A Michigan couple has been charged after they refused care for their newborn daughter who died from a treatable illness. According to police testimony, the mother was repeatedly warned that the infant’s jaundice could lead to brain damage or death, but she brushed off the warnings, saying that God “makes no mistakes.”
Now as a result of their religiously-inspired neglect, Rachel Joy Piland, 30, and her husband Joshua Barry Piland, 36, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter.
The Detroit Free Press reported that authorities only learned of the child’s death after Rachel’s brother phoned them from California to inform them that the child died in the couple’s home.
A police account of what happened says that the child, whose name was Abigail, seemed healthy after being born, but the couple’s midwife soon noticed that the baby appeared jaundiced and warned the mother to take the child to an emergency room. “She told Piland the baby could suffer brain damage or die if not properly cared for,” Detective Peter Scaccia said during court testimony.
“Rachel declined to seek any medical treatment for Abigail, stating God makes no mistakes,” Scaccia said. “She indicated to the midwife that the baby was fine.”
When the midwife tried to schedule an appointment with a pediatrician, Rachel cancelled it.
When the two-day-old child started coughing up blood, Rachel put her “near a window wearing just a diaper utilizing a hair dryer to keep her warm,” according to Scaccia.
When Rachel’s mother, Rebecca Kerr, told her daughter that Abigail’s skin was “not the right color,” Scaccia said Rachel brushed off the warnings again and “went to listen to sermons.”
The next morning on February 9, both Rachel and her mother noticed blood coming out of the child’s nose with labored breathing. When Rebecca tried to call 9-11 for help, Rachel “would not allow her.” Later that morning, Rachel found her daughter “lifeless and not breathing.” When she took her daughter to her husband, Joshua Piland, he “attempted one rescue breath but had no success.”
“He did not want to perform CPR because he only knew how to perform it on adults, not children,” Scaccia testified. “They then brought Abigail upstairs to pray for her. Joshua continued to massage Abigail, attempting to get her good air. Both Josh and (Rachel) reached out to friends and fellow church members to come to their home and pray for Abigail’s resurrection, but never called the police.”
When police arrived, they “went upstairs and found a baby that had passed away and three other people praying for it.”
From the Detroit Free Press:
At the time of their daughter’s death, the Pilands appear to have been involved with a Lansing-based bible school called Faith Tech Ministries, which describes itself online as nondenominational but similar to other “full gospel” or “Pentecostal” organizations.
An autopsy found that Abigail died from unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia and kernicterus, which are both conditions related to jaundice. If treated, Abigail would most likely still be alive. Rachel and Joshua Piland were each charged with a single count of involuntary manslaughter and released after posting $75,000 last Tuesday.
Featured image via Lansing Police Department