Medical examiner: Premature baby born to 'Followers of Christ' died of lung problems

(KATU File Photo)

OREGON CITY, Ore. – The baby born to faith-healing parents that died earlier this month just hours after she was born had lung problems, Oregon’s Medical Examiner’s office said.

Sarah Mitchell, 24, gave birth to twin girls March 5 at her parents' Oregon City home. She and her husband, 21-year-old Travis Mitchell, are part of the Followers of Christ church - a group that doesn't believe in medical care and instead relies on prayer and anointment with oil for healing.

One of the infants, named Gennifer, died just hours after birth due to breathing problems.

State Medical Examiner Dr. Karen Gunson tells KATU News she isn’t sure if Gennifer would have survived if the baby was taken immediately to the hospital, but said it would have given her a chance.

Dr. Gunson performed Gennifer’s autopsy and ruled the infant died of complications of prematurity, specifically relating to oxygen intake from the lungs. She’s not sure how premature the baby was, but estimates Mitchell gave birth about two months early.

Only Mitchell's family, fellow Followers of Christ members and three midwives were present at the birth of the two girls.

Following Gennifer’s death, a church elder called the Clackamas County Medical Examiner.

The examiner arrived and realized the second baby, who was still alive, needed immediate medical attention. He convinced the family to seek professional care for the baby, who has been hospitalized at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at OHSU.

According to Dr. Gunson, premature babies typically go to the intensive care unit for medical assistance as soon as they are born.

No one had contacted 911 prior to the medical examiner's advice, deputies said.

RELATED: Faith-healing parents say no one considered calling for help

Mitchell is the sister of Shannon Hickman, who was found guilty of second-degree manslaughter following the death of her infant son just nine hours after he was born in 2009. Shannon Hickman and her husband Dale are both serving 6-year prison sentences.

READ MORE: Faith-healing parents say no one considered calling for help

Deputies are in the midst of collecting evidence surrounding Sarah Mitchell's baby's death.

If you have any information, call 503-723-4949 or use the online email form at . Please reference CCSO Case # 17-6024.

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