A faith-healing couple from Pennsylvania have been sentenced to between three and a half and seven years in prison over the death of their son whom they refused to take to a doctor for treatment.
Herbert and Catherine Schaible were sentenced Wednesday after their 8-month-old son Brendon was the family’s second child to die as a result of their faith-based refusal to seek medical help; the child died in 2013 after the Schaibles chose prayer over seeking doctors’ assistance.
“You’ve killed two of your children … not God, not your church, not religious devotion — you,” Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerne told the couple during Wednesday’s proceedings, according to WBFF-TV.
Prosecutors claimed that Herbert and Catherine prayed over Brandon as his condition worsened instead of seeking the assistance of a doctor who might have been able to save the child; he suffered from diarrhea and breathing issues for at least a week and was reportedly not eating.
As members of the First Century Gospel Church in Philadelphia, Pa., the couple embrace faith healing — that is the practice of praying over and for an ill individual rather than seeking medical attention.
Herbert spoke about the family’s beliefs last year, claiming that medication violates their religious beliefs. The Schaibles pleaded no content last year to third-degree murder in Brandon’s death.
“We believe in divine healing, that Jesus shed blood for our healing and that he died on the cross to break the devil’s power,” he told the Associated Press.
The Schaibles’ seven remaining children are now in foster care.
This isn’t the first time the family has come under fire for declining medical treatment to their children. The parents had already landed themselves in legal trouble after their 2-year-old son, Kent, died from pneumonia in 2009.
In this earlier case, the Schaibles were convicted of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment, put on probation for 10 years and ordered to get their children medical care. So when another child died as a result of their refusal to seek a doctor, prosecutors found the parents had violated probation.
Parental rights over medical treatment for children has been in the headlines of late. In a separate case, Maria Schimer, a court-appointed guardian of an 11-year-old Amish girl with leukemia, was recently allowed to drop her attempts to force the girls’ parents into treating her with chemotherapy.
As the Associated Press noted, Sarah Hershberger’s family has been in a months-long battle with a hospital, as the Hershbergers feared that the treatment was killing their daughter. Schimer, a nurse and attorney, was allowed to make medical decisions for the girl — but dropped her attempts to continue treating Sarah when the family fled with the girl to avoid treatment.