Couple Allegedly Let Son Die Of Pancreatitis By Choosing Prayer Over Doctors

They gave him an armchair diagnosis of PTSD. They were wrong.

By Jaime Lutz

According to The Washington Post, two Minnesota parents are facing neglect charges after failing to bring their 7-year-old adopted son to the doctor while he died from possible sepsis after having pancreatitis.

Before their son Seth Johnson’s death two years ago, Timothy and Sarah Johnson researched his symptoms online and gave him an armchair diagnosis of PTSD and fetal alcohol syndrome—instead of bringing him to a doctor, where his condition would have been treatable. 

A week ago, the couple was finally charged with one count of neglect each, reported People

Timothy and Sarah Johnson decided not to bring Seth to the doctor because they didn’t want doctors to prescribe him medications, police said. They had "issues" with doctors, they told police. Instead, they “prayed for his health,” and gave him vitamins, police said.

At one point during his sickness, the couple left Seth at home with his 16-year-old brother in order to attend a wedding. When they came back, he was nearly dead.

The couple then raised $7,000 for Seth’s funeral expenses through online crowdfunding.

"His parents taught him about God’s love," the fundraiser page said at the time. "What it meant to be loved. What it meant to give love. To be a child of grace. A child of God. Our time with Seth was too short. We miss him. But we rejoice when we think of his new home, and we are comforted knowing we will see him again."

Medical examiners said that Seth’s body at the time of his death was underweight and malnourished, as well as covered in bruises, contusions, and blisters, possibly because, in the weeks before his death, the couple said that Seth barely ate and, allegedly, threw himself down the stairs.

“The parents admitted to police that his behavior had changed, that he wasn’t sleeping, was throwing himself down stairs and was taking hours to eat,” said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman in a statement. “Yet, they refused to do what most parents would have done and take him to a doctor.”

“The Johnsons, of course, are presumed innocent,” Freeman continued. “But we are going to use all of our resources to prove them guilty of neglect of a child resulting in substantial physical harm and ask for the strongest penalty allowed under the statute and sentencing guidelines.”

Seth began living with the married couple when he was three years old. At the time, he had no apparent health problems.

If found guilty, the Johnsons could be jailed for a year on the gross misdemeanor charge.

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