Parents in Followers of Christ case made ‘a horrible choice,’ physician testifies

Dale and Shannon Hickman made “a horrible choice” for their child when they decided to go to a relative’s house for the premature birth instead of immediately heading to a hospital, a pediatrician testified Friday at the couple’s manslaughter trial.

Steve Mayes reports in The Oregonian

The Hickmans’ son, David, was born two months prematurely and lived less than nine hours.

If the Hickmans had sought medical help in the first few hours of David’s life, the baby had about a 90 percent chance of survival, said Dr. Dan Leonhardt, a pediatrician and child abuse expert at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center. “In this case, a 9-1-1 call is all it would have taken,” Leonhardt said under questioning from prosecutor Mike Regan.

Leonhardt, who reviewed medical records and saw David in brief video clips taken at the birth, said he saw a baby that appeared to be 30 to 32 weeks old. The baby’s forearm appeared to be smaller than an adult’s index finger.

The Hickmans, who are charged with second-degree manslaughter for failing to provide necessary medical care for David, told investigators they believed the chid was approximately two month premature.

Leonhardt said the Hickmans made bad decisions at crucial times. When Shannon Hickman went into labor and experienced pain and cramping more than 17 hours before birth, she should have called her obstetrician, he said.

The Hickmans, however, did not have a doctor. They belong to the Followers of Christ, an Oregon City faith-healing church, and adhere to the church’s teaching to avoid doctors and put their faith in God to heal.

Research resources on Followers of Christ Church
Research resources on faith-healing

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