Dale and Shannon Hickman, a couple from Clackamas, Oregon, will be spending the next 6 years in prison for neglecting to seek medical attention to their dying newborn. Originally convicted for second-degree manslaughter for the death of their son, David, back in 2009, the couple appealed the court’s decision, but the State Supreme Court denied their plea.
Shannon gave birth to David at home, two months before his due date, and as is the case with most premature infants, he was born with severe complications. The baby was born with underdeveloped lungs as well as a bacterial infection. The couple testified that they noticed the baby was taking short breaths, was minimally responsive, and even began to turn blue. Instead of calling 911, the couple decided to anoint the baby’s head with oil and pray for him to get better.
Just 9 short hours after David was born, he died from staphylococcus pneumonia, a condition that is 99% treatable if medical help is received. Mr Hickman said he didn’t call 911 because he was praying. The couple never considered taking the baby to the hospital, because it is against their religious beliefs as members of the controversial faith-healing Followers of Christ Church. “I think it’s God’s will whatever happens,” the mother testified.
Five other members of the Clackamas, Oregon, Followers of Christ Church have been convicted for rejecting medical care for their children in favor of praying and anointing them with oil, the Daily Mail reports. The Followers of Christ Church has a history of rejecting medical care for children and relying on as prayer and anointing the sick with oils. Two other parents from the church were convicted earlier this year for failing to seek medical care for their infant daughter, who had a growth in one eye that almost left her blind, and were sentenced to three months in jail.
On Monday, Prosecutor Mike Regan said a message needed to be sent to the church that child abuse for any motive is still child abuse. In response to deaths among Followers of Christ members, state lawmakers removed the religious defenses from criminal laws this year. This is a change that will allow prosecutors to seek stiffer manslaughter or murder charges in faith-healing cases.