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OREGON CITY, Ore. (RNS) When their son became ill, Jeffrey and Marci Beagley were confronted by several symptoms that would concern any reasonable parent but gave no indication that death was imminent, a pediatrician told jurors on Monday (Jan. 25).
Dr. Douglas Diekema was the first defense witness called in the trial of the Oregon City couple. His testimony laid the foundation for the argument that the Beagleys acted prudently in making decisions about care for their 16-year-old son, Neil.
Jeffrey Beagley’s attorney, Wayne Mackeson, led Diekema through dozens of symptoms — such as the teen’s faltering stamina, lack of appetite, breathing problems and inability to keep food down.
Diekema, who specializes in pediatric emergency medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, said he factored in each bit of information in concluding that the Beagleys acted reasonably.
Based on what the Beagleys observed, Diekema said the parents’
decision not to seek medical treatment was “not necessarily” a significant departure from the care that a reasonable person would have provided.
“If you don’t think your child is dying,” he said, “you may not bring them to the emergency room.”
The Beagleys were charged with criminally negligent homicide after Neil died in June 2008 from an untreated urinary blockage. The family belongs to the Followers of Christ, an Oregon City congregation that generally uses faith healing rather than medical treatment.
Prosecutors must prove the Beagleys’ failure to seek medical treatment for the boy was a significant departure from a reasonable standard of care.
Prosecutor Greg Horner, however, said the Beagleys’ actions were anything but reasonable since the boy had never seen a medical doctor, giving him and the family no idea that he was edging toward death.
What’s more, Neil had no understanding of the risks he faced or what a lack of treatment would mean.
Under questioning from Horner, Diekema said he knew of only two cases where a child died of untreated renal disease. In both cases, the parents decided against treatment, he said.
By Steve Mayes
Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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