In a sad example of the dangers of religious thinking, a nurse at a jail in Oklahoma City, OK tried to perform an exorcism on an inmate who was suffering a seizure. The inmate died the next day after receiving delayed medical treatment.
The nurse, Linda Herlong Jackson, reportedly said, “I revoke you, demons,” as the female inmate experienced a seizure. The inmate, Amanda Freeman, died the following day. Jackson has been fired from her job as a nurse at the Oklahoma County Jail. Freeman is said to have died of a coronary event related to methamphetamine use. She had been arrested just three days prior with methamphetamine in her purse.
While Jackson has denied that she performed an exorcism, she also humbly described herself as an excellent nurse and said that being a nurse was “a form of serving God”. Despite her denial, one witness reported that Jackson actually asked those present if they would mind if she performed an exorcism. And then a sheriff’s lieutenant reportedly intervened and stopped the exorcism in progress.
The incident took place in February, but has recently been picked up by local and regional media as the district attorney’s office has been discussing this week whether or not they will file criminal charges against Jackson.
While Jackson has denied she performed the exorcism, with multiple witnesses attesting that she did, and her own admission that she worked as a nurse to serve God, I think we can say that there is a good chance she did. And if that is the case, then this is a tragic example of the danger of magical thinking (in this case religious, but this kind of thinking is certainly not limited to religion).
When people forsake rationality and reason for magical thinking and faith the results can be deadly. It is because of instances like this that people like me feel obligated to speak up for reason, science, and secular values.