A Coroner’s Race in Idaho Centered Around the Handling of “Faith-Healing” Deaths

There was a primary election in Idaho last week for a position that, in any typical year, no one outside of Canyon County would’ve cared about. But it was relevant because the issue of faith-healing was front and center.

The County Coroner Vicki DeGeus-Morris, who had been in office for 28 years, lost the primary to former deputy coroner Jennifer Crawford. Because there are no other names on the ballot, Crawford will almost certainly win the election, and that’s good news for people who are unsatisfied with how the county handles parents who let their children die of curable diseases because they refuse to take them to doctors.

As it stands, Idaho is one of six states that allows faith-based exemptions when parents are charged with negligent homicide or manslaughter against their children. The parents who kill their children by refusing to get them appropriate medical care are essentially let off the hook, which is why Idaho in particular sees so many of these kinds of deaths. Making things worse is the fact that the state is home to the Followers of Christ sect, members of which have been in the news many times over because their kids died from preventable diseases.

How does the coroner position play into any of that?

Child advocates, opponents of the religious exemption and even Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue have accused DeGeus-Morris of failing to immediately report medically unattended child deaths to law enforcement.

Donahue said communication between the sheriff and the coroner’s offices has improved over the last two years, but there were times since he took office in 2012 when the coroner’s office contacted law enforcement too late or not at all.

“In the past, and it’s gotten better the last year, I admit, we may get contacted by the coroner 10 to 14 hours later. Let’s say an average 8 to 10 hours,” Donahue said. By that time, Donahue said, the scene of the death has been altered and the victim moved in such a way that impedes the investigation.

In other words, DeGeus-Morris didn’t do enough to build stronger cases against religious parents who kill their children out of neglect. Even if those parents couldn’t be prosecuted under state law, the gut-wrenching stories can at least help change public sentiment against the status quo. There’s hope that Crawford will alleviate that problem by bringing these stories to the forefront as soon as possible (though it would be even better if she had no stories like this to act upon).

Read the full story at the Friendly Atheist Blog


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