"Snake Salvation" Pastor Jamie Coots died this past Saturday after a rattlesnake he was handling bit him on the hand during a service at Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church of Middlesboro, Ky. The preacher refused medical attention from emergency responders and went home to pray over his injuries where he was found dead approximately an hour after he was bitten.
"In following Pastor Coots, we were constantly struck by his devout religious convictions despite the health and legal peril he often faced. Those risks were always worth it to him and his congregants as a means to demonstrate their unwavering faith," National Geographic said in a statement to Fox News. "We were honored to be allowed such unique access to Pastor Jamie and his congregation during the course of our show, and give context to his method of worship."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 7,000 and 8,000 people receive a bite from a venomous snake ever year, five of which die as a result of their injuries. The most common type of venomous snakes in the southern United States, where venomous snakebites occur most frequently, are pit vipers, which include copperheads, rattlesnakes, and cottonmouths (water moccasin). Pit vipers account for 97 percent of all venomous snakebites in the U.S.
Coots was considered one of the only preachers left in the U.S. practicing snake handling, a controversial religious practice in some Pentecostal churches based off of passages from the Bible that allude to the handling of serpents. Cody Coots, the preacher’s son, said he and a group of churchgoers helped walk his father out to the car and brought him back to his house. By the time ambulatory services arrived at the church, Coots had already left.
After arriving to Coots’ house in an attempt to administer medical services, Coots refused emergency services needed to counteract the infection. Coots did not believe in going to the hospital for a snakebite due to religious reasons. About an hour after his refusal to medical attention, authorities arrived back at Coots’ residence to find him dead. People who die as the result of a fatal snakebite usually experience heart failure.
People refusing medical attention due to their religious background is nothing new and, unfortunately, the situation ends with a similar result on most occasions. An article published in a 1998 issue of the journal Pediatrics documented 172 deaths related to faith-based healing over the course of 20 years involving 23 religions in sects in 34 states. Researchers said a majority of these deaths could have been prevented by medical care.
Back in August 2013, a young Amish girl’s family lobbied for her to be taken off of chemotherapy due to side effects she was feeling as a result. When some of the health concerns related to the radiation in chemo such as nausea and hair loss, the young girl and her family opted for natural medicine. The 10-year-old girl suffered lymphoblastic lymphoma, an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that is curable with modern medicine.