Friday, August 28, 2009

How We View Two Tragic Events

In one the parents watch and pray as their son dies a slow agonizing death.

Zachery Swezey lay in his parents' bed, his breathing labored.

When he fell ill March 15, the 17-year-old Carlton boy's parents, Greg and JaLea Swezey, thought he had food poisoning. But over the next three days, they realized it was something else, perhaps the flu. He'd had a fever, and was vomiting with severe diarrhea.

During those three days, aunts, uncles and grandparents came to his bedside to pray. On March 17, his father did not call a doctor or an ambulance. Instead, he called elders from their church. They came to the house and anointed Zakk with olive oil, and prayed for him as Zakk's family waited outside in the hall. Members of the Church of the First Born, the Swezeys believe in faith healing.

At midday on March 18, Zakk told his mother he loved her, and asked for his father to come to his bedside.

Shortly before 1 p.m, his breathing slowed. His hands got cold and turned a bluish color. With both of his parents at his bedside, Zakk Swezey died.

An autopsy later revealed the Pateros High School student died of a ruptured appendix.

In the other story a parent puts her child in an improperly installed car seat.

Eileen Jensen’s daughter Chloe was riding in a loosely installed, rear-facing car seat in the front passenger seat during the 2006 collision, police said. The car’s airbags deployed, which – combined with the impact of the crash – caused the baby’s injuries.

She died from her injuries 10 months later, but “her brain stopped developing that day,” said Spokane police Officer Teresa Fuller.

In both cases we have a child dying with a parent's involvement. And yet one generates a stronger sense of outrage than the other. One makes us feel a stronger need for punishment. And yet the other child's death was almost certainly preventable.

What is it that lets us to make allowances for a belief system permitting such an abdication of responsibility?


Lucas said...

I don't differentiate between those two events. The parents' negligence in both cases was at the bottom of the whole thing. Sure, the first one makes a nicer story, but there is no difference. To give you another example, I think the parent of a child who does not teach their children about responsible sexual behavior, and whose child gets HIV/AIDS (or HPV and resulting cervical cancer)and ultimately dies from it is just as responsible as anyone for that child's death. Too many times in this society we let parents off the hook for the tragic outcomes of the children they were supposed to shepherd into responsible adulthood.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to state that the "General Assembly and Church of the First Born" is well known for these kinds of tragedies and that these people are prosecutable just as any other parent who commits an act of willful negligence would be.

If interested, please join our discussion @

It would be even more of a shame if Zakk died without anyone loudly advocating for him.