Premature Baby Dies After Parents Refuse To Seek Medical Help Due To Their Religious Beliefs

When it comes to the health of a newborn baby, especially one that’s born premature, there should be no hesitation to allow medical professionals to do their job. A couple from Oregon City, OR, however, had a different mindset when it came to one of their two premature twin girls.

Twenty-four-year-old Sarah Mitchell and her husband, Travis, 21, were sentenced to six years in prison for refusing medical treatment for their twin baby, resulting in the infant’s death. The twins, Ginnifer and Evelyn, were born seven weeks before their expected delivery date in front of 60 onlookers and members of the Followers of Christ Church. 

Followers of Christ Church is known for practicing faith healing and is strictly against accepting medical care and modern medicine, so when one of the twins, Ginnifer, started to show difficulty breathing, their first thought wasn’t to rush to the hospital.

Instead, Mitchell’s family members and fellow churchgoers “laid hands” on the struggling baby while Travis anointed her with oils. Even as Ginnifer started to lose color, no call to 911 was made. Instead, they turned to prayer.

Four hours after her birth, baby Ginnifer died from acute respiratory distress. According to Travis, in a statement to investigators, “I knew she was dead when she didn’t cry out anymore.” 

The death was reported to Clackamas County Deputy Medical Examiner Eric Tonsfeldt, who, when he arrived on the scene, was met with a congregation of people unwilling to look at him directly. He described their answers about the baby’s delivery as “stilted and forced.” 

When he advised the family that Ginnifer’s sister, Evelyn, was also at risk and should be hospitalized, Sarah’s father, Walter White, simply said “Thank you for your input.” It wasn’t until after law enforcement was called that Evelyn was taken to the hospital and given oxygen. She, too, was showing signs of respiratory distress, but was stabilized.

According to KGW, while Evelyn was released to foster parents, Sarah and Travis were held at Clackamas County Jail without bail. During their arraignment on Tuesday, the two plead guilty and were sentenced to more than six years in prison.

In a statement signed by both as part of their plea deal, Sarah and Travis admitted that they “should have sought adequate medical care for our children and everyone in the church should always seek adequate medical care for our children.”

According to the prosecutors overseeing the case, the couple was known to provide regular veterinary care for their pet cat and dog.

Faith-based healing, and specifically the Followers of Christ Church, have been directly linked to the deaths of four children over the past nine years. The latest occurred in 2011 and involved Sarah Mitchell’s sister and brother-in-law, Shannon and Dale Hickman. The pair were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to six years for the death of their newborn son, David.

According to former Followers of Christ Church member, Myrna Cunningham, the Oregon-based church has its “own graveyard, and it’s just full of children.”

H/T: Buzzfeed, KGW, Washington Post