Anointing the sick with oil

Familiar story. Couple belong to church that “preaches faith-healing and rejects modern medicine in favor of prayer and other spiritual practices such as anointing the sick with oil.” Couple lets infant die instead of getting medical help.

David Hickman, the couple’s infant son, died in 2009 from a bacterial infection in his lungs. Born two months premature, weighing only 3 pounds and 5 ounces, David only lived for an agonizing nine hours. David, slowly succumbing to the infection in the Hickman’s home, was surrounded by female church members who are considered midwives, although there is no evidence these unlicensed, supposed “midwives,” have any medical education.

Couple goes on trial. Defense is expected to argue that the infant’s death was unforeseeable  and that the couple are the victims of religious persecution.


  1. sailor1031 says

    “in the past 30 years, more than 20 children of church members have died of preventable or curable conditions.”

    It’s not like they don’t know then! This is deliberate and criminal stupidity. Religious freedom has nothing to do with.

    As a side note most xtian traditions keep the anointing with oil for the last moments of the dying…..used to be called “extreme unction”. Once again fundies not paying attention?

  2. Stacy Kennedy says

    Sailor, the fundies are big on annointing with oil. John Ashcroft had it done numerous times–

    He has said he was anointed with oil “in the manner of King David” as he took each successive political office in his career. When he became a Senator his father anointed him with Crisco brand cooking oil, and died the next day. Before becoming Attorney General, Ashcroft had Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas do the anointing

    And in his book Crazy for God, former fundie Frank Schaeffer tells of annointing a sick friend (they were both children at the time) in order to try to heal the friend’s Cerebral Palsy.

  3. Francisco Bacopa says

    The desire for lower intervention births is admirable. That’s why I think states should go for what we have here, a program where registered nurses can take additional training to become a certified nurse-midwife who has the scientific background to on occasion decide “all hell’s breaking loose, we need to get to a hospital”.

    We need to make a low-woo scientific midwifery in every state.

  4. says

    Stacy Kennedy:

    And in his book Crazy for God, former fundie Frank Schaeffer tells of annointing a sick friend (they were both children at the time) in order to try to heal the friend’s Cerebral Palsy.

    *double facepalm*

    I was once told by a preacher that if I would just believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Master Savior, GOD would “give [me] new legs.” GOD didn’t do jack about my CP back when I did believe in him. Why would I have reason to think he’d do it now?

  5. sailor1031 says

    Stacy: “anointed” with CRISCO? Do these people have any idea how bizarre that sounds. Still, since it was ashcroft I wouldn’t have wasted a good marinade on him either. Not that, as slimy as he was, he needed any more guck. always despised that creature.
    I must be from a different planet, I just don’t get these fundies at all.

  6. says

    Lock them up.
    Pure and simple.
    Premature births belong into hospitals. And though I’m opposed to prosecuting women for chosing for themselves, once the kid is out he’s a full human with all the rights and protection.
    If I had any part in the death of my child, no criminal prosecution could inflict any more pain on me than what I would be going through. But since those people believe in god’s will and god’s plan, they probably need to be prevented from having more children that could die for a few years while they’re safe and sound in prison.

  7. ImaginesABeach says

    The story on the OregonLive website ( included this statement:

    Prosecutors will contend that the Hickmans failed their son and caused his death because of their faith-based aversion to doctors and mainstream medical care. They will argue that the boy’s fate was sealed before his conception. They note that Shannon Hickman had a miscarriage a year before David was born and that she did not seek prenatal care when she learned she was pregnant again.

    I hate it when parents endanger their children with superstition, but I’m not at all comfortable with the thought that the prosecutor will argue that a lack of adequate prenatal care is actionable.

  8. lordshipmayhem says

    Anointing a child with Crisco sounds like something we Atheists are accused of doing (either that, or anointing with barbecue sauce).

    This death is as unforeseeable as the Sun rising in the East. Your baby is running a high fever and you don’t get it treated, the chance of death is extremely high. Period.

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