Okanogan teen’s faith-healing death under review


The Associated Press

WENATCHEE, Wash. —
The Okanogan County prosecutor is waiting for the sheriff to complete the investigation into the death of a 17-year-old boy who died at home of a burst appendix.

Zachery “Zakk” Swezey had no medical care during a three-day illness in March because his family, members of the Church of the First Born, believe in faith healing.

Prosecutor Karl Sloan says he’ll decide if charges are warranted.

Sheriff’s reports about the case were obtained Friday by The Wenatchee World in a public records request opposed by the family.

In a story published Thursday the documents say the parents, Greg and JaLea Swezey, gave their son the choice of calling an ambulance and seeing a doctor.

“We don’t force our kids, our kids have a choice. At no time did Zachery ask to go to the doctor,” Greg Swezey told investigators. The parents also said their oldest son once broke his leg, and they gave him a choice of going to the doctor, but his son chose not to.

Swezey put a cast on his leg, and later they saw a physical therapist who confirmed his son had broken his leg.

Swezey told deputies his children knew they had a choice to see a doctor and that last year Zakk, a Pateros High School student, had a sports physical.

Swan, in Sioux City, Iowa, was aware of Swezey’s death when contacted Tuesday by The Wenatchee World and said four other children in three states other than Washington have died so far this year in what she calls faith-deaths.

“There are many small Pentecostal groups that want Jesus to be their doctor, and that consider illness a tempt of faith,” she said.

Swan said what struck her most about Swezey’s death is the agony he must have endured. “The pain that comes with a ruptured appendix is just excruciating. It’s something the boy should not have had to suffer,” she said.

The recent case in Oregon City, Ore., of a faith-healing couple charged with negligent homicide in the death of their 15-month-old daughter could weigh in the prosecutor’s considerations. Ava Worthington died of pneumonia in March 2008, and her parents belong to Followers of Christ Church.

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