Grand Junction -- Amanda Bates' death of complications from diabetes last week has been classified a homicide because the 13-year-old died as a direct result of medical treatment being withheld by her parents.
The determination Monday by the Mesa County coroner, Dr. Rob Kurtzman, opens the door to the possible prosecution of her parents, Randy and Colleen Bates, and other members of General Assembly Church of the First Born, a centuries-old Christian sect that does not believe in medical treatments. A homicide is when a person directly or indirectly causes the death of another person.
Amanda is the second of Randy and Colleen Bates' 12 children to die at home. Gerald Bates died at age 3 months in 1997. His death was caused by sudden infant death syndrome and could not have been prevented with medical care, according to Kurtzman, who also performed the autopsy in that case. Kurtzman said the parents would not have recognized a problem before Gerald died.
On the other hand, Kurtzman said, Amanda Bates' diabetes and the massive infection that resulted could easily have been recognized and treated. Amanda died after someone at her home in Clifton called 911 early on Feb. 5 to report an unattended death when she stopped breathing. Church members had been at her home to pray over her and anoint her with oil - the only care allowed by Church of the First Born.
When paramedics arrived, they were able to get the girl breathing again, and she was kept alive on artificial life support at St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction. She was airlifted to Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver, where she was declared dead that evening.
The Mesa County Department of Human Services stepped in early last week after Amanda's death and determined the surviving 10 Bates children were not in any immediate danger. Later in the week, after medical examinations, four of the Bates children were found to have strep throat, a condition that can also have serious consequences if not treated. "The children are being taken care of," said Tom Papin, director of the Mesa County Department of Human Services.
As the investigation into Amanda Bates' death continues, Kurtzman and others are hoping get a law passed that would deter parents from withholding medical treatment from their children. A Colorado legislative committee today will discuss a bill that would eliminate a confusing exemption in the child-abuse law. The exemption states that parents or guardians who withhold medical treatment on religious grounds can't be held liable for harm to a child as long as the faith-healing treatments used are recognized by the Internal Revenue Service and by major insurers. Christian Science treatments have that recognition.
Since 1990, similar exemptions have been repealed in five states - Oregon, South Dakota, Hawaii, Maryland and Massachusetts. Child deaths attributed to the withholding of medical treatment have dropped in those states after the change was made.