Steve G.

What is the government’s proper function in child death caused by religious belief?

In Constitutional Rights, Courts and Justice System, Crime, First Amendment, Health, Law, Obituaries, People in the news, Personal Responsibility, Science on April 1, 2008 at 9:17 pm

Madeline Kara Neumann, Leilani and Dale NeumannOn Sunday, 11-year-old Madeline Kara Neumann, known as “Kara”, died due to diabetic ketoacidosis. While diabetes is a treatable disease, the girl had not seen a doctor, so she had not been diagnosed with diabetes.

Her parents, Leilani and Dale Neumann of Wisconsin, believe that healing is received only through faith, and not through medicine. They therefore did not take Kara to a doctor even though she had been severely ill for days, possibly a week. Instead, they prayed for her.

Authorities were first contacted by the child’s aunt in California, who had asked them to check on the child. From ABC News:

“My sister-in-law is, her daughter’s severely, severely sick and she believes her daughter is in a coma,” [Ariel] Gomez is heard telling the dispatcher in one of the 911 calls released by the sheriff’s office. “And, she’s very religious, so she’s refusing to take [Kara] to the hospital, so I was hoping maybe somebody could go over there.”

Gomez asks authorities to send an ambulance, and warns the dispatcher that Leilani Neumann will fight attempts to intervene. “We’ve been trying to get her to take [Kara] to the hospital for a week, a few days now,” Gomez tells the dispatcher.

Before police got to the house, they received a medical emergency call from the Neumanns.

The parents post on the website of a congregation which refuses medical treatment, but the minister said they are not members of that congregation. The parents seem to have their own prayer group, comprised of about eight people. Authorities believe the girl, who was being homeschooled at the time of her death, had been very ill for several days, possibly a week, before her death; and the mother had reported to family members that the girl had slipped into a coma, but they were still refusing to take her to a hospital, believing prayer would heal her.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the girl’s parents confirmed that they believe healing comes from God, but said they did not want their child to die, they are not zealots and they do not have anything against doctors.

Dale Neumann, a former police officer, told the AP that he started to perform CPR on his daughter “as soon as the breath of life left.”

In the interview, Leilani Neumann said that she is not worried about the police investigation because her family’s lives are “in God’s hands” and they know that they did the best thing for their daughter that they knew how to do.

You can read the entire ABC News article here.

Carl and Raylene WorthingtonA similar case occurred earlier this month, when 15-month-old baby Ava Worthington died of bronchial pneumonia and a blood infection, after Carl and Raylene Worthington, her faith healing parents, failed to obtain any medical care for the infant; the illness was exacerbated by a benign cyst on the child’s neck which had never been medically treated. The state medical examiner said the infant could have been saved with a simple prescription for antibiotics. The Worthingtons have been criminally charged with manslaughter and criminal mistreatment.

You can read the entire ABC News article here.

Should parents who believe in faith healing be charged criminally in the death of their child, or should they be protected by the First Amendment? Should the government intervene and take away their other children in such situations, for their safety and protection? Or are these parents within their First Amendment rights to not seek medical care for their children, relying instead on prayer alone, even if their child is obviously dying?

  1. As heartbreaking as those stories are, I do not believe it is in our interest to have government dictate proper parenting practices. Nothing the government does to these parents will exceed the pain caused by the loss of their children.

    That said, in clear cases of neglect and abuse, I do believe government has a responsibility to intervene. But not in cases like these.

  2. Well, I think this is a clear case of neglect. Heck, “neglect” is an understatement. This was murder by other means.

    I’m struggling a great deal to understand why anyone could consider these people in terms of anything but contempt. They were not ignorant or incapable of taking their child to the hospital. They simply refused to prevent her death. The fact that any otherwise sensible person would think that any greater good can be found in this particular child’s death disgusts me beyond words.

  3. I can’t go so far as to say that parents “own” children. But the relationship is far more like ownership than anything else, and it’s not the State’s job to interfere with disposal of one’s property. I really think that, overall, more harm is done by intervention than by non-intervention. Yep, that means some children will die. Same with the other possibility

  4. 6/2/08
    I have not heard, nor in the reading of many comments, of anyone (except one) who even went to the Monkey Mo cafe! That being said, how many readers/writers knew any of the Neumann family? Many, many people knew young Kara. She was well-liked & involved in sports & music lessons. She loved to draw & write. Go to the cafe & see some of her pictures there! If it is still open – see the out-pouring of LOVE – not contempt that many people have had for this family who have experienced a great loss! Yes, it is their belief, as it is mine, that Kara is w/Jesus in Heaven. But this family misses their daughter & sister too! This family were not “vegans” as some much hint at (their health-food cafe offered plenty of meat products)!

    I would like to add several other points which not very many people wish to take into consideration. 1) The WI Law Child Protection Act – # 948.04 (6). This law speaks about parental rights to pray for an “ill” child. 2) The Neumanns did NOT
    know that their daughter was ill – at least not until the day before, or the day of her death. The “sickness” that they thot she might have had, was attributed to a less minor illness…which diabetic ketoacidous (sp?) has a number of symtoms resembling the flu, or the common cold. Or even a “growth spurt,” or homonal changes occurring in her young body. This would account for her occasional tiredness. 3) She did NOT exhibit severe sickness for weeks, even months, as the media would like to exaggerate on. She had even waited on customers for several hours on Thurs. If she was indeed that ill, as people would like to believe that she was; then I don’t think she would’ve been able to serve customers! In addditon, customers might have noted some “illness” w/in her – if she truly exhibited such severe symtoms that could lead to death. 4) She rested the following day, Friday, doing her homework at home. She was not pulled out of public school to hide her “disease” as some have suggested; rather, as Christians, the Neumanns simply wanted to home-school their daughter as they had their other children. 5) If Kara had symptoms of illness for 6 mos – as some have claimed – then why didn’t those teachers whom she had prior to the new year, sense any problem w/her? She died 3 mos after being pulled out of public school – so certainly her classmates & teachers saw her for 3 mos prior to March 23. 6) According to a medical website, I believe it is webmd, it mentioned that this form of diabetes can exhibit its symtoms w/in 24 hrs! 7) The “aunt” whom so many people wish to take the “word of” not only lives in CA, but she was married right around that time, & is a minor, if I read her b/date correctly. She had only recently come into the family picture, & really knew very little about Kara. 8) If Kara had been ill, & suspected anything serious herself, don’t you think that something in her writings &/or drawings would depict that? 9) The collage of Kara, her family & friends showed nothing but happiness that exuded from that little girl. 10) Yes, God does use medicine & medical doctors. Many are even Christian. I have a number of relatives in, or were in the medical profession. However; my faith is in GOD 1st. The Neumann’s faith was SOLELY in God. That’s where their measure of faith is! In some cases, my faith is totally in God; in others, I trust Him working thru doctors. I have been healed of sicknesses simply by praying, or having someone else pray for me. This family, or at least Leilani, was raised in beliving in the healing power of Jesus. For this they accused of “reckless homicide”?
    11) The media would have you believing that this kind, loving family & honest business people didn’t care for their daughter. Did you know that the night before Kara’s death, she ate dinner, felt sick, asked for her Mom to come & lie down w/her (which she did), & the next morning she felt, & looked much better! Why a few hours later, symptoms of sickness reoccurred, I don’t know; but this much I do know – Leilani gave her daughter some broth to drink. They did NOT allow their daughter to dehydrate. They loved young Kara, & kept a clean & happy home – both inside & out. They even have 2 pets who seemed quite contented in their new home. I know, I visited there -where Leilani offered me food. There was plenty of it! 12) As for not being part of an “organized religious denomination,” they followed suit w/the New Testament believers in opening their home (& their coffee shop) to others – whether they were Christian or not. Although they didn’t “call” themselves pastors, they were, in essence, “spiritual leaders” to those who chose to listen to them & partake of their fellowship. Dale is schooled in the Bible. Leilani is knowledgeable, too. Their love for others is evident. Even after Kara’s unfortunate death, they still exuded love, joy, & peace towards their customers! This is evidence of one’s faith in action – not someone who doesn’t care about their child/ren. Nor “neglectful” of their responsibilites in providing for their other children. They missed their daughter; but their grieving was superceeded by the fact that they know where there daughter is. 13) As for Unleavened Bread Ministries, it would be wise for critics to “check it out,” & not “pre-judge” them! The submissions of articles that Leilani gave them did in NO WAY even hint they suspected any serious illness in their daughter. If they had, they would’ve requested prayer prior to the day that Kara actually died! 14) As a friend of the Neumann family, I believe that I would have been urged by them to pray for Kara, had they thot she was seriously ill. Instead, they invited me to their home for dinner on that day. Many of you call it, “Easter Day”. I prefer to call it, “Resurrection Day”. Jesus said that whoever believes in Him, even tho he die, yet shall he live! Kara now has eternal life in Heaven w/her Lord & Saviour! As a believer in Christ, this is a wonderful thing. Nevertheless, the family still grieves in their hearts, because they loved Kara & deeply miss her. For so many people to speak so ill of people whom they know NOTHING about, is a sad thing indeed. These people have suffered enough. Yet, I believe that their extremely unjust persecution of their strong faith in Jesus Christ, is commented by our Lord in His sermon on the mount which you can read in both Matthew 5 & Luke 6. Jesus certainly healed the sick & even raised the dead; but His main purpose was to die to forgive us of our sins. He spoke often about the Kingdom of Heaven. In fact one time He was talking so much, the people listened to His message for 3 days w/out food! It was then that He performed the miracle of feeding the 4,000+ people w/just 7 loaves of bread & a few fish. There were even 7 baskets of leftovers! Another time, Paul preached so long, a young man fell out of the window & died! In the Name of Jesus, he was raised to life! (Acts 20:9). 15) Lastly, as the nite has turned to day (12:54am), I am reminded that a musical group came to perform at the Monkey Mo cafe not too long before Kara’s death. What about all the people who saw her at the coffee shop? Shouldn’t all those who saw Kara weeks prior to her death also be held “guilty”? I see young people all the time who look ill & claim that they aren’t. In addition, I see many who do NOT look ill; but they may actually have some sickness inside of them. In the case of the Neumanns, I implore anyone reading this, to “judge” this family by the TRUE facts, & not assertations or allegations which may not be true. Pray for this family. Seek to find out the TRUTH about what happened. And if you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, realize that maybe your measure of faith may be in other areas – theirs was in “Dr. Jesus”.
    Christina

  5. Hi, Christina.

    It is irrelevant whether the aunt was new to the family, or whether she was of legal age yet. She obviously did not lie or overreact by calling authorities, because the girl was indeed dying, and she did in fact die before the ambulance even got there.

    Demonizing the only person who tried to get life-saving medical care for the child does not make the parents look better, it makes them look a LOT worse.

  6. 6/3/08, Tues

    Dear “Elf”:

    Thanks for your quick, & so far, only repy!

    I am sorry that you think I seemed to be “demonizing” (or did you mean
    “demoralizing”?)
    Kara’s aunt! In no, way, shape, or form had that even entered into my head! The facts of the matter that I am alluding to is that SO MANY people accept the credibility of this one woman, over & above Kara’s loving parents & siblings! I don’t doubt that her aunt “meant well,” & indeed was a “help” in this situation. Neither am I in
    anyway stating that she was lying…
    What I AM stating tho, is that along with her youth, her distance from the family, the lack of familiarity w/Kara, & that she has not had children herself; in my opinion,
    does not make her “such a creditable witness”! Not to mention that when one recently gets married, albeit during the last few days of Kara’s young, but “full” life on earth, I think they may not have their mind totally focused on something happening 1,000’s of miles away! Not to say that she COULDN’T be knowledgeable; nor that she was in way uncaring about the needs of her neice; I simply don’t think that so many people should take her word over that of Kara’s parents.

    You may disagree. As do many others. Once again, I remind you, that many times children show symptoms of sicknesses, & yet are sent to school & other events, despite their sickness! Not all sicknesses lead to death! The Neumanns did what they knew to do, & what they felt best to do for their daughter at that time. They told me they did not know she was diabetic. Which that particular form of of diabetes it
    can come on one rather suddendly – especially when a lot of things are happening in one’s life. In Kara’s case, she was going thru a growth spurt & possibly entering into her 1st menstrual cycle – which could exemplify tiredness. Coupled w/2 recent moves; changes at school; & the upcoming holiday – would make ANYONE “stressed out” & perhaps act in some of the manners that diabetic ketacidous (sp?) does. Some of those symptoms happen to be similiar to having the flu. Do you take your child right away to the doc when they seem to have “flu-like” symptoms? Maybe some people do – fine & dandy for them (as a sub, I get my annual flu shot). But there were MANY students AND teachers absent around the time of Kara’s death, due to the flu, which was why I was called in to sub! I have had many students stay at school (their choice; or pressured by parents) if they are sick. Others opt for, & are often picked up by a parent or guardian.

    Most parents, I would think, if their child exhibited flu-like symptoms (tired, tummy-ache, etc), they would offer their child fluids – especially meat broth such as Leilani, her Mother gave to her. In addition, the guardian; & I’m sure a doctor as well, would have that child rest – which is what Kara got!

    Lastly, Dale, her Dad, performed CPR on his daughter. It is my belief that these parents did all that they knew to do & to the best of their ability. It is unfortunate that Kara died – but please spare the grief of “blaming” her parents for their faith-based healing from God! Their grief at her loss is great enough without the added pressure & persecution that they have been receiving these past couple of months since her death.

    You may/may not agree w/the Bible; but to me, as well as the Neumanns & countless others – it is the highest authority on earth – because it is God’s Word speaking to us! That “Word,” Jesus, spoke these well-quoted words, “Blessed, (happy) are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.” That’s found in Matthew, chapter 5, verse 7 (Mt 5:). I say this with humility & gratitude; because not only was our nation founded upon Christian principals & beliefs; but what happened to our otherwise “empty churches” the day after 9-11 (’01) occurred? They were “filled to the brim!” Why – because in all reality, whether or not people wish to acknowledge it – there is a “God-shaped vacuum” in our hearts that only GOD can fill – because He is our Creator & our Redeemer! Have faith!

    Christina
    PS I am glad that you shared your thots w/me. Perhaps this will generate more discussion on this matter?

  7. Hi again, Christina.

    I did indeed mean “demonizing” the aunt, because you are attempting to make her appear to have some ulterior motive, and you are continuing to claim she is not credible.

    Yet she is more credible than the parents, since the father claimed that he gave her CPR from the very moment her breath left her, but the 911 tape proves otherwise.

    Of course, the parents and their supporters don’t want others to believe the aunt to be credible. After all, her call to 911 proves the parents knew the child had slipped into a coma (since she had no other way of knowing that), proves the parents had been repeatedly told that the child needed emergency medical care (since their refusal to do so was what prompted her call), and proves that the parents intentionally denied the child medical care necessary to save her life (since in fact they didn’t call 911 until after the child was dead).

    Unfortunately, the child died before the ambulance even got there. By then, it was too late to save her, because her blood had become so acidic that it was incompatible with life.

    Since it is very clear that the child was comatose, both from the aunt’s call to 911 and the normal course of the illness, the child was not merely exhibiting flu symptoms, since coma is not a symptom of the flu.

  8. Those people are idiots. It is criminal. Manslaughter…involuntary or otherwise.
    The poor kid died of a urinary tract blockage!

    Incarcerate these morons before they kill again. All of them… anyone else in the room that was praying is an accomplice a contributed to this senseless death.

    As a wise man once said, “YOU CANNOT PETITION THE LORD WITH PRAYER!!!”

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