Oregon City, Oregon – Carl and Raylene Worthington told detectives that they never considered calling a doctor, even as their 15-month-old daughter deteriorated and died.
“I don’t believe in them,” Carl Worthington said of doctors. “I believe in faith healing.”
Raylene Worthington said that her religious beliefs do not encompass medical care and that she would not have done anything different for her daughter, who died at home of pneumonia, a blood infection and other complications.
In Clackamas County Circuit Court on Wednesday (July 1), prosecutors played videotaped police interviews with the Worthingtons, who are accused of criminal mistreatment and manslaughter for failing to provide medical care for their daughter. Ava Worthington died March 2, 2008, after her parents and other members of the Followers of Christ tried to treat her with faith healing.
Ava’s father, who goes by Brent, his middle name, said Ava came down with what appeared to be a cold or the flu. Within days, her breathing became labored and the family turned to its traditional faith-healing rituals, praying, fasting, anointing the body with oil, administering diluted wine and laying on of hands.
Brent Worthington said he thought there was “a possibility” his daughter was so sick she could die. Then, after a final session of laying on of hands, “she perked up,” he said. She grabbed her bottle and “took some food.”
Two hours later Ava was dead.
Brent Worthington told detectives no one in his immediate family has ever been to a doctor or used prescription or over-the-counter medicine.
“It’s not something we believe in.”
Asked if she would have taken Ava to a doctor if she knew her child was dying, Raylene Worthington said, “I don’t know.”
Brent Worthington said that forgoing medical treatment is probably difficult for outsiders to understand. For him, medical treatment “is not a question. It’s not even thought.”
When the detectives told Worthington that the law requires a parent to provide adequate medical care, he said he had provided care.
“I did everything I could do for her,” Worthington said. “What I was doing was working,” he said. “She was getting relief.”
Dr. Christopher Young, the deputy state medical examiner who conducted the girl’s autopsy, testified that “the absence of action led to her death.”
By Steve Mayes
Religion News Service
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