A pair of Michigan parents have been charged with involuntary manslaughter after allegedly allowing their newborn daughter to die from complications of jaundice. The Christian parents, 30-year-old Rachel Joy Piland and her husband 36-year-old Joshua Barry Piland, reportedly refused to seek medical treatment for their 3-day-old daughter, Abigail, because of their religious beliefs.
Abigail Piland was born at her family’s home on February 6, into the hands of a midwife (who had delivered two of Rachel Piland’s older children) and her assistant, reports the Lansing State Journal. At the time of her birth, the infant reportedly appeared to be in good health, and was left in the care of her parents at around midnight. The midwife returned to the Michigan parents’ home on February 7 for a follow-up visit, and that is when her assessment of the newborn’s health reportedly changed.
According to the midwife, the newborn appeared to be suffering from jaundice. She claims that she told Rachel Piland to seek medical care for the baby, even suggesting that the baby be taken to an emergency room. Lansing Police Detective Peter Scaccia claims that the midwife warned the Michigan parents that the baby may develop brain damage or even die if the jaundice remained untreated. Rachel allegedly responded to the dire warning by refusing to seek medical care for her newborn daughter.
“Rachel declined to seek any medical treatment for Abigail, stating God makes no mistakes. She indicated to the midwife that the baby was fine.”
The midwife claims to have scheduled a second appointment for later that same day to check in on the baby’s condition, but that appointment was reportedly cancelled by Rachel Piland. By February 8, Abigail was reportedly coughing up blood and refusing to eat properly. A detective in the case claims that Rachel Piland, in apparent attempt to treat the jaundice herself, placed the newborn by the window dressed in only a diaper and “utilizing a hair dryer to keep her warm.”
Early on February 9, the newborn’s jaundice had reportedly progressed to the point that she had developed a bloody nose and breathing difficulties. By this time, both Rachel Piland and her mother, Rebecca Kerr, were tending to the deathly ill baby. Kerr told investigators that she wanted to call for help but that “Rachel would not allow her” to do so. By 11:00 a.m. on February 9, Rachel Piland reportedly found her newborn daughter “lifeless and not breathing.” Even then, Piland didn’t contact authorities. Instead, she allegedly took the baby’s body to her husband, Joshua Piland, who had been sleeping at the time of the newborn’s death.
“He attempted one rescue breath but had no success. He did not want to perform CPR because he only knew how to perform it on adults, not children. They then brought Abigail upstairs to pray for her. Joshua continued to massage Abigail, attempting to get her good air. Both Josh and (Rachel) reached out to friends and fellow church members to come to their home and pray for Abigail’s resurrection, but never called the police.”
At the time of their daughter’s tragic death, the Piland family is believed to have been affiliated with Faith Tech Ministries, a Michigan bible school. According to the organization’s website, they are a nondenominational “full gospel” church.
Authorities learned about the death of the newborn when they received a call from Rachel Piland’s brother in California, who told them that a baby had died at the Michigan parents’ home. An autopsy would determine that Abigail died from a combination of unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia and kernicterus — both of which are conditions related to untreated jaundice.
Jaundice is fairly common in newborn babies, and can even clear up on its own with proper medical monitoring. According to the medical examiner in the Piland case, simple medical treatment likely would have saved the 3-day-old infant’s life.
“He [the medical examiner] said if treated, most likely she would’ve been alive.”
Both Joshua and Rachel Piland have been charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter, and have been released after posting a $75,000 bond on September 21. As Independent reports, the Michigan parents face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
[Featured Image by Lansing Police Department]