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Former missionary doctor won’t stand trial for sex abuse

by Kiley Crossland
Posted 7/31/18, 01:17 pm

A Michigan judge last week ruled that a former Baptist missionary doctor accused of sexually abusing more than 20 minors in Bangladesh will not stand trial. Ottawa County Circuit Court Judge Jon Hulsing said Donn Ketcham, 87, is incompetent to stand trial, citing dementia and Parkinson’s disease, according to WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, Mich.

An investigation in 2016 found Ketcham had multiple extramarital affairs and sexually abused minors and adults under the guise of medical care, including rape and apparent drugging, while serving as a doctor in Bangladesh with the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism from 1966 to 1989. Most of his victims were children of fellow missionaries. Despite complaints, the organization twice sent Ketcham back to the field, in 1973 and 1984. After returning to the United States in 1989, he opened a private medical practice in Allendale, Mich., where he reportedly abused a young girl during an office visit. Ketcham eventually lost his medical license in 2012 and was ordered to stand trial in 2016.

Prosecutors told WOOD-TV they don’t plan to appeal Hulsing’s ruling.

Editor’s note: This article has been edited to note that the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism sent Donn Ketcham back to the mission field in 1973 and 1984.

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Kiley Crossland

Kiley is a former WORLD correspondent.

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  •  Deb O's picture
    Deb O
    Posted: Tue, 07/31/2018 02:46 pm

    "Despite complaints, the organization repeatedly sent Ketcham back to the field." Like the Roman Catholic hierarchy, this Baptist association is equally as guilty. Shame on them. May they fall down on their knees in forgiveness and some way recompense the victims before they're sued into oblivion.

  • Bonnie Jean
    Posted: Tue, 07/31/2018 03:34 pm

    I think you mean "fellow" missionaries, not "follow."

  • Bonnie Jean
    Posted: Tue, 07/31/2018 03:35 pm


  • Web Editor
    Posted: Tue, 07/31/2018 03:50 pm

    Thank you for writing to point out the error. We have corrected it.

  • Vilio72718
    Posted: Tue, 07/31/2018 04:03 pm

    I read this article with great sadness.  I am a 66 year old physician, who "am what I am" in part because of admiration that I had for pioneer missionary doctors at the Memorial Christian Hospital more than 50 years ago.  My mother, in fact, was a classmate of one of the non-medical missionaries, and several of them hailed from my home town.  That such evil (a true wolf in sheep's clothing) even occurred, much less was tolerated by mission executives is mind-boggling to me.  And my heart breaks for the abused children, possibly even children of the missionaries of my acquaintance, who would now be middle-aged adults.

    I believe in forgiveness.  But the evil must be confronted in order to be forgiven. Truly, there is NOTHING hidden that will not be revealed (eventually)--I've known since childhood that "behold, your sins will find you out".  It amazes me that Donn Ketchum thought he could get away with his actions, and even more so that the mission oversight board turned a blind eye.  The actions alone were horrific, but the cover-up was worse.  What could have been an opportunity for transparency, godly discipline, repentence became an occasion of hypocricy and festering perpetration of what can only be described as noxious sin.  Being aware that we all have "planks in our eyes" is not an excuse to ignore a sin of this magnitude and widespread damage.  Not only were the abused women forever marked by it, but the shame brought on the mission and the truly good work being done by the vast majority of the missionaries has been tainted.

    A call for public repentence by everyone who "knew" and would not confront is in order.

  • MRW
    Posted: Mon, 08/06/2018 02:07 am

    And that repentance happened.

  • momof 13
    Posted: Thu, 08/02/2018 10:03 am

    Thank you for covering a story that mainstream media swept under the rug. Mt heart has been so burdened for Kim (one of the Dr's victims). Not only do we  share a name but we share a similar story. Healing is found in Jesus, my sister. "By His stripes we are healed..."

  • MRW
    Posted: Mon, 08/06/2018 01:58 am

    This brief article does not give the full story. Please get all of the facts before passing judgment.  This abomination occurred in the 70's and early 80's and was handled according to the policies of that era. 

    ABWE has a wonderful heritage of compassionate medical care in many countries around the world, sharing the love of Jesus Christ and hope that only HE can give. Please do not condemn this God-honoring mission by the errors made in this one case.