Faith healing is an immensely controversial means of curing peoples' ailments. Depending on the extent of one's illness, the practice can be down-right dangerous, particularly when it comes to declining medical care for life-threatening and easily-treatable diseases. Russel and Brandi Bellew of Creswell, Oregon, learned this the hard way after their 16-year-old son died due to a burst appendix last year.
Rather than take their son, Austin, to a doctor or a hospital when his symptoms worsened, the Bellews decided to "pray away" his condition. Now, following his death, they are avoiding jail after admitting that they let their teenager die in an effort to practice their faith healing.
The Bellews pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide on Tuesday and, as a result, they were both given five years probation. Had they been convicted of manslaughter, the husband and wife would have spent a mandatory minimum sentence of six years and three months behind bars.
KVAL-TV has more:
In addition to the probation the Bellews received, they will also be legally required to contact a doctor if and when their other children have any sickness or impediment that causes them to miss school for more than one day, the Register-Guard reports.
While the courtroom heard that Austin purportedly wanted to rely upon faith healing rather than doctors' knowledge to cure his illness, the legal penalties still stand. Regardless of what the teenager wanted, under Oregon law, one must be 18 years of age in order to make decisions regarding personal medical care.
Austin, who died in December after a week-long battle with appendicitis, was one of seven children. The family's religious beliefs, which forbade them from seeking medical attention for their son, come from their membership in the General Assembly and the Church of the First Born.
In the church's eyes, modern medicine isn't the answer to peoples' medical problems. Instead, prayer and faith healing are intended to cure disease.
Here's an original news report from when the parents were arrested back in February:
One of the most surprising facts in this case is that this isn't the family's first time experiencing tragedy as a result of not seeking medical attention. Austin's father, Anthony, died back in 2007, after he failed to see a doctor to treat an infection in his leg. His mother later married Russel and, tragically, the situation repeated itself just four years later.
The remaining six children were removed from the family home following Austin's death. While it is not yet known whether they will be permanently returned, a social worker handling the case believes that they are safe in the home. In recent months, the parents have taken turns caring for them and they have been, most recently, living with their mother.
The couple was forced to live apart from one another and to not speak during court proceedings.
(H/T: Daily Mail)