Oregon City teenager Neil Beagley died in June 2008 following complications from an untreated congenital urinary tract blockage that flooded his system with urea, causing renal failure, heart attack, and death.
Neil Beagley didn't die in a hospital. He didn't die surrounded by doctors who were stumped regarding his next stage of treatment. Sixteen-year-old Neil Beagley didn't die peacefully with an IV in his arm pumping in morphine to lessen what must have been excruciating pain. He died in his grandmother's bed, without having received any medical treatment of any kind. Doctors say that Neil's illness was treatable right up until the day he died.
Jeff and Marci Beagley, Neil's parents, are members of Followers of Christ Church of Oregon City - a fundamentalist organization that teaches a literalist interpretation of scripture, and relies heavily on faith healing. The cemetery behind the church contains graves belonging to seventy-eight minors. It is estimated that at least twenty-one of these children's lives could have been saved with medical treatment.
However, Followers of Christ Church shuns medical treatment - and the devout followers of the church refuse all medications and treatments, and visits to medical professionals of any kind.
Jeff and Marci Beagley have been found guilty of criminally negligent homicide in Neil's death, and they are scheduled for sentencing on February 18th of this year. Of the twelve jurors deciding the case, ten found the couple guilty. Two found them innocent.
Oregon, prior to 1999, viewed faith healing as a Get Out Of Jail Free card. An individual could not be convicted of homicide in a case where religion was used instead of medical care. Then an act was passed that allowed for a compromise - faith healing could still be used as a treatment, but could not be the only treatment in cases involving children. Parents were thereafter required to (and it seems this should be obvious) take care of their children, despite their beliefs in deities, the laying on of hands, or the efficacy of anointing someone's body with oil.
It brightens my day to know that Jeff and Marci Beagley were found guilty by a jury of their peers. It gives me faith in humanity to know that they will pay for what, to us, is so obviously a crime. What disturbs me beyond measure is defense attorney Wayne Mackeson's comments following the trial. He stated that the trial was never about Jeff and Marci's religious beliefs, but was instead about the care that they provided as parents.
It would seem, to me, that in fact one followed the other.
Marci and Jeff Beagley face potential prison sentences of sixteen to eighteen months. The main line of defense during their trial was their claim that they did not know how sick Neil was. They stated, in fact, that his illness looked like a bad cold or the flu. And it seems to me that the darkest possible brush of irony stains that concept. These people who do not believe in modern medicine were, after all, playing at diagnostics like monkeys playing trombones.
I am inclined, when hearing about a story like this, to utter the phrase, "What kind of person...?", but when reading about this one, I instead thought, "What kind of God...?" I'm talking to you, Followers of Christ of Oregon City. I want to know, truly, what kind of God wouldn't want a person to get better. I want to hear, at length, about exactly what kind of God wants people to die in pain. And, before you tell me that this is not God's fault, but the devil's, let me go ahead and say -
It makes exponentially more sense to side with the devil, over and over again, to put your faith in him and believe in him and trust in him, than it does to believe in the kind of God who has the ability to save you and chooses not to do so.
To keep up this fictional argument, I do not want to hear about how death isn't really so bad and God is just calling us all home. Opioid pain medication was not invented because death is such a peaceful journey into the arms of Christ.
Followers of Christ of Oregon City - this one goes out to you. Your God is a sadist and a torturer. And if He really attempted to make you in His image, then he has done a fine job. Because so are you.