A Christian couple who let their baby die of jaundice last year because they believe ‘God makes no mistakes’ has had their newborn girl taken from them by the state.
Joshua, 37, and Rachel Piland, 31, were charged with involuntary manslaughter in September after they refused to seek medical treatment for their daughter Abigail, who died in February 2017.
Rachel Piland gave birth to another baby girl earlier this month who began showing symptoms of infant jaundice, the same condition that killed her sister.
But once again the Lansing, Michigan couple has refused to take their child to the hospital – and now the state is hoping to terminate their parental rights.
State officials decided to take immediate action, seizing Verity from her parents just hours after she was born.
Verity was rushed to a local hospital and received lifesaving blood transfusions, according to the Lansing State Journal.
A complaint was filed with Child Protective Services the same day Verity was born, July 17, and officials cited ‘anticipatory neglect’ for seizing the child.
‘There are current concerns for the safety and well-being of the newborn baby as the previous concerns which brought this family to the court’s attention have yet to be rectified,’ a CPS investigator wrote in a petition to the court.
Verity was taken to a hospital within hours of her birth, where doctors found she was ‘significantly jaundiced’ and had high levels of bilirubin in her system.
While unconjugated bilirubin is not an issue for most newborns, high levels can cause lifelong neurological problems or even death if left untreated.
Doctors also suspected that Verity might have Rh disease, a condition that is caused by incompatibility in the blood between a mother and her fetus.
If the mother is Rh-negative but her baby is Rh-positive, her body will try to fight off the foreign red blood cells by producing antibodies.
These Rh antibodies can cross the placenta and reach the fetus, destroying the newborn’s blood cells and potentially resulting in jaundice.
Rh disease can be treated in the fetus and 95 percent of babies who are born with severe Rh disease survive.
But a blood transfusion did not help Verity, so the newborn had to undergo an exchange transfusion – meaning her entire blood supply was replaced.
Aaron Kerr, Rachel Piland’s brother, said the infant has been hospitalized for the last two weeks but is recovering.
‘She’s still being evaluated and checked. We’re hopeful that there are no long-term complications, but I don’t think we can say 100 percent yet whether that’s the case,’ he said.
Abigail Piland was also jaundiced and had high levels of bilirubin at the time of her death.
Rachel gave birth to Abigail, via midwife, at her home on February 6, 2017.
At the time of her birth, Abigail appeared healthy and there were no concerns surrounding her well-being.
But when the midwife, who had helped deliver Rachel and Joshua’s two older children, returned to the home the next day, she told Rachel that Abigail appeared jaundiced and encouraged her to take the baby to the doctor.
‘She told Rachel the baby could suffer brain damage or die if not properly cared for,’ Lansing Police Detective Peter Scaccia said.
Scaccia said that Rachel refused to seek any medical treatment for Abigail, stating ‘God makes no mistakes’ and that she believed in the power of prayer.
But the baby’s condition only worsened and, on February 8, Abigail started to cough up blood.
Instead of taking the infant to the doctor, Rachel put her child ‘near a window wearing just a diaper and utilizing a hair dryer to keep her warm,’ Scaccia told the Lansing State Journal.
At one point, Rachel told her mother, Rebecca Kerr, what the midwife said after Rebecca commented that Abigail’s skin was not the right color.
But instead of going to the hospital with her newborn, Rachel listened to sermons.
On the morning of February 9, Rachel and her mother noticed blood coming out of Abigail’s nose and that she was struggling to breathe.
Kerr begged her daughter to call for help, but Rachel refused. By 11am that same day, Abigail was dead.
Rachel told her husband Joshua, who attempted one rescue breath. He later told detectives he didn’t want to try CPR because he didn’t know how to perform it on children.
The couple then brought Abigail upstairs to ‘pray for her’ and asked fellow church members to come to their home and ‘pray for her resurrection’. They never called the police.
Authorities only learned of the child’s death after Rachel’s brother called from California and reported it.
When police arrived they discovered the dead infant and people praying over her body.
The autopsy later confirmed that Abigail died from unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia and kernicterus – conditions related to jaundice.
If treated she would have more than likely survived, Scaccia said.
Rachel and Joshua later told the court that they understood the newborn’s symptoms but chose to ‘believe in the word of God over the symptoms,’ records show.
The court also heard they believe they’ll be reunited with their baby girl because they think she will be ‘resurrected.’
Rachel and Joshua were each charged with a single count of involuntary manslaughter and released after posting $75,000 bond on September 21.
They each face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. A trial date has not yet been set.
It remains unclear if they will face additional charges related to Verity.
Their two older sons, aged two and three, were placed in the care of Rachel’s parents after the couple refused to stop physically disciplining them.
A separate trial to determine whether the Pilands’ custody rights to their two sons will be permanently terminated has been delayed for months.
The state’s Department of Health and Human Services is moving to terminate their parental rights to Verity. The pretrial is scheduled for August 9.
What is infant jaundice?
Infant jaundice is a yellow discoloration in a newborn baby’s skin and eyes. Infant jaundice occurs because the baby’s blood contains an excess of bilirubin, a yellow-colored pigment of red blood cells.
Infant jaundice is a common condition, particularly in babies born before 38 weeks gestation (preterm babies) and some breast-fed babies.
Infant jaundice usually occurs because a baby’s liver isn’t mature enough to get rid of bilirubin in the bloodstream. In some cases, an underlying disease may cause jaundice.
Treatment of infant jaundice often isn’t necessary, and most cases that need treatment respond well to noninvasive therapy.
Although complications are rare, a high bilirubin level associated with severe infant jaundice or inadequately treated jaundice may cause brain damage.
Source: Mayo Clinic
SOURCE: Daily Mail – Anneta Konstantinides, Hannah Parry, and Chloe Castleberry