OREGON CITY, Ore. - A couple whose church preaches against medical care are facing criminal charges after their young daughter died of an infection that authorities said went untreated.
Carl and Raylene Worthington were indicted Friday on charges of manslaughter and criminal mistreatment in the death of their 15-month-old daughter Ava. They belong to the Followers of Christ Church, whose members have a history of treating gravely ill children only with prayer.
Ava died March 2 of bronchial pneumonia and a blood infection. The state medical examiner’s office has said she could have been treated with antibiotics.
Dr. Christopher Young, a deputy state medical examiner, said the child’s breathing was further hampered by a benign cyst on her neck that had never been medically addressed, The Oregonian reported.
Laws passed in the 1990s struck down legal shields for faith-healing parents after the deaths of several children whose parents were members of the fundamentalist church.
Since those laws took effect in 1999, “We haven’t seen any cases of significant medical neglect ... until now,” said child abuse Detective Jeff Green of the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.
The Worthingtons could face more than six years if convicted on the manslaughter charges and up to a year on the mistreatment charges, said Greg Horner, chief deputy district attorney. They were released on $250,000 bail, he said.
Horner said he didn’t know whether the couple had lawyers to speak for them. A number listed for the couple was disconnected. A man who answered the phone at the church Monday would not identify himself and said: “We’ve been told ’No comment.”’
The Worthingtons also lost a baby boy in 2001, but an investigation was closed after family members told police the child was stillborn. Several other Followers of Christ children have also been stillborn or died during home births in recent years, and none of the deaths resulted in criminal charges, authorities have said.