On 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.
A 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.
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?