This happened in July, so it’s a bit old, but I keep track of these things and had missed the incident described in the article below (from The Oregonian). It’s just one more instance in a long string of children killed because of their parents’ beliefs—beliefs that the children could not possibly have understood or rationally embraced. (Click on screenshot.)
The parents, Sarah and Travis Mitchell, are members of a notorious religious sect, the Followers of Christ, that embraces faith healing instead of Western medicine. Sarah gave birth to twins in 2017, but one of them was in bad shape, and rather than seek medical attention, the parents prayed. That baby died. Help was called for the other baby, who was also having difficulties, after the parents called law enforcement and were “persuaded” to seek medical attention. As the paper reports:
The couple’s newborn, Ginnifer, died March 5, 2017, from complications of premature birth. Her lungs appeared to be “airless” and she suffered from acute respiratory distress syndrome, the state medical examiner found.
The Mitchells’ baby died in the master bedroom at the Oregon City home of Sarah Mitchell’s parents. It was the same place where Sarah Mitchell’s older sister Shannon Hickman delivered a premature baby boy who died eight hours after birth in September 2009.
. . . The first of the twins, Evylen, was born in a breech position — bottom first, a significant potential complication — at 2:30 p.m., weighing only 3 pounds, 8 ounces, nearly two months premature. Twenty-three minutes later, Ginnifer was born at 2:53 p.m., weighing only 3 pounds, 6 ounces.
Breathing problems persisted for both newborns but no one called 911 or took the girls to a hospital.
At 4:36 p.m., a relative texted others, asking, “R u guys hearing that the second baby is dark and they r wanting prayers?” according to investigators.
Over four hours, Ginnifer fought for her life, trying to take oxygen into her underdeveloped lungs. At 6:05 pm., Travis Mitchell “laid on hands” and the family took turns praying for healing as the baby continued labored breathing and changed colors.
Ginnifer died at 7 p.m. that day. “I knew she was dead when she didn’t cry out anymore,” her father said, according to court documents.
Sarah’s sister, as noted above, also delivered a stricken baby that wasn’t saved after prayer, but could have been with evidence-based medicine. Shannon Hickman and her husband were convicted of murder and sent to prison for manslaughter, each getting a six-year term. That should have been a lesson for Sarah.
In this case, Sarah and Travis Mitchell were charged with murder but accepted a plea bargain, pleading guilty to criminally negligent homicide and first-degree criminal mistreatment. They also signed a statement, to be posted in the church, saying that they should have sought medical treatment.
The jail sentences seem a bit light to me, not on the grounds of retribution—which I don’t believe in—but on the grounds of deterrence. Members of this church have repeatedly killed their children by praying instead of seeking medical attention, and it’s time that it stops. The only way to do that, I think, is to give stiff sentences and permanently remove the children from the home, or from the homes of relatives who embrace the same faith in prayer.
So we have yet another death that wouldn’t have occurred without religion, another child who won’t grow up. Those who like religion in general will say that this must be balanced against all the lives saved by religion, but a religion that lets its sick children die by prayer—children too young to decide for themselves—cannot be allowed to practice its faith. Yes, they can have their church services and the like, but it should be made very clear that the decision to get medical care is Caesar’s, not God’s.
And that lesson needs to be learned by the far more numerous Christian Scientists (many of whom still see doctors on the sly) and by Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose children regularly die because their religion rejects blood transfusions. Here’s a JW pamphlet from 1994 celebrating those dead children. Every child shown on the cover died after rejecting a transfusion. This is one of the most vivid examples of religious indoctrination (and harm) that I know of: