didn’t you get on?”
    God does answer prayer….but He also gave us brains and the ability to use them. So let’s do it.
    Thank you.

  2. Re the Worthington case – how did felony manslaughter get reduced to the mother’s acquittal and the father’s misdeamenor charge with 60 days jaul and 5 years probation. It appears as if the 1999 law by the Oregon legislature did nothing to further the protection of children. It also appears that the jury believed the paternal grandmother over the medical examiner, the autopsy report and autopsy pictures. Were there “faither healers” on the jury? Were there those that believe in the “laying on of hands” on the jury, or is just ignorance in those types of communities that seem to be more prelevant in states like Oregon and Utah? This jury clearly did not follow the laws the legislature put in place in 1999. How did this happen? This is very upsetting and I fail to find a “reasonable reason”, if there is such a thing, to why grown adults would stand around and watch a helpless fifteen-month ol baby gasp for air and then die? I believe, but of course cannot prove, that the paternal grandmother was not entirely truthful, which was evident by her body language, her facial expressions and movements with her hands to her face when she answered questions about Ava’s appearance on her last day of life. A child cannot go from “strong and chubby” to emaciated with ribs showing and obstructed airways, in just a few hours. Please address this , as there are many more of us out here. Thanks

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