Herbert and Catherine Schaible of Pennsylvania, who believe in faith healing, were sentenced earlier this year to between 3 and one half and 7 years in prison following the death in 2013 of their 8-month-old son, Brandon. At the time of Brandon’s death, the couple was on 10 years’ probation following a jury conviction in 2011 of involuntary manslaughter in the death of their 2-year-old son, Kent, who died of untreated bacterial pneumonia in 2009. The 2011 decision included orders for them to seek medical care if any of their other children got sick.
The Schaibles are third-generation members of a small Pentecostal community in northeast Philadelphia, First Century Gospel Church, which teaches that to call on the help of a doctor is a sin. In a 2013 police statement, Herbert Schaible said, “We believe in divine healing, that Jesus shed blood for our healing and that he died on the cross to break the devil’s power. … [Medicine] is against our religious beliefs.”
Testimony at the couple’s preliminary hearing described Brandon’s symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, and breathing difficulties, and the prosecution has described both boys’ symptoms as “eerily similar.” Although Catherine Schaible’s lawyer said her client had tried to feed Brandon and had applied baby powder to keep him comfortable when he was ill, the parents had requested a church pastor to come pray with them in their home as they rocked him instead of taking him to the doctor. Philadelphia Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Gary Collins’ testimony at the preliminary hearing indicated Brandon’s death was the result of dehydration and bacterial pneumonia, which he could have survived if he had received antibiotics and fluids.
The couple expressed remorse for violating the earlier court order and not seeking medical care for Brandon. In November 2013, they pleaded no contest to third-degree murder charges in his death. Their pastor Nelson Clark has said the Schaibles lost their sons because of a “spiritual lack” in their lives, and he insisted they would not seek medical care even if another child appeared near death.
After completing their sentences, the couple will face 30 months of probation. The Schaibles have 7 surviving children, 6 of whom are under the age of 18 and are now in foster care. (Huffington Post, 2/19/2014) [IT 5.2]