Mother Refuses Medical Care for Baby After Home Birth & Baby Dies

Mother Refuses Medical Care for Baby After Home Birth & Baby Dies January 4, 2019


In February 2017, 3-day-old Abigail Piland died after her parents refused to take her to the hospital for medical help. Abigail died from complications associated with jaundice and RH disease. Abigail’s parents, Rachel and Joshua Piland, refused medical care for the girl and instead prayed for her resuscitation. Authorities arrested Rachel and Joshua Piland in November 2017 for involuntary manslaughter. When Rachel delivered another baby in July 2018, the couple again refused to seek care for the baby. The baby was removed from the couple’s home and required emergency medical intervention to survive.

According to multiple reports, Rachel delivered Abigail at her home in February 2017. When the midwife returned for an assessment of the baby the next day, she grew concerned about Abigail’s coloring. The midwife said that Abigail appeared jaundiced.

Due to Abigail’s yellow coloring, the midwife insisted the couple take her to the emergency room. The midwife told Rachel and Joshua that without proper treatment Abigail could suffer brain damage.

The couple told the midwife that, “God makes no mistakes.” Additionally, Rachel dismissed the midwife’s concerns about Abigail and insisted Abigail did not need help.

When the couple refused to take Abigail to the hospital, the midwife scheduled an appointment to come to check on the baby the next day. Rachel canceled the appointment with the midwife.

The following day Abigail started coughing up blood and had trouble eating. Instead of seeking help, Rachel stripped the baby down to her diaper. Rachel placed Abigail in front of a window and used a hair dryer to keep her warm.

When Rachel’s mother came to see Abigail, her mother, Rebecca, urged her daughter to take her to the hospital. Rebecca told Rachel that Abigail’s coloring was not right. Again, Rachel refused to take Abigail to the hospital.

Instead of dealing with Abigail’s medical emergency, Rachel decided to listen to religious sermons and pray.

By the next morning, Rebecca and Rachel noticed blood coming out of Abigail’s nose. Additionally, Abigail struggled to breathe and refused to eat. Rebecca wanted to call 911 for help, but Rachel would not allow her mother to make the call.

Within hours, Rachel found Abigail lifeless and not breathing in a bouncy seat. When she found Abigail non-responsive, Rachel brought the baby to her husband, Joshua. Joshua had been sleeping at the time.

Joshua knew how to perform CPR but refused to give Abigail CPR. He didn’t feel comfortable performing CPR on the baby. Instead, Joshua attempted to blow air into Abigail through her face. When Abigail failed to respond, the couple sat beside her and prayed for her resuscitation.

As Abigail laid next to the parents dying, Joshua and Rachel did not call 911. Instead, the couple went online and texted friends to pray for Abigail to come back to life. Joshua massaged Abigail hoping to get “good air” into his daughter.

During this time the couple never called for help but notified family members of Abigail’s condition. A family member in California called the police to inform them of Abigail’s death.

When police arrived at the home, they found Abigail’s dead body and three people sitting next to her praying. Authorities transported Abigail’s corpse to the medical examiner for an autopsy. The medical examiner determined that Abigail died as a result of RH disease.

Rachel’s blood type was RH negative. Abigail’s blood type was RH positive. Antibodies in Rachel’s blood attacked Abigail’s blood. As a result, the baby died from severe jaundice and brain damage.

“Rh disease, also known as Rh incompatibility, is a form of anemia which the National Institute of Health says can be dangerous, but is usually detected and treated with standard medical care during and after pregnancy.

The disease stems from the Rh factor of the mother’s blood: If her Rh factor is negative but the baby’s Rh factor is positive, the mother may produce antibodies which enter the womb and attack the baby’s red blood cells.

The disease typically isn’t a problem during a woman’s first pregnancy, but the risk factor increases with each additional pregnancy that involves a baby with a positive Rh factor.”

(Treatment for RH incompatibility can improve outcomes for both the mother and fetus. RhoGAM a prescription medicine can be given to mothers during pregnancy to prevent RH immunization. Mothers receive the medicine as an intramuscular shot between 26-28 weeks. An additional shot is given post delivery if the baby’s blood is RH +)

Following the autopsy, the medical examiner determined Abigail would have survived had she been treated for the disorder.

After police completed their investigation, they arrested the couple and charged them with involuntary manslaughter. The couple bonded out after a court arraignment on the charges.

During their time on bond, Rachel became pregnant with another child. Again, Rachel refused treatment during pregnancy for her RH negative blood type. In July 2018, Rachel gave birth to a baby at home.

The baby named, Verity, presented similar issues as Abigail. On the same day of Verity’s birth, an anonymous person contacted Child Protective Services. When CPS learned of Verity’s birth, the state immediately seized the infant.

Authorities rushed the infant to the hospital. Verity showed signs of RH disease. Doctors attempted to give her a blood transfusion, but the treatment failed to improve her condition. When their first treatment failed, doctors opted for a full exchange transfusion where they replaced all of Verity’s blood.

After the exchange transfusion, Verity spent weeks in the hospital.  Doctors monitored her bilirubin levels and other organ function. The family told a local news outlet that Verity should recover. Unfortunately, the doctor could not say if Verity would suffer any long-term consequences.

As Verity recovers, she remains outside of the custody of Rachel and Joshua. The couple has two other children, not in their care. They are currently in the middle of a case with the state to formally terminate their parental rights. However, the couple is fighting the case saying they have religious freedom to treat their child how they wish.

In the matter of Abigail’s death, the state of Michigan charged them with involuntary manslaughter. The couple faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted on the charge. A pretrial conference for the case is scheduled for January 17.

While the death of Abigail is tragic, Verity survived because someone refused to watch another child die. Each person that failed to intervene with Abigail’s health crisis played a role in her death. The midwife could have called for an ambulance but refused to make the call. Rebecca, Rachel’s mother, knew that Abigail was very sick and failed to call 911.

Religion or faith is never an excuse to deny a child emergency medical treatment. A child is not the property of a parent. Each child born has the right to receive medical assistance for emergencies.

Rachel and Joshua used their belief system as an excuse not to help both babies. Rh disease and jaundice are not curable by prayer.

If Rachel had received proper treatment for RH incompatibility during her pregnancies, neither of the babies would have struggled following their births. She refused to seek medical assistance for Verity’s birth knowing Abigail died from complications associated with RH disease.

Rachel and Joshua unfit to be parents. Even if they are convicted on involuntary manslaughter, the sentence of 15 years hardly feels like justice for Baby Abigail.


*Katie Joy is a blogger and freelance writer. Her work is featured on Upworthy, Huffington Post, Yahoo Parents, Mamamia, Daily Beast, Cafe Stir, Newsweek, Jezebel, and The Daily Mail. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.

She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Daffodil

    At the very least, keep her in jail until she is no longer fertile.

  • I hope these people are convicted and sentenced to the maximum prison term. They are a danger to any future children they may have. This is an example of when ridiculous religious beliefs are deadly

  • Sadie

    I’m so sorry for their loss. I do want to make one thing extreamly clear. Being RH- is NOT a disease. We just have different blood. This does not make it a disease. When your RH- and you marry a RH+ you can expect issues but with proper medical care everything will fine. Please DO NOT refer to being and RH – as a disease.

  • when a baby gets sick – it’s called RH disease

  • agreed. they are wild. I was on their facebook. YIKES

  • they are on bond at home….together.

  • Rann

    She was VERY clear that the mother and child had different RH factors and THAT the incompatibility was the issue. Never was it even implied that the RH- factor was the disease.

  • Rann

    People like these are the reason why one wonders if the ban on forced sterilization should be lifted for a very select few cases……. we all know they will try and do the Quiverfull thing!

  • KB

    Fuck these people so hard. It’s amazing she didn’t have still births. You don’t get better from rh incompatibility. Even if the mother were to get pregnant again, not, there is a huge chance the baby wouldn’t make it to birth as her body will attack the fetus as a foreign object. She is now sensitized, and the pregnancy high risk, requiring regular immuno-suppressant injections, .
    My entire family is negative. So when my great aunt, back in 1950s England got married and started having kids, her first son was born with relatively no problem, but she never had a live birth again. Several mid-late term miscarriages, while her sister, my grandmother, went on to have 4. (my grandfather, as it turns out, was negative, my great uncle, positive). We know her many miscarriages were a source of suffering. She donated those babies to science to find out why, and was part of what helped medicine figure out what was going on and how to fix it. I imagine the fact that the tragedy could be used to prevent future tragedies were a source of comfort to her up till she died last year. So to know people are throwing away the hard won victories of medicine, won over a lot of pre-natal deaths and anguish for the families, is just absolute bollocks. My husband is positive. We didn’t mess around with our kid. Shots, monitoring, etc. (Luckily my daughter is also negative)

  • Isilzha

    THAT’S what you take away from this? BTW, it does NOT say that people with Rh- blood have a disease. It’s saying that this baby had RH disease which is the RESULT of an incompatibility between the mother and the fetus. This is one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen anyone clutch pearls over.

  • Yep, RH disease is a real issue and kills babies

  • I sure did!

  • persephone

    I am so angry with the midwife and Rachel’s mother. Rachel wouldn’t let her mother call 911? Seriously? Mom doesn’t have a phone of her own? The midwife, if she isn’t, should be a mandatory reporter. Once Rachel canceled the appointment, the midwife should have called 911.

    Every time I hear the excuse, “I wanted to call 911, but they wouldn’t let me,” I want to smack that person so hard. Walk out the door and call on your cell. Don’t have a cell? Call from your landline. Don’t have a landline, borrow someone’s phone, or drive to the police station.

  • persephone

    I hate to say it, but I’m kind of glad that the odds of them carrying a baby to term has dropped to about zero.

  • Yeah, that’s a cop out

  • Kay Pea

    I was discussing this with a friend recently. My suggestion was to give people who are clearly not willing to protect their children and who have been charged with the related crimes the choice between reversible long-acting contraception and jail time. A Nexplanon implant is more statistically effective than vasectomy, and lasts for four years. It’s palpable in the inner arm and could be checked at regular, required check-ins.

    I am normally against government intervention in people’s private healthcare choices. In those rare cases where any children produced by a couple would be at extreme risk, I could support giving the couple the option of preventing further pregnancies and hopefully also preventing abuse of potential children.

  • KB

    I’d rather she sterilized herself. Making babies and killing them, that I can’t get behind.

  • Your great aunt was an incredible person, and incredibly wise.

  • I can only hope that they’re being closely monitored.

  • firebubbles310

    These are the same kind of wackos who probably believe that abortion is murder. “God doesn’t make mistakes.” If that was true then prayers would have worked in the Middle Ages when women were forced to pray instead of using their equivalent of midwives. Medicine wouldn’t be necessary.

  • TheBookOfDavid

    Yeah, a clear case of arrested development.

  • TheBookOfDavid

    God doesn’t make anything, yet people like Rachel and Joshua make a strong case for intractable post-natal mistakes of God.

  • CamasBlues

    I looked up their fb. Wow. On both their pages’ nothing but creepy single (or a couple of short verse) quotations from the KJV. What a pair of zealous deluded whackos.

  • Curtis

    If god didn’t make mistakes prayers wouldn’t be neccessary.

  • JamieHaman

    While I agree that the government intervention in people’s private choices is generally wrong I do think the forced sterilization is realistic, and reasonable in some cases, and this is one of those cases. This couple is clearly willing to let children die, due to their own religious beliefs.
    They can believe what they want to, but a persons’ religious beliefs end where another persons’s rights begin.

    I also think her mother and the midwife should also be facing charges.

  • JamieHaman

    What makes you think that they are sorry for the loss, when they turned right around, and did it again? The thing that saved the second child is that someone in California called police, and doctors knew what to do.

  • Denise Diggs Adams

    This was actually ordered from a local judge years ago. After she lost all her kids and went to jail the judge said I’ll give you a deal on your drug charges if you get sterilized and she told him no because she’ll just keep having kids until they stop taking them away! Some families have sticks instead of trees!

  • Jesse Hines

    Why aren’t they being sentenced for AT LEAST the average lifespan of a female? That is currently 78.69 years in the US and it seems like a reasonable sentence.

    They stole SEVENTY EIGHT YEARS from this person.

  • plch

    My granny is negative and my grandad is positive, they were extremely lucky because my grandad was evidently heterozygote and that both theiir first and second son were negative, their third was positive but then they were done having children (my dad and his brothers were born in the ’40s and ’50s), years later they realized how risky it had been for my granny to get pregnant.

  • B.E. Miller

    Reading this story reminded me of the “Followers of Christ” group in Oregon and Idaho. Some of the ones in Oregon have been put in jail for refusing medical treatment for their kids. In a most recent case, the judge ordered a sign to be placed on the church’s door.

    Unfortunately, in Idaho, it’s legal to treat kids with prayer only. Just google “Peaceful Valley Cemetery, Followers of Christ”. There are people trying to pass a bill to remove the prayer clause, but these folks have their supporters, including one member, Christy Perry, who said that if these folks want to send their kids to God, why should she stop them?