Oregon City, USA - The maternal grandmother of a premature baby that died less than nine hours after birth said Tuesday that she was not concerned with the infant's health and would not have called an ambulance when he struggled for breath because it was not her decision.
Karen White testified Tuesday in Clackamas County Circuit Court during the trial of Shannon and Dale Hickman, her daughter and son-in-law. The Hickmans are accused of second-degree manslaughter for failing to provide medical care to their baby.
David Hickman was born about two months early. He weighed 3 pounds, 7 ounces and died of respiratory distress. White and the Hickmans belong to the Followers of Christ, an Oregon City church that preaches faith healing and rejects the use of doctors or medical care.
Doctors testified earlier in the trial that it was almost certain the baby would have survived if the Hickmans had sought medical treatment. White said she believed no extraordinary care was needed.
"Have you ever seen a baby that small," asked prosecutor Mike Regan.
No, White said. "(David) was normal, he was just small."
"I thought he would be OK," White said. "I didn't believe he was going to die."
Defense attorneys played a video taken the evening David was born. It was taken in a bedroom at White's house, where the Hickmans went for the birth. The video shows the couple, their then 5-year-old daughter, Daisy, and Dale's mother, who held David. Everyone is smiling and joyful.
White said she was sleeping and was awakened when David's condition changed around 2 a.m, not long before he died. She said she could see a physical change in the baby.
"I could hear him breathe. I could hear something in his throat," White said. But she said that she never considered calling for emergency medical care.
The family prayed and Dale Hickman anointed the baby with olive oil. "That's what the Bible tells us to do," she said.
It wasn't very long afterward that the baby died, she said. White said she prayed but did not consider calling 9-1-1.
"It's not my place to do that," White said. "I am a woman in the church" and the Followers believe that a wife must defer to her husband, in accordance with biblical teachings, she said.
As the head of the household, "it is ultimately Dale's decision," she said.
In life-or-death situations, White said she would not call for emergency medical assistance.
"I believe in God. I believe all things are possible with God," White said.
Do you understand the risks of premature birth; that premature infants are at greater risk, Regan asked.
"I don't know what you mean by a higher risk," White said.
White said church members are not prohibited from going to doctors and are not forced out of the church if the seek medical care
White said that others in the church have called 9-1-1 for help at difficult births.
White is one of nine church members subpoenaed to testify at the trial. It is not clear how many will be called.
This afternoon, prosecution witnesses include midwifery experts. They will be questioned about medical practices involving home births.
Shannon Hickman was attended by three female church members who are called midwives. Although they reportedly have attended hundreds of births, it is unclear what training they received or what their protocol is for medical emergencies.