6 Years in Prison for Oregon Couple: Prayed Instead of Getting Help for Dying Infant

| by Mark Berman Opposing Views

An Oregon couple who prayed instead of getting medical help for their dying newborn son was sentenced Monday to six years and three months in prison, the harshest penalty given to members of a controversial church that does not believe in traditional medical care.

As Opposing Views reported in September, Shannon Hickman gave birth to the boy two months premature in September 2009. Female members of the Followers of Christ Church who are midwives delivered the baby.

A few hours later the infant was struggling to breath. Shannon and her husband Dale chose to pray instead of calling an ambulance. The boy died nine hours after being born.

The Hickmans were charged with manslaughter, and last month they were convicted. The sentence was the mandatory minimum under state guidelines, however the couple could have qualified for a lighter sentence that included treatment.

Several other church members whose children also died got lighter sentences, prompting the state legislature to pass a law that eliminated the lighter sentence. The Hickmans were the last couple who could have qualified for the shorter sentence, but the judge refused.

"As the evidence unfolded and the witnesses testified, it became evident to me and certainly to the jury that this death just simply did not need to occur," Judge Robert Herndon said according to The Oregonian.