Thursday, March 27, 2008

The God That Failed

Mother: We didn't know sick daughter was terminally ill

Gannett Wisconsin Newspapers
and The Associated Press

WESTON -- The mother of an 11-year-old girl who died of untreated diabetes said Wednesday that she did not know her daughter was terminally ill as she prayed for her to get better.

The parents of Madeline Kara Neumann called 911 three minutes after police and EMS crews already had been sent to their home by the girl's aunt, who lives in California.

Neumann died Sunday from an undiagnosed form of diabetes. The family told police they chose to pray for her to get better, rather than seek medical assistance.

Neumann's mother, Leilani Neumann, told The Associated Press Wednesday she never expected her daughter, whom she called Kara, to die. The family believes in the Bible, which says healing comes from God, but they are not crazy, religious people and have nothing against doctors, she said.

The aunt from California told a Marathon County sheriff's dispatcher Sunday afternoon that the girl was thought to be at home in a coma. She advised the dispatcher in a recorded phone call that the family was religious and refused to take the girl to the hospital, despite the aunt's urging them to do so for at least three days.

When the dispatcher asked if an ambulance should be sent to the Neumanns' town of Weston home, the aunt replied, "Yes. She's refusing. She's going to fight it," in reference to the girl's mother.

A few minutes later, at 2:38 p.m., a male caller from the home told a sheriff's dispatcher that a child there was not breathing, according to the 911 call, a copy of which was obtained by a Gannett Wisconsin newspaper. The dispatcher informed the caller that an ambulance already was on its way.

He then attempted to instruct the family how to perform CPR. Family members sounded panicky, and cries and screaming could be heard in the background.

Officers met with the Neumann family Wednesday, and Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin said he hopes to complete the investigation late this week or early next week.

Child protective services interviewed Kara Neumann's three older siblings Wednesday night to determine whether it was safe to return them to the home, Vergin told CNN's Nancy Grace.

The Marathon County district attorney's office is working with police to determine whether criminal charges should be filed. Vergin said officers still are trying to determine a timeline of Neumann's decline during her final days.

Marathon County Medical Examiner John Larson said Kara Neumann was quite ill Friday and Saturday and became gravely ill Sunday, the day she died.

"I think this young girl was sick for some time; she just progressed into a situation where she needed medical attention and did not get it," Larson said. "At some point, they should have recognized she was very, seriously ill."

The family does not belong to an organized religion or faith, Leilani Neumann said.

She said the family is not worried about the police investigation into her daughter's death because "our lives are in God's hands. We know we did not do anything criminal. We know we did the best for our daughter we knew how to do."

For a little more on the case, see this video. I'm reluctant to reference this video because it's from Nancy Grace's show. I hate Nancy because her trumped-up indignation has less to do with actual compassion for the victim and more to do with her ego and her sense of theatrics. I think she might be the only person that might cause me to feel sorry for a serial killer.

When does "freedom of religion" go too far? I believe when it endangers someone else's life or health. Obviously, Christianity is not the only religion whose tenets infringe upon innocents, but it's the pertinent one here. So, just because I'm not listing all the others doesn't mean I don't hold them just as accountable. One could argue that indoctrinating your children to creationist beliefs is cruel and unusual punishment, but we'll leave that subject for another day. I grant that it's probably correct to allow parents to use their best judgement when educating their kids. After all, recovering from an inferior education is a lot easier than recovering from an unnecessary death.

Though the family in question do not say they adhere to a specific religion, their beliefs are certainly similar to those of Christian Science. After reading some of the rights afforded people merely in the name of religion, I get the distinct impression that we are just a country of backwoods country bumfucks. Case in point - from Wikipedia:

Christian Scientists have been controversial for their failure to provide conventional health care for children (Asser and Swan, 1998). In the United States, the constitutional guarantee of protection of religious practice from intrusion by government has been used by Christian Scientists and other religious groups to seek exemption from legislative or regulatory requirements regarding child abuse and neglect, including medical neglect in more than three quarters of the states. There are now statutes in 44 states which contain a provision stating that a child is not to be deemed abused or neglected merely because he or she is receiving treatment by spiritual means, through prayer according to the tenets of a recognized religion. Although these exemptions take different forms and interpretations in different state jurisdictions, the overall effect has been to limit the ability of the state to prosecute parents for suspected or alleged abuse or medical neglect of children when such occurrences may be the result of religious practice. Severe (even fatal) physical discipline, failure to seek medical care, or refusal of a proven efficacious treatment of a critically ill child may be protected from prosecution because of the religious exemption clauses now found in a majority of state codes. (However, most of these cases do not involve Christian Scientists.)

The band Metallica, whose lead singer James Hetfield was raised as a Christian Scientist, wrote this song after Hefields's mother died of cancer because of not seeking treatment:

The God that Failed by Metallica

Pride you took
Pride you feel
Pride that you felt when you'd kneel
Not the word
Not the love
Not what you thought from above

It feeds (it feeds)
It grows (it grows)
It clouds all that you will know
Decide just what you believe

I see faith in your eyes
Never you hear the discouraging lies
I hear faith in your cries
Broken is the promise, betrayal
The healing hand held back by the deepened nail
Follow the god that failed

Find your peace
Find your say
Find the smooth road on your way
Trust you gave
A child to save
Left you cold and him in grave ...

In our laws, we are actually protecting people who neglect their children because of their religious beliefs. Do you think that people who claimed that aliens told them not to seek treatment for their sick children would get the same protections? Of course not. A system of laws that should be based on reason is being influenced by superstition. And yet we are viewed as a model democracy. Perhaps it's not a God that failed but rather a government based on superstition that failed.


CyberKitten said...

In any reasonable country that family would be charged with criminal negligence and have their other children either taken into care or monitored closely in case something happened like this again.

Apparently the Mother is praying to God to let her understand why He let her die. Go figure!

Laura said...

Thankfully these cases are rare, but I still agree that when your belief endangers another person's well being, that is where the line is drawn... Be a neo-nazi, but don't threaten someone or encite violence. Be a crazy religious nut, but don't endanger someone's life because of it. Same thing.

Also, the mother's quote shows a complete lack of scientific understanding (not surprising): "We didn't know sick daughter was terminally ill" SHE WASN'T terminally ill. Terminally ill means the condition is untreatable.

This goes on my list of reasons why some people just should not be allowed to have children.

Jeff said...

What a shame. While this matter is in no way funny, it reminds me of an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where a lady refused medicine for her illness because of her religion so her boyfriend actually tried to sneak pills in her food.

It's unbelievable to me that people actually believe in this stuff. We can clearly see throughout history that this religious healing is nonsense, there is a reason why people seek medical assistance and it's because it Works!!!! How can people be so ignornat? Is it from brainwashing or do people sincerely believe that divine healing works?

wunelle said...

What stupidity. Institutionalized, enforced mass stupidity with government protection.

shrimplate said...

All kinds of stuff and nonsense gets a pass under the rubric of "religion." Thankfully a lot of it is harmless.

Diabetic problems such as that which the child is suspected of having can be treated routinely if caught in a timely manner.

They killed her.

Shawn Francis Peters said...

I've written pretty extensively on the legal and ethical issues raised by these kinds of cases (including in a book recently published by Oxford University Press). And, since I'm based at UW-Madison, I've commented on the Neumann case specifically in a number of different forums (including CNN).

I won't drone on here, but if you're interested in learning more about the Neumann case (and the analogous Worthington case in Oregon), you might check out my "Religious Convictions" blog at:

dbackdad said...

Shawn - thanks for stopping by. I'm going to try and pick up a copy of your book.