Two members of Oregon City’s Followers of Christ Church are on trial for the death of their premature baby boy David, and the pair are not the first to be called to account for an infant fatality due to the church’s reliance on “faith healing,” even in severe cases and life-threatening situations.
Shannon Hickman and husband Dale- both 26- took the stand this week to testify in their own defense, telling the story of son David’s short, tenuous existence before the child passed away just hours ater his premature birth due to a treatable infection. The Hickmans- parents to a daughter, Daisy- used oils to anoint and prayer to prevent Shannon Hickman’s labor before she gave birth to David at around 32 weeks of gestation.
In the nine intervening hours between when David entered the world and left it, the Hickmans didn’t seek any medical care for their son even though minutes passed between the baby’s breaths before he died. Shannon Hickman repeatedly insisted she did not believe her son would be born that day before her labor progressed, and also maintains she had no idea he would die and did not closely monitor his condition due to “afterpains” she suffered following his premature birth.
Hickman says she would not have gone against the teachings of her church to treat the child unless her husband permitted it, and if she defied Dale Hickman, he might possibly “yell at her.” In her testimony, Shannon Hickman describes the wait-and-see stance she and her husband adopted in the minutes before David’s death:
“Dale came into room. I don’t know if anybody said anything, but he sat down in the chair. I sat up at that point and put my feet on the ground and looked at the baby. And he was pale. And he didn’t look like the baby I’d seen a couple of hours before. And I think I heard him breathe once or twice before he died. I was just waiting for him to take another breath. I had no idea he had died. I could only sit up for a couple of seconds and then I had to lay back down. It was really hard to do.”
A jury is currently deliberating to determine the fate of the Hickmans, and their full testimony was liveblogged via the link above.