An Oregon couple will serve six years in prison for neglecting to seek medical care for their newborn son due their religious beliefs, the state's Supreme Court ruled on Oct. 8.
The court originally convicted Dale and Shannon Hickman, both 30 years old, of second-degree manslaughter in 2011 for the death of their son, David, in 2009, New York Daily News reports. However, the couple appealed the ruling, arguing that the prosecution did not prove that the couple knew their religious beliefs would cause the child to die.
The Oregon Supreme Court rejected their plea.
"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," said Judge Robert Herndon, according to the Daily Mail.
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Shannon gave birth at home two months premature to a child with underdeveloped lungs and a bacterial infection. Instead of calling 911, the couple prayed and rubbed oil on him, in accordance to their beliefs as members of the faith-healing Followers of Christ religious denomination. David struggled to breathe and turned blue.
He died nine hours later of staphylococcus pneumonia, which a doctor testified in court is "99 percent" treatable.
"Dale ran into the room where one of his aunts was holding David and anointed David’s head with olive oil and began to pray," the Oct. 8 state Supreme Court decision read, according to the New York Daily News. "He noticed that David was taking short breaths, was minimally responsive, and was lighter in color, so he took David into the bedroom where Shannon still lay.
"At that point, it was 'in the back of [Dale's] mind' that David would not survive. He sat in a chair by the bed, held David in his arms, and prayed."
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Five other members of the Clackamas, Oregon, Followers of Christ Church have been convicted for rejecting medical care for their children in favor of praying and anointing them with oil, the Daily Mail reports.
"I think it's God's will whatever happens," Shannon testified in court, who added that the church requires her to defer to her husband.
As a response to the many Followers of Christ deaths, Oregon lawmakers struck down a law this year enabling religious defenses in court.