Faith healing parents arraigned on charges they failed to help sick newborn who died

The Oregonian/June 11, 2024

By Dave Killen

An Oregon City couple whose baby suffered from jaundice and later died were arraigned Monday in Clackamas County Circuit Court on charges that they withheld basic medical care from the boy.

Blair Edwards , 35, and Taylor Edwards, 30, are accused of first- and second-degree criminal mistreatment in the death of their son, Hayden, a year ago.

The parents belong to the insular Followers of Christ sect, an Oregon City-based church that eschews medical care. They are the latest members of the church to face prosecution for failing to seek medical intervention for an ailing child.

The couple did not speak during the brief hearing before Circuit Judge Ann Lininger. The two stood beside their lawyers, their hands clasped in front of them. Their attorneys acknowledged the charges but did not enter a plea.

Taylor Edwards delivered the baby at home on June 24, according to Clackamas County Circuit Court records.

Two days later, the baby stopped eating; friends and family prayed over the child, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Bryan Brock’s summary in court records.

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 when he was 2 days old. A cause of death was not determined, but the investigation found the boy “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, which can lead to seizures and death, the site notes.

The couple told authorities they could think of no circumstance when they would seek medical treatment for their child, according to court records.

Hayden was the couple’s fourth child delivered at home, records note.

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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