Friday 23 March 2018

Guilty of killing: Couple who prayed over their sick child rather than get a doctor

Dale and Shannon Hickman arrive at Clackamas County Courthouse in Oregon City on Wednesday. Photo: AP
Dale and Shannon Hickman arrive at Clackamas County Courthouse in Oregon City on Wednesday. Photo: AP


AN AMERICAN couple who prayed and rubbed olive oil on their sick newborn baby rather than get medical attention for him, have been convicted of manslaughter.

Dale and Shannon Hickman, both 26, are the latest members of the controversial Followers of Christ Church to be blamed for their child’s death.

The Church has a history of rejecting medical care for their children and relying instead on techniques such as prayer and anointing the sick with oils.

The young couple were convicted of second-degree manslaughter charges which typically require a mandatory minimum sentence of six years in prison.

But because of a religious exemption in state law at time of the crime, the couple likely will face no more than 18 months in prison and a $US250,000 (€185,000) fine, The Oregonian reported.

The court in Clackamas, Oregon heard that Shannon Hickman received no pre-natal care when she became pregnant with her son David.

He was born two months prematurely at his grandmother’s home and died nine hours later. He was born with a bacterial infection and underdeveloped lungs.

Medical experts testified that the baby had a 99 per cent chance of survival if his parents had sought medical care. But prosecutors claimed the couple never considered taking the baby to the hospital.

Defence lawyer Mark Cogan said his clients were the victims of religious persecution. He argued that the baby died quickly and said there was no evidence that medical care would have saved him.

Dale Hickman testified that he didn't call an ambulance once he realised his infant son was ailing "because I was praying".

Shannon Hickman said that as a woman in the church, she must defer to her husband.

"That's not my decision anyway," she testified. "I think it's God's will whatever happens."

Five other church members have been convicted in Clackamas County for crimes related to the rejection of medical care for their children, said Greg Horner, chief deputy district attorney.

Two other parents from the Followers of Christ church were convicted earlier this year for failing to seek medical care for their infant daughter, who had a growth that could have left her blind in one eye. They were sentenced to 90 days in jail.

Clackamas County Circuit Court Judge Robert Herndon allowed the couple to remain free until they are sentenced October 31.

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