The parents of a 12-year-old girl who died of diabetes complications when they denied her medical treatment in favor of faith-healing were convicted of manslaughter in the first and second degree on Monday.
The girl, Syble, died in February 2013 from a complication of type 1 diabetes, diabetic ketoacidosis. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that develops in childhood or adolescence, causing the body to attack and kill its own insulin-producing cells. Sufferers of the disease must inject regular doses of insulin to stay alive. Diabetic ketoacidosis develops when diabetics have high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, caused by too little or no insulin.
According to Oregon Live, the parents, Wenona and Travis Rossiter, are members of the Church of the First Born in Brownsville, Oregon – a group that believes in faith-healing. Both parents claim they were unaware their daughter was diabetic and that they are not responsible for her death.
The Rossiters are not the only parents who refused medical care to a child based on their religious beliefs. The Inquisitr reported earlier this year on this Pennsylvania couple who was found guilty in the deaths of two of their children after depending on faith-healing to cure them of illnesses.
The Democrat Herald reports that Travis Rossiter told police he believes it is a sin to see a doctor. During police interviews after their daughter’s death, both parents said that, based on their religious beliefs, they would not have done anything differently.
Travis Rossiter even told a detective that had Syble asked to go to a hospital, he would have tried to talk her out of it, and that doctors are for people who don’t believe strongly enough in God.
However, during the trial her mother testified that their religion had nothing to do with Syble’s death. She claims they thought their daughter simply had the flu.
“No one thought she was in danger of losing her life,” said Tim Felling, Travis Rossiter’s lawyer. “This is a tragedy, not a crime.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, when blood glucose levels are high, the body produces toxic acids, or ketones, which cause vomiting, dehydration, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, and confusion. If left untreated, diabetic ketoacidosis eventually leads to coma and death, as was the case with Syble. Sadly, the condition is easily treatable, and had her parents taken Syble to a doctor instead of relying on faith-healing, she could have been saved.
“She wasn’t alarmed by the symptoms, ” Wenona rossiter’s attorney, Mark Heslinga said. “That’s not what she would have done if she thought her daughter was near death.”
The state, however, maintained that they should have been aware of their daughter’s health problems, and that a reasonable person would have sought medical care before the condition became serious enough to cause their daughter’s death.
District Attorney Keith Stein said that on the day of Syble’s death she was extremely thirsty and dehydrated, she was vomiting and urinating everything she took in her system, and was so weak she couldn’t stand. Her symptoms were so severe that her parents even bought adult diapers for her to wear. Yet neither parent sought medical care for her.
Stein added that the child had lost so much weight she appeared emaciated, and a concerned teacher had previously spoken to Wenona Rossiter about it.
Heslinga, though, insists that her mother thought their child was losing weight because she was going through puberty and getting taller.
“The cure was like that,” Stein said during the trial, snapping his fingers. “This is a situation where she could have been saved quite easily by insulin and rehydration.”
Sentencing for the girl’s parents is scheduled for December.
What do you think their punishment should be? Do you think probation or a few years in prison is harsh enough punishment for parents who deny their children life-saving medical care?
[Image via KOIN6]