Oregon City faith-healing parents accused of failing to care for newborn who died

The Oregonian/April 30, 2024

By Noelle Crombie

The Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office this week accused an Oregon City couple of failing to arrange medical care for their newborn who suffered from jaundice and later died.

Court records show Blair and Taylor Edwards face first- and second-degree criminal mistreatment charges stemming from the death of their child, Hayden, last June. Blair Edwards is 35; Taylor Edwards is 30.

The parents are the latest members of the Oregon City-based sect, Followers of Christ, to face criminal charges for allegations related to a failure to care for a sick child.

The child was delivered at home on June 24, according to Clackamas County Circuit Court records filed Monday by prosecutors.

Two days later, the baby stopped eating, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Bryan Brock’s summary in court records. Friends and relatives arrived to “pray and anoint the sick baby,” he wrote.

The adults noted at the time that the baby appeared unhealthy and his “lips were turning blue.” By mid-afternoon, the child stopped breathing temporarily.

The parents, “despite the baby’s condition and [the baby] not eating for 7 hours, failed to seek any medical treatment for their son,” Brock wrote.

The child died at 3:05 p.m. on June 26. A cause of death was not determined, but the investigation found the child “was severely jaundiced, including a yellowing of the skin and other organs,” the record states.

Jaundice is caused by bilirubin, which can build up in a newborn’s blood and tissues, according to the Cedars-Sinai medical center’s website. It makes a baby’s skin and eyes turn yellow and can appear any time after birth, the website says.

Early identification and treatment are key to limiting bilirubin levels from spiking to dangerous levels, the site notes.

The Followers of Christ religious sect eschews medical care.

“When asked under what circumstances they would seek medical treatment for Hayden, [Blair and Taylor Edwards’] answers indicated that they never would and did not think they needed to here,” Brock wrote in records filed with the court.

Hayden was the fourth child Taylor Edwards delivered at home, records note. She is pregnant and due in June or July.

“Medical experts indicate that Hayden’s condition may have been caused by a hereditary condition and are concerned that the next child born may also have this condition, which they say is likely treatable with adequate medical care,” Brock wrote.

The couple is scheduled to be arraigned May 8 in Clackamas County Circuit Court.

Child deaths have plagued Followers of Christ members for decades.

The sect believes in a literal translation of the Bible, which states that the sick shall be anointed by elders and that faith will heal all. Death, if it comes, is God’s will, they believe.

Prompted by the church’s long history of child deaths, the Oregon Legislature in 2011 removed spiritual treatment as a defense for all homicide charges.

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