GLADSTONE, Ore. - A 16-year-old boy who, along with his parents, believed in faith healing died as a result of an inflammation in his urinary system that is treatable, a deputy medical examiner said Wednesday.
The boy, identified by authorities as Neil Beagley, was suffering from an inflammation in a tube leading from his bladder - the urethra - that made him unable to urinate, according to Dr. Clifford Nelson, a deputy state medical examiner.
Beagley filled up with urine, and that eventually ruined his bladder and kidneys and resulted in heart failure, said Nelson, who called it "an absolutely horrible way to die."
Such a condition could have been treated with the use of a catheter, Nelson said.
KATU first learned that Beagley was sick back in late March and informed authorities about his condition. The Department of Human Services confirmed they checked on his condition and were assured by Beagley's family that he would be taken care of.
Nelson, the deputy medical examiner, said Beagley was likely born with a condition in which his urethra was pinched, and it periodically became inflamed, causing him sickness.
It was not clear what transpired between March and this week. Gladstone police said the boy got sick about a week ago and his condition worsened Sunday, causing members of his faith-healing church to gather for prayer rather than take him to a hospital. The boy died Tuesday afternoon surrounded by family members and a board member of the church called authorities.
Police said relatives and church members told them the teenager refused treatment for the illness, as he was entitled to do under Oregon law.
"All of the interviews from last night are that he did in fact refuse treatment," said Sgt. Lynne Benton of Gladstone police. "Unless we can disprove that, charges probably won't be filed in this case.
She said state law allows minors 14 and older to make such decisions.
Police said the boy and his family are members of the Followers of Christ Church, a highly secretive group in Oregon City that has been practicing a distinct brand of religion since at least the mid-40s after moving to Oregon from Idaho. They believe they are God's chosen children and that God's will can heal those he chooses.
In March, Beagley's 15-month-old niece, Ava Worthington, died at home from bronchial pneumonia and a blood infection. Her parents, Carl and Raylene Worthington, also failed to contact a doctor and are awaiting trial on criminal charges in her death.
Beagley is also the brother of Raylene Worthington.
Oregon lawmakers passed new laws striking down legal shields for faith-healing parents after several children from the Followers of Christ church died in the 1990s.
The Oregon City church is not associated with a mainstream denomination.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report.