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Boy Dies After Choosing Prayer Over Medicine

June 19, 2008 05:07 PM
by Rachel Balik
A 16-year-old boy in Oregon died of a treatable urinary tract condition after he refused medical help, believing prayer would heal his illness.

30-Second Summary

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Medical examiner Dr. Clifford Nelson called the death of 16-year-old Neil Beagley on June 17 “an absolute waste of a young life.” He said that the boy died of a simple urinary tract condition that could have been treated easily with a catheter. Without treatment, the boy was unable to urinate for a week. He suffered stomach pains and shortness of breath until the toxins in his blood caused heart failure.

Beagley and his family are members of the Oregon City Followers of Christ Church and believe that prayer, not medical treatment, is the best way to cure illness. Beagley’s niece, 15-month-old Ava Worthington, died in March of an untreated bronchial infection, and her parents have been charged with manslaughter. However, Oregon law states that children over the age of 14 can make their own decisions about treatment, so Beagley’s parents will not face charges. “All of the interviews from last night are that he did in fact refuse treatment," police Sgt. Lynne Benton said.

However, Ava Worthington was not old enough to legally request or refuse treatment, and her parents will be tried in January. Their defense lawyer says that their Constitutional right to religious freedom has been violated and that “they’ve been called upon by God to face this challenge.” They have set up a Web site to help present their case to the public and raise money for their cause.

A former Follower of Christ Church member says that the whole group is a cult, but defends the Worthingtons. She says Ava’s parents “are victims too, victims of the church, and they were just following their beliefs that they’ve been taught since they were born.”

Headline Link: ‘Teen From Faith-Healing Family Refuses Treatment, Dies’

Background: Children Dying in Faith-Healing Families

Reaction: Victims of Their Own Beliefs

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