Christian Science Couple In Minnesota Loses Civil Case
A MINNEAPOLIS jury Wednesday awarded $5.2 million to the father of a child who died while under Christian Science treatment through prayer.
Jurors in the civil trial held Kathleen and William McKown, the mother and stepfather of Ian Lundman; The First Church of Christ, Scientist; and several other individuals responsible for the 1989 death of the 11-year-old boy of what was later diagnosed as diabetes.
Arguing that the parents had a duty to obtain medical care for the child, his biological father, Douglass Lundman, filed a civil lawsuit after Minnesota courts refused to allow criminal charges to be brought against the McKowns. Prosecutors had indicted the couple on second-degree manslaughter charges, but the courts ruled that the indictments violated constitutional due-process provisions.
The Minnesota Supreme Court held in 1991 that a provision in the state child-neglect statute permitting parents to rely on spiritual means or prayer for treatment or care of disease "expressly provided respondents the right to 'depend upon' Christian Science healing methods so long as they did so in good faith."
The ruling was appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which let it stand.
In the civil case, the McKowns argued that they acted reasonably in accord with the teachings of their faith.
Also held liable for compensatory damages were Mario Tosto, a Christian Science practitioner (a Christian Scientist whose profession is spiritual healing); Quinna Lamb Giebelhaus, a Christian Science nurse (who provides nonmedical practical care for the sick); James Van Horn, the Christian Science Committee on Publication for Minnesota (a government-affairs representative and spokesman for Christian Scientists living in the state); and Clifton House, a Christian Science care facility.
The jury apportioned 25 percent of the damages to Mrs. McKown; 20 percent each to Mr. Van Horn and Clifton House; 10 percent each to Mr. McKown, Mr. Tosto, and the Christian Science Church; and 5 percent to Mrs. Giebelhaus.
The jury will meet again today to consider additional punitive damages in the case.
Hennepin County District Court Judge Sean Rice temporarily ordered all parties to the lawsuit not to speak to the press about the case.
A Christian Science church spokesman declined comment, citing the judge's order.