The trial is finally beginning for a Pennsylvania couple that caused the death of their two-year-old daughter by treating her pneumonia with prayer and religious oils.
A jury will decide if Jonathan and Grace Anne Foster are guilty of involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child after the death of Ella Grace Foster, who died on November 8, 2016.
The couple did not seek medical care for the sick child due to their religious beliefs, and instead asked Pastor Rowland Foster — the girl’s grandfather — to pray over her and anoint her with oils.
The toddler had a sore throat and struggled to sleep the night before she died, and she stopped breathing in her father’s arms after her mother called him to their Upper Tulpehocken Township home from work.
A forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy testified in a previous hearing that Ella Grace would have been fighting to breathe and coughing uncontrollably due to pneumonia, and he told the court any reasonable person would have concluded she needed medical care.
Attorneys for the married couple say their daughter’s pneumonia developed quickly, and that they had to make a “judgment call.” But what judgment call in that situation doesn’t involve a doctor? Their reliance on religion cost their daughter her life.
Another interesting part of the story is the role of Pastor Rowland Foster, the girl’s grandfather, who was the first (and possibly only) person the Fosters called when their daughter was quickly deteriorating. Authorities tried to charge him for failing to report child abuse, but the judge dismissed the case.
There isn’t currently any information on other cases of child neglect connected to this family or their Faith Tabernacle church, but the trial is just starting, so more details will likely emerge. These types of incidents rarely seem to happen in isolation, so if this little girl died from faith-based treatments, there’s reason to think other kids may be in danger.