Minnesota authorities have charged two parents with a gross misdemeanor after they failed to seek medical attention for their dying son, but instead tried to improve his condition with prayer.
Timothy and Sarah Johnson were arrested last week for neglect of a child resulting in substantial physical harm. Their seven-year-old adopted son, Seth, died last March after the couple decided to treat him themselves with prayer.
The Johnsons, who had “issues going to doctors,” were concerned about the medications the hospital may have prescribed to Seth for his pancreatitis and acute sepsis, according to news station KMSP.
Furthermore, based on their own research, the couple believed Seth to have post-traumatic disorder, a brain injury, and fetal alcohol syndrome.
“The parents admitted to police that his behavior had changed, that he wasn’t sleeping, was throwing himself down stairs and was taking hours to eat,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement. “Yet, they refused to do what most parents would have done and take him to a doctor.”
Seth’s illness worsened significantly when his parents left him in the care of his 16-year-old brother and headed out of town for a wedding. Midway through their weekend getaway, the older son called to say that Seth could not talk or eat.
After receiving another call informing them that Seth had managed to eat a few Cheerios, they decided not to leave the wedding early. When they did finally return, they apparently found Seth laying on the floor.
According to authorities, instead of immediately seek medical attention, the Johnsons instead decided to pray for Seth’s recovery and to wait until the morning to contact a health care professional.
Unfortunately, the next day, they found Seth unconscious and covered in vomit. Timothy Johnson attempted CPR, while Sarah Johnson called 911, but paramedics pronounced him dead when they arrived on the scene.
Authorities found bruises all over the Seth’s body, as well as two large lesions on his back, but the reporting pathologist has yet to formally complete the autopsy.
“We cannot comprehend how a parent would leave a very sick seven-year-old to the care of a 16-year-old so they can go away for a weekend,” said Freeman in the statement. “Nor can we comprehend how the parents refused to come home Sunday morning to care for their sick child when they were notified of his serious condition. Nor can we comprehend why the parents did not call an ambulance Sunday night to immediately obtain medical help when they finally got home.”
Now, if Freeman’s office can secure a conviction of the Johnsons, the couple will face one year in jail as well as a possible fine.