Religious mother admits to son's death
September 16, 2008
A WOMAN has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of her toddler son after she denied him medical treatment due to religious beliefs.
The 34-year-old mother of seven, who cannot be named for legal reasons, yesterday admitted in the NSW Supreme Court to unlawfully killing her son after refusing to allow him medical treatment for much of his short life.
The boy, who was unable to walk or talk and had a severe neurological disorder, died of pneumonia and an acute kidney infection on August 29, 2003.
His father, a church minister in Sydney's south-west, was also charged with manslaughter but he died in January of a heart attack.
The woman had told police that none of her children had ever required medical treatment because she believed in God as a healer, according to a court statement.
She said that when a member of her family was sick they would simply "say a little prayer".
The boy came to the attention of the Department of Community Services on the day he was born after his parents refused to give permission for doctors to perform an emergency blood transfusion.
A court order was granted, allowing doctors to treat the child without his parents' permission. However, the father told a doctor he believed that God could help his son "just as much as the medical profession".
Later, when doctors convinced the couple to allow them to operate on their son's cataracts, the woman told hospital staff to contact "Jesus Christ" should anything go wrong during surgery.
"Everything is now in God's hands," she told them.
The last time the boy received any medical treatment was in September 1999, soon after his surgery, the court heard.
The department closed the case on February 7, 2000.
A post-mortem examination revealed the boy weighed just a fraction a what a healthy child of that age should. He also had fractures to his ribs and other bones.
Dr Neil Langlois, who conducted the examination, concluded they may have been a pre-existing medical disease, but neglect had "directly contributed to the death". The couple called 000 on August 28, 2003, when they discovered their son dead in his cot.
When asked if she would seek medical attention if any of her other children now became sick, the woman told police: "I don't know, I'd have to make that decision in that time …"
The woman, who is on bail, is due back in court for a sentence hearing in November.