House Approves Bill Targeting Faith Healers 3-10-2011
Oregon's House of Representatives has passed a bill that would remove legal protections for parents who rely on faith healing to care for their sick children. The move comes in the wake of several high-profile cases involving the Followers of Christ Church in Oregon City. Members of the church rely on prayer and anointing the sick with oil instead of traditional medical care. Most recently, the state took temporary custody of an infant girl suffering from a serious eye condition. Officials said the daughter of Timothy and Rebecca Wyland had developed a huge mass covering her eye and was at the risk of going blind. The baby recovered and the state has since allowed the girl to return home. Other cases, however, ended in death. Neal Beagley, 16, died of bladder complications in 2008. After his death, a medical examiner ruled that he could have lived if his family had taken him to a doctor. Beagley's parents were eventually convicted of criminally negligent homicide. That same year, 15-month-old Ava Worthington died of pneumonia and a blood infection, according to an autopsy. Her parents, who said they never called a doctor because they didn't believe doctors could help, were found not guilty of manslaughter. The bill passed on Thursday is sponsored by Democratic Rep. Carolyn Tomei. It would stop parents from using faith healing as a defense in murder cases. "When you visit the graveyard and see all those children's names, it's time to say enough is enough," Tomei said. The measure was approved on a 59-0 vote. It now goes to the state Senate for approval.