Parental rights on trial in child's death

June 22, 2009 at 3:18 PM
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PORTLAND, Ore., June 22 (UPI) -- Parents who chose prayer over medicine for their child, who died, will be the first tried under an Oregon law banning religion as a defense, prosecutors say.

Carl and Raylene Worthington are charged with manslaughter and criminal mistreatment in the March 2, 2008, death of their 15-month-old daughter Ava. She succumbed to pneumonia and a blood infection, prosecutors said.

State medical examiners ruled antibiotics could have saved the girl's life, The (Portland) Oregonian reported Monday.

The case, scheduled for trial Tuesday, will be the first test of a law passed in 1999 that eliminated religion as a defense in most medical cases. The law was enacted in response to the deaths of several children in the 1990s at the Worthingtons' church, the Followers of Christ in Oregon City.

Four months after Ava's death, her 16-year-old uncle, Neil Beagley, died of an untreated urinary tract blockage, prosecutors said. Beagley's parents, also members of the Followers of Christ church, are to be tried in January on charges of negligent homicide.

The Worthingtons and the Beagleys have maintained their innocence, saying state and federal constitutions give them the right to care for their children according to their religious beliefs.

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