Prayer Is No Replacement for Real Medical Care October 3, 2008

Prayer Is No Replacement for Real Medical Care

Another child has died because his parents put faith ahead of common sense:

Their son, 16-year-old Neil Jeffrey Beagley, died June 17 of complications from a urinary-tract blockage. A deputy state medical examiner said the boy apparently suffered for years from the intensely painful but medically treatable condition. The blockage ultimately caused kidney failure, uremic poisoning and heart failure, according to autopsy results.

When Neil Beagley died at his grandmother’s Gladstone home, he was surrounded by dozens of church and family members. Some of those present told police that Neil Beagley, despite his prolonged suffering, chose faith healing over medical care.

After Beagley died, a medical examiner ruled his death could have been prevented had his family taken him to a doctor.

Based upon findings from the grand jury, the Clackamas County Circuit Court issued arrest warrants Wednesday for Jeffrey Dean Beagley and Marci Rae Beagley in connection with their son’s death.

Today, Neil’s parents turned themselves in to authorities. They face charges of “criminally negligent homicide.”

This death shouldn’t be a shock to their church. They’re used to their youth dying unnecessarily:

According to a 1998 analysis by The Oregonian, at least 21 of the dozens of children buried since the 1950s in the Followers of Christ church cemetery south of Oregon City could have been saved by medical intervention. None of the deaths from that era resulted in prosecution.

Let’s hope the parents get locked away for a long time and at least some members of the church come to their senses and get the hell out of there.

(Thanks to Nick for the link.)

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  • Lindsey

    I’m so glad to see action taken against these parents. It seems like when I hear these news bits, the parents don’t suffer any consequences for being so negligent (correct me if I’m wrong on that one). So this is a positive change.

  • It’s so scary to me, the idea that you should rely on God to heal you and not go to a doctor. Farmers who thank God for a good crop yield still plant seeds and irrigate the soil, right? Athletes who thank God for victory in a game still practice, right? I assumed the interpretation was that God wanted them to plant crops and water them, or what-have-you. Why can’t it be God’s will that you go to the doctor and receive the incredibly simple life-saving treatment?

  • These people make me sick…. The pure lack of any logic makes me wonder how they themselves actually have survived as long as they have.

  • Richard Wade

    I always wonder in these incidents if the faithful adults, while the kid is suffering and dying, sneak off to a dentist if they get a bad toothache.

  • Died from a urinary tract infection.

    Wow, it’s like we’re living in the 10th century AD all over again. Next thing you know, the Black Death will be making a comeback.

    This is disgusting. Have all the faith you want, but live in reality too. Doctors get paid a great deal of money because what they do works. Feel free to pray and seek medical attention.

    @martymankins: Let’s be honest here. Humans survived for millions of years without medical knowledge. For the most part, we’re pretty resilient and can endure with minimal maintenance- or perhaps none at all.

    I’ve always been of the mind that humans are just another mammal, but we’re fairly clever ones. There’s no reason for us to die like dogs with no understanding of why we suffer.

  • mikespeir

    Yep, I’m all for freedom of religion. But these people swung their fists in the wrong place and hit somebody’s nose. That changes the rules. Lock ’em up.

  • Too bad that their stupidity killed an innocent child instead of removing them from the gene pool before any damage could be done.

  • Richard Wade

    This tragedy is the end result of Christianity’s teaching that strong faith is a higher virtue than good behavior.

    I think people in churches like this one use their children’s deaths to demonstrate the strength of their own faith in front of their peers. The kids’ lives are forfeit for the sake of their parents’ vanity.

    It would be interesting to interview people like these, asking them about increasingly serious injuries and illness, starting with “If you cut your finger, is it okay to put a bandage on it?” and going up in small steps until they finally say “No, we would pray about that instead.” Where is the invisible line drawn between using simple, practical intervention versus divine intervention?

  • absent sway

    It is interesting to me that the son himself refused medical care. Certainly the parents could have and should have intervened since he was technically a minor but I do think his own protestations would have held considerable weight with them, sadly. To me, the value of prosecuting in a case like this is to make it just a little easier for similar families to cave in to medical treatment, to the extent that a given sect considers it important to respect the laws of the land and to not risk losing custody of children. I dare say that losing a child is about as much of a wake up call and a punishment as anyone can get.

  • Jeff Satterley

    absent away:

    I seriously doubt the boy had any knowledge of what real medical care is. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was told all kinds of nonsense by his parents and other members of the church about what goes on at a doctor’s office.

    The boy is a minor, so the parents are the one’s who refused to get him medical care. He was 16 when he died, but I’m sure he was much less mature than a 16 year old with some perspective into the real world. It also said that he has had this condition for years, so he was much younger when it should have been treated to being with.

  • Larry Huffman

    Here is what should happen…in my opinion…hehe. They should throw the book at these parents. Sadly, the parents are not really the ultimate culprit, but it is where the lesson needs to be.

    Anyway…put these people away for a long time…and force all churches to display a poster…much like the osha posters…that says that any parent choosing faith based healing over medical treatment for their kids could end up in prison…like these parents.

    Maybe it would be effective. If it scared just one parent into seeking treatment for their otherwise doomed to relious quakery child, then it would be worth the effort.

    I cannot imagine forgoing medical treatment for my own child, however. Here is the problem: god wants to come first. Parents should put their children first, not god. Here is the perfect example of god needing to take a back seat to the real world. Put the fairy tales on hold until your kid is better.

  • You should donate to CHILD

    Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty (CHILD, Inc.) is a non-profit national membership organization established in 1983 to protect children from abusive religious and cultural practices, especially religion-based medical neglect. CHILD opposes religious exemptions from duties of care for children. CHILD is a member of the National Child Abuse Coalition.

  • absent sway

    Jeff Satterley:
    I didn’t make any claims about what knowledge the boy had or didn’t have about medical care and I acknowledged that the parents should have intervened. It’s true that I speculated about what his protestations might have meant to his parents; I only said this because of my experience that devout parents and other adult believers often give quite a bit of weight to the faith of children, and I find the concept interesting. I can see how that speculation could just be wildly inappropriate on my part, and I don’t claim to have any evidence for it. That was just my morbid curiosity speaking. You make a good point about the boy having had this condition since he was much younger; I don’t doubt that his opinion was shaped by his family and church.

  • Eric

    I am so fucking sick of hearing about children dying from completely preventable diseases because their parents believe in magic.

  • Kyle

    I joined CHILD. The stories on the site are incredible.

    Make no mistake; we still live in the Dark Ages.

  • a mother

    It makes me sick to hear things like this. It gives people who believe in God a really bad name. I’m a Christian who prays faithfully every time her kids are sick, but I also bring them to the doctor and administer prescribed medication faithfully.

  • justin jm

    How come these stories always involve a child? Why don’t we hear about the parents undergoing this insanity? I suspect the parents have medical care for themselves in at least some of these cases.

  • Larry Huffman

    The reason we do not hear about the adults as often is because an adult is free to make whatever choice they want. The point is…they are making their own choice. Their freedom of religion extending to them…for good or bad. When it is a child, there are adults (parents and religious leaders) imposing their rleigion on the child. That is what makes it a news story. Really, I do not care if an adult (stranger…I would advise a friend against it) wants to follow such a self destructive course…it is their choice about themselves. It is not for me to say…any more than it is a religious person’s right to prevent someone from having an abortion. Right up the same alley I think.

    There are ample stories of adults who have made these choices, however. Stories of adults who are totally swayed by their faith-healer leaders, and end up dead or seriusly ill because of it. They are sad stories…and were I their friends, I would try to talk them out of it. But, many of us here should be well aware of what it is like to try to talk reason with the faithful. So there are adults who succomb to this…I am betting to a greater degree than children even.

    When the stories are reported about children…it is because the child could not make that choice on their own…which takes it outside of the realm of religious freedom and ends up being a case of one person imposing their religious beliefs on another…and ultimately parental neglect for the child’s well-being, at the very least…outright murder sometimes.

    I will also add…even if this teenager made the choice knowingly…he was not an adult but a teenager. Any parent of teenagers will tell you…yes, they can be really mature at times…and at other times, not so much. No…a teen who is allowed to follow this course was deprived of his parents over-ruling the stupid decision in favor of sound parental reasoning. I, for one, would tell my kid that I am suspending their religious freedom until they are 18, since they seem to want to kill themselves with it. I would force the medical attention and get a restraining order against any adult leader who planted such a notion in my child’s head. After he got better, I might even make him wear a shirt saying “I am alive today because I quit attending such-and-such church!”

  • SarahH

    Wow, it’s like we’re living in the 10th century AD all over again. Next thing you know, the Black Death will be making a comeback.

    Well, other preventable diseases are certainly making a comeback. Measles is spreading to more and more unvaccinated children in the UK.

  • Melissa

    hm, I have a question. Has this Child ever had a physical for school? For public schools, physicals are required every few years, and while I am aware that adults can turn down vaccinations for their child due to religious reasons, are they also able to say no to physicals as well? And what about private or religious schools, do they even require a child to have physicals and vaccinations?

    The point of all these questions is, if this child that died had been forced by his school to get checked out by a doctor throughout the years of his illness, wouldn’t it of been spotted?

    *shrugs* Don’t shoot me down for any of this, I’m just trying to understand the details of things…

  • cipher

    Let’s hope the parents get locked away for a long time and at least some members of the church come to their senses and get the hell out of there.

    This will accomplish nothing. The parents turned themselves in; there’s no question that they see themselves as martyrs for the faith. Yes, throw the book at them, but go farther – remove all minors; take them away from their parents. Let them know they can’t have them back unless they leave that church and sign pledges to provide them with conventional medical care. Then, monitor them for years. The ones who remain – tell them they can’t have any more kids. Take them away if they have them. Hell, sterilize them. I’m tired of playing softball with these lunatics.

  • Gullwatcher


    The point of all these questions is, if this child that died had been forced by his school to get checked out by a doctor throughout the years of his illness, wouldn’t it of been spotted?

    Maybe, maybe not. Doctors rely a lot on what the patient tells them. If the kid was told by his parents not to tell the doctor about any problems, then it’s very possible the doctor could have missed it.

    Also, home-schooling is regrettably common among the extremely religious. These poor kids may never have seen a doctor in their lives.

  • grammar nazi

    Melissa said “The point of all these questions is, if this child that died had been forced by his school to get checked out by a doctor throughout the years of his illness, wouldn’t it of been spotted?”

    I know this is a serious topic, and it sickens me to no end that this child died due to such ignorance…

    But your “wouldn’t it ‘of’ been spotted” really bothers me. I’m sorry, I’m a grammar nazi.

  • AnonyMouse

    And to think I came from a Followers of Christ church… The only difference between the ones in Oregon and the ones in other states is that the ones in other states haven’t been called out for their behavior – that, and most of the children they lose around here are babies. (Talk about a waste of good food.) I suppose they lose older ones occasionally, but I’ve never heard about it. Maybe they actually do take their children to doctors?

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