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OREGON CITY, Ore. (RNS) As Neil Beagley lay dying on his
grandmother’s bed, his parents did not take him to a hospital or call
9-1-1 or make any lifesaving efforts, a prosecutor told jurors Tuesday
(Jan. 19).
“They did nothing because that was their belief,” prosecutor Greg
Horner said in his opening statement at the trial of Jeffrey and Marci
Beagley, the second faith-healing trial in as many years in Oregon.
The Oregon City couple is charged with criminally negligent homicide
for failing to provide adequate medical care for their 16-year-old son,
Neil Beagley, who died June 17, 2008, from an untreated urinary tract
The Beagleys were unaware that Neil’s kidneys were failing and
believed he had the flu, their attorneys said. The Beagleys treated him
with faith-healing rituals practiced by their church, the Followers of
Christ, a nondenominational congregation with a long history of children
dying from treatable medical conditions.
Marci Beagley told police investigators “we did everything we knew
how to do” for Neil, Horner told the jury. “That’s not good enough.”
The parents’ response to their son’s plight was “an outrageous
deviation from the standard of care our community expects and demands,”
Horner said.
But their attorney, Wayne Mackeson, countered that the Beagleys did
not fail their duty as parents “in a criminal way.” The Beagleys are
caring parents who raised three daughters and mourn the loss of Neil,
their only son and “the crown prince of the family,” Mackeson said.
“There’s no evidence to suggest that Neil was in any way compromised
physically,” he said.
But Horner gave jurors a dire picture of a teenager in rapidly
failing health. Had Neil Beagley sought medical care, there was an
excellent chance he “would have led a full and fulfilling life,” Horner
A key point in the case is Neil Beagley’s age. Oregon law allows
children 15 and older to independently obtain medical treatment.
“If someone gets sick at 16, they’re old enough to make their own
choices,” Marci Beagley told detectives. “Everyone knew Neil’s wishes,”
she said. “He put his trust in God.”
— Steve Mayes

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