Is it Criminal to Rely on Faith, not Medical Help?

“WESTON, Wis. — Kara Neumann, 11, had grown so weak that she could not walk or speak. Her parents, who believe that God alone has the ability to heal the sick, prayed for her recovery but did not take her to a doctor.

After an aunt from California called the sheriff’s department here, frantically pleading that the sick child be rescued, an ambulance arrived at the Neumann’s rural home on the outskirts of Wausau and rushed Kara to the hospital. She was pronounced dead on arrival.

The county coroner ruled that she had died from diabetic ketoacidosis resulting from undiagnosed and untreated juvenile diabetes. The condition occurs when the body fails to produce insulin, which leads to severe dehydration and impairment of muscle, lung and heart function.“

No, allowing the child to die a tortuous death isn’t criminal but harvesting stem cells from an embryo that has no feelings and senses no pain should be.

I think that’s the right position to take as a good Catholic.

Well, to get back to the thread’s subject, if the couple is convicted and they appeal we may get an opinion stating the extent of denying medical help on religious grounds. It is not settled in the law.

Beau, surely you only hold that opinion based on the semantics. You don’t honestly think that it is right to deny a child access to science based medicine, do you?

These parents need to spend some serious time in jail - what they did should be considered a crime.

Any clergy or church members who condoned and suggested such actions should get neighboring cells.

This case is tragic. I can’t imagine any religion shunning treatment something like type one diabetes. I do worry where a law requiring treatment for children can lead. I would never deny my child treatment for real conditions such as asthma or diabetes, but the minute a doctor tries to poison my child with drugs for “adhd” such as Ritalin is the moment he is no longer my child’s doctor. Where treatment end and harming a child for convenience begins is blurry.

Actually I don’t. I did not think I had expressed any opinion on this one. I just think that the issue is unsettled in the law.

We’ve had some previous rulings as to Christian Scientists and Jehovah Witnesses, but no real bright line as to where religion can ignore medical help for kids.

taylorc - great point. I completely agree with you about the doctor (mis)diagnosing a child and suggesting they go on a therapy of such. At that point, you could/would/should seek the advice of another practitioner and make decisions based on the diagnosis.

This family, however, did not take their child for a diagnosis of any sort. The parents didn’t simply ignore the advice of a doctor, they didn’t even give their child that chance.

The family deserves jail time.

I would like to see this family get jail time also. Type 1 diabetes is very personal to me. To think of a child dying from it is heartbreaking. I just hope the law doesn’t tread too far. I would never allow my child to go on psychiatric drugs regardless of what any doctor says because I believe I would be poisoning my child. I do believe every child should have life saving treatment for real conditions though(heart problems, asthma, infections, etc.).

Beau - my apologies for assuming that it was an opinion you were offering. I agree that the case law suggests it could go either way.

Taylorc - the case in question relates to a “real condition” in diabetes. (I would disagree with the idea that ADHD is not a real condition - I believe that we overdrug our children and there is a substantial number of parents who want to chemically control their children - and, most often, wrongly.)

Praying is absolutely the least a person can do to help their child. And I mean that literally.

If praying brings comfort for the parent but the parent still gives their child the best chance (seeking something useful, like modern medical treatment) is one thing - but to not give your child that fighting chance is hardly different than murder.

It’s times like these that I wish there was a hell (and heaven for the child) but, sadly(happily, really), neither do.

Medical help is often the answer to pray.


People that are that stupid just shouldn’t have children. That’s incredibly sad.

I agree it’s sad and wrong, but I’m surprised many here do not agree that parents have the right to do what their religion says if they are well-intentioned. Obviously the consequences are worse, but how is it really different from not using birth control because you believe God decides how many kids you should have? These people believe God decides who lives or dies (also a Catholic belief) and prayer is the best medicine - I think that position is ridiculous, but I also think no birth control is ridiculous. Both rules are appalling to people who don’t believe in such things, although obviously the consequences were worse in this case. I just don’t see how you can claim it’s better to have kids raised in foster care than by a gay couple, but other people can’t decide it’s better their kid faces death than gets sinful medical treatment. Don’t get me wrong - I’m totally against what these parents did, but do we respect religion or don’t we?


I don’t think that “religion” in that sense deserves respect. You are right to point out how religion can be (often is) bigoted - preaching against condom use, oppressing women, shaming (and oppressing) gays, etc. I hardly see these (terrible) beliefs as ones that Jesus (if he ever existed) would have held.

Science may not have all the answers but the answers it doesn’t have (yet) are not filled with “god did it” or “god can do it”. Anyone who keeps their child from benefitting from the science and ultimately endangers them (or takes their life) needs to be punished by our legal system (and should be ostracized by our community).

This is not acceptable. Holding irrational beliefs in the privacy of your own home and not affecting the lives of others is one thing. Failing to take action to save the life of your child because of such irrational beliefs is the most abhorrent of all acts.

I agree, but then does that mean we should prosecute all who don’t vaccinate as well? How much control do parents have over their kids? If they can teach them gays are going to hell, what’s wrong with parents teaching their kids to be Nazis. It’s just awkward drawing a line here.

siamesecat: I think that there are valid reasons to consider some penalty for not vaccinating, yep. Mass innoculation is what makes it effective - people not getting vaccinated poses a real threat to the rest of us.

As for how much control parents have over their children? Enough!

If your child is sick and won’t get help, we have a medical and legal system that addresses that. If the issue was the child not wanting medical treatment, that is a slightly different issue but the system can only handle cases that it is aware of. (And, admittedly, sometimes not all that well!) An intentionally mis-informed child is in no position to make life-affecting decisions.

This is not a slipperly slope - a consenting adult choosing to ignore proven medical intervention is welcome to do so as long as the ill effects that they will face will be theirs alone. Someone who is extremely contagious that wishes not to be treated will be (and this happens) detained for the safety of others. However, if someone wishes to let cancer overtake their body and not go through radiation or the like, the legal system accepts that.

Forcing (either by not allowing them or by teaching them that they will go to hell for doing so) a child to not get medical help for a treatable illness (or any illness for that matter) is not acceptable.

With regards to teaching your kids that gays will go to hell or teaching them to be Nazis - it is wrong to do both or either. Children should not be indoctrinated into a faith and they should not be taught to hate.

If it is religion that causes a person to not seek solutions to their problems, it is another black eye for something that has never given itself a chance for the initial bruising to subside.

If it’s a condition that threatens the child’s life, then treatment should be given, regardless of whatever religious arguments the parents may give. If it’s something chronic but not life-threatening, then it’s up to the parents. It’s the difference between a child bleeding out from injuries sustained in a car accident and needing a transfusion, stat, and a child having the difficulties associated, say, with autism which can be controlled in some cases with behavioral therapy, exercise and in some cases, changes to diet. However, treatment for mental, psychological, and nueropsychological conditions have changed over the years. I remember reading about treatment options for kids with autism in the 1950s, and I don’t think anyone with a shred of charity would subject even an animal to it.

I dunno. I think that parents can still refuse kids getting emergency transfusions. Just like we wear scapulars saying “Call a priest” Jehovah Witnesses have cards in their wallets which say “In case of an accident, do not give me a transfusion.”

True, that. I remember watching a PBS documentary about a young man who’s JW, but has a chronic liver condition that made it necessary for him to have a transplant – an operation that generally requires a transfusion – and how his family worked with a doctor who had developed a means to perform the surgery without needing a transfusion. Seems they found a way to recirculate the young man’s own blood during the procedure. Very fascinating, and it was inspiring to see religion and science meeting in the middle to develop this much-needed new technique.

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