Bad Parenting

14 June 2008

Imagine that you have an 11 year old child who has been diagnosed with diabetes. Now imagine that this condition is treatable with insulin (it is). So we have a clear picture there, right?

So this child enters a coma as well as DKA. Now, DKA is a life-threatening complication of diabetes mellitus, more often type I than type II, but either way it is not a good situation for a diabetic to be in, at all. In fact, it was the major cause of death before insulin injections became available. So, if your child were suffering from such a complication, what would the correct course of action be? It’s multiple choice:

A. Give your child the insulin that would have no doubt saved her life

B. Do nothing to save her life and assume that God will rescue her

Well, if you are the Neumanns of Weston, Wisconsin, you chose B. From the Wall Street Journal:

Dale and Leilani Neumann of Weston, Wis., are facing charges of second-degree reckless homicide after their child, Madeline Kara Neumann, died on Easter after slipping into a coma. The death, likely preventable with insulin, has renewed calls for Wisconsin and dozens of other states to strike laws that protect parents who choose prayer alone in lieu of medical treatment.

First of all, I would just like to say that I think it is totally irresponsible that these laws were on the books in the first place. Prayer is not insulin. Your body can’t take prayer and use it to control the use of glucose in your body. Your body can’t take prayer and fight a life-threatening infection with it.

But, of course there are those who seek to maintain these laws in order to “protect” those who choose to use spirtual healing. In the words of a spokesperson for the Church of Christ, Scientist, “No one should be presumed to be guilty or innocent … because they’ve chosen spiritual care”. Of course, this ignores the fact that the spiritual healing, well, it didn’t (and doesn’t) work. The child died. That was not a failed attempt at healing, it was negligence. This child was essentially left to die because her parents thought that their Great Sky Daddy would protect their daughter. Of course, the child had to pay the price.

Now, some would like to argue that parents have a right to use whichever healing methods they like on their children, whether proven medical treatment or talking to God (which is not effective: see this article). That however, ignores the fact that it is incorrect to assume that a child wants the same thing his or her parents want simply because he is their child. Children don’t choose their parents. They don’t choose whether they are born to someone who will take them to the hospital or give them the proper treatment in medical emergencies or someone who will kneel down and pray while he or she is dying. Now, in most cases, parents are required to provide health-care for their children. But in 45 states, according to Legal Duty, Inc, legal accommodations are provided for parents who used “spirtual healing”. Some of them only protect in misdemeanors, but others actually protect all the way from a misdemeanor through to a felony abuse or murder charge. Because of the lack of autonomy children have in regards to their parents and the medical treatment that their parents choose to provide, it is troubling that 45 states allow people to say “Oh, well I was praying so I thought she’d be okay” and get away with it. So there is a conflict here. Every state demands that parents provide medical care for their children, but most say that it’s okay if you don’t as long as you were doing so on the basis of religion.

It’s a ridiculous loophole, and one that, according to Legal Duty is really causing more preventable deaths. Quoting a study from the journal Pediatrics they state that in the two decades after provisions were passed that allowed “faith-healing” to be exempt from child-protection laws that out of 172 children that died, 140 had a 90% or greater chance of surviving had their been true medical intervention.

But no, let’s just keep letting parents kill their kids because they think some invisible man in the sky is going to take care of them. I hope that the Neumanns are found guilty and that this causes those 45 states to rethink their provisions.



  1. […] the same. However, religious beliefs often get a free pass from government in the US (See my post Bad Parenting). Because of this, I believe laws should be clear. Child abuse/neglect (as well as other crimes […]

  2. I found your story very interesting! I found it when I searched “what is bad parenting” in google, because I’m searching for a website that will clearly state what is legal and illigal for a parent to do (I got interested in the whole thing after watching a tv program). I hope to be a journalist (I post stories about things important to me on my website) and am going to do a story on this intesting subject.
    Your entry was very interesting, but I have to argue:
    If this family was found guilty, wouldn’t that open up a lot of new cases where parents aren’t giving their children what they need?
    After all, in the Islam religion (sorry if I’m wrong) females are required to wear things to cover their heads at all times, and parents usually inforce this on their children. Since, as you said, a child can’t choose their parents, isn’t it unfair that a child is forced to wear clothing they might not like and might cause them to overheat or something else not very good for their health? Another example is the parents that won’t let their daughter date till she is 16. Isn’t that stopping the daughter from having certain, proven to be healthy (from what I’ve heard, and I’m no speacialist) social interactions? Should those parents, too, be sent to jail.
    Like you said, in this case, a child died (way more serious than some girl missing out on a boyfriend), but still, it all comes down to the fact that the parents had customs that are different from other people in our society. If we were to send people to jail for that, having “parents” would be comepletly pointless, since the law would take care of everything anyway. The parents had a choice, and they made it. As long as we still have laws that a person is officially an adult and capable of making their own dicisions when they reach 18, we will continue to have cases like this.
    Now, you say the child is 11? She should, unless she has some kind of mental illness, have been capable of making her own dicision for her life at that age. If she had been 5, it would have been different.
    The problem here is not in the parents, its in the law. Of course 11 year olds shouldn’t be considered adults, but dicisions such as whether to accept medicine or not is something they should be aloud to make.
    Sorry for that long and semi-pointless arguement, and hope you have a nice rest of your life!

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