Infant Dies After Parent Opt For Faith Healing Instead Of Medical Help

The parents belonged to a faith-healing sect and all they did was to pray for their newborn baby girl as she changed colors and struggled to breathe.


In 2017, Sarah Mitchell opted for home birth at her parents’ house in Oregon City, Oregon, and gave birth to twins.

The 24-year-old chose to deliver the babies at a residence and not in a hospital because of her religious believes. As she and her husband, Travis Mitchell, belonged to a faith-healing sect.

At the time of delivery, Mitchell and 60 other members, including family and fellow members of the followers of Christ Church in Oregon City were present. Three “birthing assistants” from the church were also there at the time.

Mitchell had a premature delivery as the twins had arrived seven weeks before the expected delivery date.

Ironically, she didn’t know she was having twins because the couple never went for a prenatal ultrasound. After the babies, namely Ginnifer and Evelyn, were delivered they developed breathing problems.

As a result, the newborn daughter, Ginnifer, died because of no medical facilities. Had they been in a hospital things would have been different. The couple was arrested after pleading guilty to negligent homicide.

According to prosecutors, Ginnifer could not breathe into her premature, underdeveloped lungs for hours after her birth. But instead of going to the hospital, the family and church members "laid hands" on the infant whose color kept changing because of breathlessness, while her father, Travis, rubbed oil on her.

As Ginnifer continued to struggle in pain, the members were busy taking turns to pray out loud for her condition to improve, court documents said.

But that did not help and Ginnifer died after just four hours of her birth. While she was fighting a battle for her life none of the 60 members called the hospital or 911 to help the baby, all thanks to their so-called religious beliefs.

The father, later told investigators he held his daughter as she died. "I knew she was dead when she didn't cry out anymore," he said.

An elderly person at the church reported Ginnifer's death to Clackamas County Deputy Medical Examiner Eric Tonsfeldt, who found the mother cradling her dead daughter wrapped in a blanket, lying in her bedroom.

Upon inquiry, the people at the house gave Tonsfeldt unsatisfactory and vague answers about Ginnifer’s demise. The medical examiner then urged everyone to take Ginnifer's twin sister, Evelyn, to the hospital as she was also at a high risk because of her size.

At this point Travis, who had already lost a son, thanked Tonsfeldt for his input, who then called the law enforcement officials. Officials convinced the father to seek medical help for the baby.

The family finally took Evelyn to the hospital as the baby was also showing signs of respiratory distress, thankfully she recovered completely at a children's hospital and was later released to her foster parents.

The couple was charged with criminally negligent homicide and criminal mistreatment for the way they treated Ginnifer leading to the infant’s death and for their actions related to her twin, Evelyn, who survived.

The couple has been sentenced to serve a prison time of six years.

“We should have sought adequate medical care for our children and everyone in the church should always seek adequate medical care for our children," Sarah and Travis Mitchell said in a signed statement as part of their plea agreement. 

According to the District Attorney’s office, Ginnifer was among four other children who have died in the past nine years because their parents, as members of the Followers of Christ Church, abandoned medical care and favored prayers.

In 2011, Mitchell's sister and brother-in-law, Shannon and Dale Hickman, were convicted of homicide and sentenced to six years in prison for the death of their newborn son, David Hickman.

David breathed for the last time just eight hours after arriving in this world. He was also a premature baby and died in the same room where Ginnifer died after facing the same inhumane treatment s in the name of faith-healing.

According to a 1998 analysis by the Oregonian, at least 21 of the 78 children buried in the church's cemetery from 1995–98 could have survived had they been given a proper medical treatment.

Thumbnail/Banner Image: Pixabay, Cynthia Groth

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