Homicide Conviction Upheld For Parents Who Only Prayed For Diabetic Daughter

leilani-and-dale-neumannTodd Richmond reporting via the Huffington Post:

A mother and father who prayed instead of seeking medical help as their daughter died were properly convicted of homicide, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in a decision that dramatically limits legal immunity for parents who turn to God rather than science to heal their children.

The decision marks the first time a Wisconsin court has addressed criminal culpability in a prayer treatment case where a child died. The court ruled 6-1 that the state’s immunity provisions for prayer treatment parents protect them from child abuse charges but nothing else, opening the door to a host of other counts.

“No one reading the treatment-through-prayer provision should expect protection from criminal liability under any other statute,” Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote for the majority.

Most states, including Wisconsin, created exemptions from child abuse charges for prayer-healing parents in the 1970s to meet federal requirements.

At least 303 children have died since 1975 after medical care was withheld on religious grounds, according to Rita Swan, director of the Iowa-based advocacy group Children’s Healthcare is a Legal Duty. Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska and North Carolina have taken their exemptions off the books, Swan said.

The Wisconsin case revolves around an 11-year-old girl named Madeline Kara Neumann, known as Kara to family and friends. She died of undiagnosed diabetes on Easter Sunday in March 2008 at her home in Weston, a central Wisconsin village about 140 miles north of Madison.

Kara, who had been growing weak for several weeks leading up to her death, eventually became too sick to speak, eat, drink or walk. Her parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, don’t belong to any organized religion or church but identify themselves as Pentecostal Christians and believe visiting a doctor is akin to worshipping an idol, the Supreme Court opinion said.

As Kara’s condition worsened, her parents resisted suggestions from her grandmother to take her to a doctor. Kara’s grandfather suggested giving her Pedialyte, a supplement used to combat dehydration in children, but Leilani Neumann said that would take the glory away from God.

Dale Neumann testified that the possibility of death never entered their minds. After the girl died, Leilani Neumann told police God would raise Kara from the dead.

Read more here.

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  • billy_mavreas

    see folks, you’re supposed to pray to get decent medical coverage, short waiting times and appointments sooner than later.

  • Dingbert

    “Medicine is an example of what God allows men to do when they work in harmony with Him and with one another.” -St. Gregory of Nyssa

    “God’s grace is as evident in the healing power of medicine and its practitioners as it is in miraculous cures.” -St. Basil of Caesarea

    “You doctors, must take good care of your patients in order to avoid unpleasant situations. You should have a practical mind. Generally speaking, everyone of us must take advantage of his mind which is a gift from God.” -Elder Paisios of Mount Athos

  • Haystack

    In my mind homicide involves some kind of malicious intent. Substituting prayer for medicine may be some form criminal negligence, but homicide seems excessive. They were, however misguided, doing what they thought was best, and losing a daughter would seem like punishment in itself.

    • Microhero

      You’re right about the murder charges but they are still responsible for the death of their child and should be punished by the state, setting precedent that might dissuade others from the same behaviour.

      There are probably a lot of people that perform criminal acts out of missguidance or righteousness. That should maybe be considererd for sentencing but not conviction purposes.

      Also if they so firmly believe that it was gods will to take their child, the moral and emotional punishment might not be so hard on them as it would be on others.

      • Haystack

        I’m just ambivalent about the idea of punishing poor judgement–where does one draw the line, exactly? If this is homicide, then there are a lot of similar behaviors that can be punished in the same way. An anti-vaxxer whose kid dies of a vaccine preventable illness, for example, or a parent who chooses a dubious alt-med treatment over chemotherapy.

        Maybe people like that *should* be punished as criminals, and we should treat the scientific consensus as the gold standard of good judgement in matters medical. There’s a strong argument to be made for that, but I’m not sure how comfortable people will be once the conversation moves away from prayer treatment, toward one of their own sacred cows.

        I definitely support taking children away from parents who do stuff like this, but is a purpose served by punishing them after the fact? I’m not sure it would act as much of a deterrent. If you believe in the power of prayer so strongly that you’re willing to ignore all apparent evidence that you are putting your child’s life at risk, then presumably you expect it to work–hence, no death, and no prosecution.

        They did *try* to treat their daughter–they just did it in the stupidest possible way.

    • Noah_Nine

      a precedent must be set… this happens more often than one would think…

      • Haystack

        (see my comment to Microhero with respect to the precedent)

  • echar

    I can see some extreme Christian groups claiming persecution over this, yet some tend to have a persecution complex when they no longer get to play all powerful.

  • Noah_Nine

    batshit crazy…. the church used to be a thinktank for scientific and medical knowledge at one point… people would go to nuns for herbs to heal them… this makes no sense… if you believe in God (big G) wouldn’t you believe that he gave us knowledge of medicine too? i do not understand people…. the sad part is, it’s highly likely that they still think they are right, and that god needed their daughter in heaven, and so took her… ugh…

  • Noah_Nine

    oops… i posted without reading the other comments first and basically ended up being redundant….

  • Haystack

    And if they were running things, you would be committing negligent homicide by not praying for your kid.

  • gustave courbet

    Actually, intent does ‘matter’ in our legal system.

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