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Wrongful deaths blamed on religious sect members

The parents of a woman who died a month after delivering a stillborn infant in 2006 blame the baby's father and members of his faith for the deaths. A jury recently heard testimony in a wrongful death lawsuit the parents filed near Kansas City in 2009.

The negligence suit, filed on behalf of the daughter and grandchild, stated that the pregnant woman and her partner belonged to a religious group that only relied on prayer for medical healing. The woman was in labor for four days, attended by her partner and self-proclaimed midwives.

Late into the labor process, the birth attendants reportedly used unsterile scissors to cut the birth mother's vagina after realizing the birth was breech. The infant died.

The religious group members are accused of failing to care for the medical needs of the mother following the stillborn birth. Family and friends apparently were kept from visiting the woman, who died a month later from cardiac and uterine infections and blood poisoning.

No criminal charges were brought in the case. Prosecutors could not prove without a doubt that anyone kept the ill woman from receiving health care.

The civil action claims the people who were with the woman during the labor, birth and deaths were irresponsible. Among the multiple defendants are the baby's father, two midwives, a faith-healing author and three out-of-state religious organizations.

One of the midwives agreed to settle out of court for $300,000.

A civil court may do what a criminal court could not - hold negligent individuals responsible for preventable deaths. A jury will decide if clear evidence exists to award damages to the parents for the loss of their daughter and grandchild's lives.

Medical malpractice lawsuits are reserved for defendants who are licensed health care professionals. Unlicensed medical providers have not taken an oath to provide quality patient care, but they are still liable for harm in criminal and civil courts.

Source: kansascity.com, "Lawsuit blames religious group for woman's death after stillbirth," Karen Dillon, Dec. 17, 2012

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