Toddler’s death not the first for Oregon faith healing church

An Oregon City couple faces manslaughter charges in the death of their 15-month-old daughter after the state medical examiner concluded she could have been saved with simple antibiotics.

Carl and Raylene Worthingon are members of the “Followers of Christ Church” in Oregon City. It’s a church with a long history of child deaths, a history that led lawmakers to eliminate legal protections for parents who practice to faith healing.

The couple now faces manslaughter charges after a grand jury concluded that the faith healing couple’s refusal to get medical treatment for their sick toddler caused the child’s death.

15-month-old Ava Worthington died at her Oregon City home on March 2nd of pneumonia and a blood infection.

Until this month, it had been many years since the “Followers of Christ Church” had lost a child to sickness. Sunday, parishioners declined to discuss their faith healing practices and religious beliefs with KGW.

Ten years ago, several children from the same church died from untreated medical conditions like diabetes.

Here’s what the medical examiner told KGW reporter Pat Doris back in 1998: “It’s an awful way to die, little Bo Phillips is not the only one. We’ve had 3 cases in the past 9 months out here. Some have been lingering, horrible, painful deaths, all of them unnecessary deaths”, said Larry Lewman, a former state medical examiner.

Clackamas County prosecutors never did charge those parents because state law allowed religious exemptions from state child abuse and homicide laws.

The controversy led Oregon senator Peter Courtney and others to get rid of those religious exemptions.

Carl and Raylene Worthingon are the first to be charged under the new state laws since they were passed 9 years ago.

The couple turned themselves in to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s office after a grand jury indicted them on Friday.

They were released early Saturday and are scheduled to appear in court Monday. Detectives said that, before the new laws, “Followers of Christ” members who got into traffic accidents would take injured children home rather than to the hospital.

However, they also said most church members changed those practices the day the law changed 9 years ago.

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