DETROIT (AP) – The Michigan Court of Appeals ordered a new trial for a Lansing couple who lost parental rights to three children after they failed to seek medical care for a newborn who died from jaundice-related complications.
The result of the custody trial was spoiled because a jury wasn’t allowed to consider the role of religious beliefs when the couple skipped care for the child, the appeals court said.
Under state law, a parent “legitimately practicing” his or her religious beliefs when denying care can’t be found negligent on that reason alone, the court said in a 3-0 opinion Thursday.
Rachel Piland gave birth to a daughter (Abigail) at her home in 2017. The midwife noticed signs of jaundice, but Piland and her husband, Joshua, did not seek emergency care but instead prayed. Abigail died after a few days.
“Those beliefs are not supported by any law, doctrine, or canon of any religion,” Judge Richard Garcia said at that time in denying the jury instruction. “They are religious in nature, but that does not rise to the level of a legitimate practicing of a religious belief.”
The appeals court, however, said the Pilands believed in “divine healing” and that Garcia misinterpreted state law.
According to Crime On Line, On February 9, the suspect found her baby deceased in a bouncy seat. Instead of of calling for medical help, authorities said she called church members and friends to come over to her home and pray over the baby and massage her. Joshua continued to massage Abigail, attempting to get her “good air.”
The next year in 2018 state officials removed a newborn infant from the home of Joshua and Rachel Piland, of Lansing, after they reportedly refused to get baby medical treatment, despite an urgent medical need. Within hours of removing the baby girl, Verity, from the home, officials rushed her to the hospital where she received blood transfusions that likely saved her life.
According to court records, Verity was born on July 17 at her parent’s home. Authorities intervened after someone filed a complaint to Child Protective Services on the day Rachel Piland gave birth. After taking the baby to hospital, physicians determined she had severe jaundice and a possible Rh disease. Due to her high levels of bilirubin, doctors acted swiftly to save her life.