Faith healing trial set to begin in Oregon

Published: Sunday, January 10, 2010 at 8:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 10, 2010 at 8:41 p.m.

OREGON CITY, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon City couple is scheduled to go on trial next week for the death of their son, the latest chapter in faith healing deaths in Oregon.

The Oregonian reports Jeff and Marci Beagley have been charged with criminally negligent homicide for not providing medical treatment to their 16-year-old son, who died of an untreated urinary tract blockage in 2008.

The Beagleys are grandparents of Ava Worthington, whose 2008 death sparked a high-profile case of her parents. Raylene Worthington, who is the Beagleys' daughter, was acquitted. Her husband was convicted of criminal mistreatment.

The family is part of Followers of Christ Church, whose members shun medical care in favor of prayers.

Oregon law once allowed parents to avoid homicide charges if they relied solely on spiritual treatment of health issues, but lawmakers changed the rules in 1999 because of the church's long history of children dying from untreated medical conditions.

This trial is expected to cover some of the same issues — such as parental rights over child-protection laws — that were covered in Ava Worthington's case.

But Neil Beagley's age presents a new obstacle for prosecutors.

The laws state that children 15 and older are allowed to obtain medical treatment without parental permission.

Jurors will have to decide whether a teenager can make informed decisions about his or her health, even when they've never been to a doctor.

Attorneys for the Beagleys argued last month that Neil knew he could go to a doctor but decided against it.

"Oregon law gives him (Neil) the authority to have medical care or not," said attorney Mark Cogan, who represented Brent Worthington in Ava's case. "It's not for the government to decide. Neil was old enough to make his own decision, and he very clearly made his own choice."

Lead prosecutor Greg Horner and the Beagleys' attorneys declined to be interviewed.

Church members say that their lack of medical experience leaves them unaware of symptoms that may indicated a medical emergency.

An autopsy determined that Neil had a constriction where his bladder empties into his urethra, which signals a painful condition.

Dr. Cliff Nelson, Oregon deputy state medical examiner, said the condition may have been congenital and that Beagley had suffered repeated episodes of blockage and pain, probably throughout his life.

Nelson added the condition was treatable


Information from: The Oregonian,

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