Respectful Insolence

Relying on prayer instead of medicine

This happened last week when I was feeling under the weather, and somehow I never got around to it. Fortunately, however, I’ve learned that there may indeed by justice in the case of Madeline Neuman, the 11-year-old child whose parents let her die of diabetic ketoacidosis. This story was widely reported thusly:

“We just believe in the Bible, that’s all. This is our faith,” said Leilani Neumann, the mother of 11-year-old Madeline Neumann, who died from a treatable form of diabetes after her parents chose to pray for their daughter in place of seeking medical attention.

Madeline Neumann had been ill for about 30 days and as her insulin level slowly dropped, she became worse. Her parents, Leilani and Dale Neumann, had no idea that their daughter was going to die on Sunday. Instead, they thought she was getting better:

“We just noticed a tiredness within the past two weeks,” Leilani explained.


Of all the religious idiocy I’ve seen, this is among the worst. It’s a clean kill of an innocent child. Actually, it’s a not-so-clean kill, because the child underwent a prolonged and undoubtedly highly unpleasant death due to diabetic ketoacidosis while her parents stood by and watched, begging God to save her while they did nothing concrete to help:

Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin said Madeline Neumann died Sunday.

“She got sicker and sicker until she was dead,” he said.

Vergin said an autopsy determined the girl died from diabetic ketoacidosis, an ailment that left her with too little insulin in her body, and she had probably been ill for about 30 days, suffering symptoms like nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, loss of appetite and weakness.

The girl’s parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, attributed the death to “apparently they didn’t have enough faith,” the police chief said.

They believed the key to healing “was it was better to keep praying. Call more people to help pray,” he said.

This is negligent homicide, plain and simple. It’s also different from (and even worse than) another case that I’ve written about, namely the case of a teenage Jehovah’s Witness with cancer refusing life-saving transfusions. I’m referring, of course, to Dennis Lindberg, a 14-year-old with leukemia who started induction chemotherapy for his disease but refused transfusion when his blood counts dropped precipitously, as they tend to do during induction chemotherapy for this particular disease. That case bothered me quite a bit, even though the disease was life-threatening and the boy was in that grey area of age where he’s almost old enough to be considered competent to make the decision to refuse treatment. In the preseent case, it was an 11 year-old girl who was suffering, getting sicker and sicker while her parents denied her access to the medical care that would almost certainly have saved her life. Unlike the case of Lindberg, whose cancer was sufficiently advanced at the time he began his therapy that there was a not insignificant chance of his dying even with treatment (particularly given that he refused any sort of transfusion), Neumann would almost certainly have been saved with timely intervention and proper medical care. Moreover, she could have expected to live a reasonably long life with careful medical management of her childhood diabetes.

What most disturbed me about this case, as you might imagine if you’ve read about it before, was the initial reaction of the police:

The girl has three siblings, ranging in age from 13 to 16, the police chief said.

“They are still in the home,” he said. “There is no reason to remove them. There is no abuse or signs of abuse that we can see.”

The girl’s death remains under investigation and the findings will be forwarded to the district attorney to review for possible charges, the chief said.

The fact that this sort of behavior, in which the parents allowed their daughter to suffer and die in the name of their religion, did not trigger an immediate removal of the other children from the house as being in an abusive environment, demonstrated just how much privilege we accord delusions of highly religious Christians over other forms of delusion. If the parents had said that they had denied their child proper medical care because voices in their head told them to, they’d be regarded as dangerously deluded–and rightly so. However, because they say that God tells them that they should not rely on medicine and that faith would save their child it protects them from having their children taken out of the home or their immediately being thrown in jail for criminal neglect.

Or maybe not:

The parents and social services experts agreed that removing the other children from the home would be best for everyone, Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin said. The children, aged 13 to 16, are staying with relatives, though they were not in danger, he said.

It’s a start, although I hope the relatives don’t also follow the faith that killed Madeline Kara, which would then make the removal of the children a case of going from the frying pan into the fire. Sadly, Madeline is not the only child who’s died recently because of this sort of religious excess, but at least this other recent case that I’ve heard about shows hope that justice can prevail:

OREGON CITY, Ore. — A couple whose church preaches against medical care are facing criminal charges after their young daughter died of an infection that authorities said went untreated.

Carl and Raylene Worthington were indicted Friday on charges of manslaughter and criminal mistreatment in the death of their 15-month-old daughter Ava. They belong to the Followers of Christ Church, whose members have a history of treating gravely ill children only with prayer.

Ava died March 2 of bronchial pneumonia and a blood infection. The state medical examiner’s office has said she could have been treated with antibiotics.

Dr. Christopher Young, a deputy state medical examiner, said the child’s breathing was further hampered by a benign cyst on her neck that had never been medically addressed, The Oregonian reported.

The travesty about these sorts of cases is that they all too frequently go unprosecuted. The reason, of course, once again is that religious beliefs are privileged and viewed as being above criticism. It turns out that the church to which Carl and Raylene Worthington belong has been implicated in the deaths by medical neglect of at least 38 children, and it has been noted that the sect has a much higher than usual rate of stillborn births. The reason for the reluctance of prosecutors to press charges in such cases, as bioethicist Arthur Caplan discusses in this editorial that mentions both the Worthington and Neuman cases, is that many states have laws that that permit exceptions to requiring proper medical care for religious reasons–even in the cases of children.

Competent adults, of course, have the right to self-determination and autonomy when it comes to what happens to their own bodies. They can and do refuse treatment for whatever reasons they see fit, be they religious reasons, reasons of conscience, or simply because they are tired and do not wish to undergo treatment. They can, in fact, refuse treatment for even the dumbest of reasons, a common one being faith in quackery’s ability to help them over that of scientific medicine. Make no mistake about it, though, fundamentalist religion that tells one that prayer should be relied upon before medicine in the face of serious disease is also the dumbest of reasons to refuse treatment.

Freedom of religion is one of the core bedrock values upon which this nation was founded and one of the great freedoms guaranteed us in the Constitution. However even that freedom should not be absolute. It is the parents’ duty to provide their children food, shelter, and proper medical care. If their religion leads them to deny any of these necessities to their children, particularly in such egregious cases as that of the Neumanns, whose religious fanaticism led them to watch their child wither and die over the course of at least several days, if not a few weeks, then they should forfeit their right to be parents, as they have demonstrated themselves in the most egregious and unequivocal way possible to be unreliable guardians for their children. We generally view faith as a virtue, but when that faith leads parents to let their children suffer and die of straightforward-to-treat medical conditions, then faith becomes an evil. I fail to see how anyone can view it otherwise.

Arthur Caplan put it quite well:

Parents do not have the right to watch a child wither away while they pray. Parents do not have the right to watch a child convulse in pain while they pray. Parents should understand that if a child is in agony, if a child is slowly dying before their eyes, that they have an absolute duty, the same as any other parent — religious or not — to call the police, an ambulance or emergency services.

Society must make the protection of children a core value. The way to do that is to make it clear that child neglect is still neglect, even when performed under the cover of religious faith.

I would change the wording to “especially when performed under the cover of religious faith” because it’s hard to imagine a more pointless reason to let one’s child die than because a parent thinks that God told him or her to pray instead of seeking out effective medical therapy. It is just and right that authorities in Oregon are prosecuting the Worthingtons, and I hope against hope that Wisconsin authorities will follow suit with the Neumanns. I have my doubts, though, that anything will happen, if the attitude that permeates this jaw-droppingly idiotic editorial holds sway:

Even assuming what police say is true — and there’s no reason not to — it’s still not as clear a case as one might believe.

Kara hadn’t been to a doctor since she was 3 years old, police said. So perhaps her family knew she was ill but didn’t know that her recent symptoms were an indication of a worsening condition as opposed to, say, a bad case of the flu. The manifestations of a diabetic reaction include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and fatigue.

And though police say Kara was ill for at least 30 days, maybe her condition worsened so quickly that no one was aware of how serious it was.

There’s a lot we don’t know.

We can, however, make some safe assumptions.

We can assume Kara’s family loved her deeply and wanted only the best for her.

We can assume they believed they were doing the right thing and that their faith would play a role in her recovery. That’s not an outlandish belief; people are praying for the health and recovery of friends and loved ones every day, all the time.

You can almost hear this editorial writer’s bones cracking as he contorts himself to make excuses for the malignant stupidity of Kara’s parents. It is irrelevant how much the parents loved her and wanted the best for her if they are so deluded that they think that prayer alone is an adequate response to serious illness. I also can’t help but retort that “most people” who pray for the health and recovery of loved ones “every day” do not while praying deny their loved ones the very medical care that would maximize the chances of that recovery occurring. Kara’s parents did just that. Did they never hear the saying “God helps those who help themselves”? It was a common saying I often heard during my Catholic upbringing which I always used to interpret in essence, to mean “Yes, have faith in God, but having faith in God doesn’t mean you should eschew using the tools He provides for you to help yourself and those you love.” The editorial concludes with a mind-numbingly vacuous reminder “to hug our own children a little tighter tonight, and to thank God for every day they’re with us, and pray that another child’s death might be prevented by someone reading about Kara’s death.”

Prosecuting the parents for criminal child neglect as a reminder that society will not tolerate this sort of behavior would do far more than any prayer to save future victims of such religious stupidity.

Fundamentalist Judeo-Christian religion has a privileged position. If one just claims that one’s actions were because of one’s “faith” or “belief” in God or Jesus, one can get away with amazing lapses like this, and useful idiots like the writer of the editorial quoted above will do everything they can to give one the benefit of the doubt. If, as one commenter after the above quoted editorial stated, the Neumanns had said that they worshiped the Sun God Ra and expected that he would send his healing rays down to cure their daughter, no one would be defending them. No, they’d be rightly dismissed as members of a a dangerous cult. But make them members of a fundamentalist Christian sect saying in essence exactly the the same thing, and suddenly society bends over backwards to make excuses for their neglect and piously intones that we must show their beliefs “respect.” I’m sorry, but nothing in my reason tells me that I have to “respect” a religion that so callously consigns a young girl to suffering and a completely unnecessary death.

Comments

  1. #1 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 2, 2008

    Freedom of religion is one of the core bedrock values upon which this nation was founded and one of the great freedoms guaranteed us in the Constitution. However even that freedom should not be absolute. It is the parents’ duty to provide their children food, shelter, and proper medical care. If their religion leads them to deny any of these necessities to their children, particularly in such egregious cases as that of the Neumanns, whose religious fanaticism led them to watch their child wither and die over the course of at least several days, if not a few weeks, then they should forfeit their right to be parents, as they have demonstrated themselves in the most egregious and unequivocal way possible to be unreliable guardians for their children. We generally view faith as a virtue, but when that faith leads parents to let their children suffer and die of straightforward-to-treat medical conditions, then faith becomes an evil. I fail to see how anyone can view it otherwise.

    I always see the disconnect where faith starts to be potentially physically dangerous (I’ll leave mental danger alone). The kid isn’t developed enough biologically or legally to have the ability for self determination. The child trusts his parents to protect him. That responsibility is given to the parents. How anyone can defend this is unreal to me.

  2. #2 Jenny F. Scientist
    April 2, 2008

    My favorite Jewish proverb, along the same lines, is ‘It is forbidden to stand out in a field during a thunderstorm and pray for a miracle.’ (Though I can’t find any reference to it, my mother always quoted it.)

  3. #3 Jenny F. Scientist
    April 2, 2008

    My favorite Jewish proverb, along the same lines, is ‘It is forbidden to stand out in a field during a thunderstorm and pray for a miracle.’ (Though I can’t find any reference to it, my mother always quoted it.)

  4. #4 BB
    April 2, 2008

    The couple’s other children are left with the couple. Why? Can someone tell me how the Neumanns are NOT a danger to their other children?

  5. #5 Dustin
    April 2, 2008

    This is the best article I’ve seen on this case!

    Even though I deal with agriculture for a living, I see this sort of stuff from time to time, though never bad enough there’s death.

    One client called our office a couple years ago for some advice because they were afraid their neighbors up the hill had fertilizer washing into their yard. After all, her neighbor had a lawn.

    Nutrient surplus in the environment is a legitimate concern, but not for her reason. I might add research shows lawns are very good at sequestering nutrients–if they’re applied correctly.

    According to their interpretation of the Bible, they couldn’t fertilize anything they ate unless it was prescribed in the Bible. If that artificial fertilizer washed onto their yard then they would break some covenant with God if they consumed it. The family was some sort of “Jews for Christ” thing.

    Okay, at this point it just sounds creepy, but the sad part was she wouldn’t feed her family anything that wasn’t organic “because everything else has sprays and fertilizer”. (Organic gets sprays and non-biblical fertilizers too, so there goes that covenant anyway.)

    They didn’t make enough money to afford to feed the family organically since mom couldn’t work (and it’s hard to find organic at the Supercenter at any price) so they grew some vegetables. Without any soil fertility and virtually no yield. Just dirt, seed, and prayer.

    I gathered from the conversation that they were somewhat malnourished and lacking enough protein in their diet. Did I mention she had a 3-year-old? If they lost their garden, I don’t know what would have happened. She didn’t seem too worried since if they followed every rule in the bible (even those weird ones with how to shave your beard), God would provide abundantly. Maybe she was expecting manna. He certainly hadn’t provided up to that point. Must have been that fertilizer.

    By the end of the conversation she twisted her interpretation enough to allow herself to at least buy antibiotic-free poultry and beef.

  6. #6 Tanta
    April 2, 2008

    Anyone who can sit around obsessing about his or her own personal relationship with God–saving his or her own soul–while watching a child die a slow and painful death is a sadist using religion as a cover. That’s all.

    I had a cat once who suffered a terrible stroke in the night. It was a horror to sit by him, waiting for morning so we could take him to the vet for what we knew would be euthanasia. I considered myself a terrible coward for not having borrowed the neighbor’s gun and shot him at 3:00 a.m. I think I would have if I were sure that he was in as much pain as I feared he was in. The trouble with cats is they can’t tell you if it hurts or not.

    That child surely cried out in her agony.

    These people are stone killers. That is all. To heap praise on them as martyrs for their religion is to reward them for being stone killers, to stroke their already hideously inflated egos. I got no time for excusing people whose own “salvation” gives them the right to force others to undergo torture, that the torturer might be found acceptable to God.

  7. #7 WTFWJD
    April 2, 2008

    Negligent homicide? Try torture-murder. Denying anyone what they need for survival will kill them, the same as denying someone air or water. The parents also imprisoned the kid in the torture chamber. It would be different if they let the kid go to the hospital and beg for insulin. To lock the kid in, and wait for the kid to die, would it be any different if the ailment was diabetes, gangrene, rabies, or snakebite?

    I’d like to see the parents hanged. Slowly, very very slowly, make it take days.

  8. #8 Dustin
    April 2, 2008

    This is the best article I’ve seen on this case!

    Even though I deal with agriculture for a living, I see this sort of stuff from time to time, though never bad enough there’s death.

    One client called our office a couple years ago for some advice because they were afraid their neighbors up the hill had fertilizer washing into their yard. After all, her neighbor had a lawn.

    Nutrient surplus in the environment is a legitimate concern, but not for her reason. I might add research shows lawns are very good at sequestering nutrients–if they’re applied correctly.

    According to their interpretation of the Bible, they couldn’t fertilize anything they ate unless it was prescribed in the Bible. If that artificial fertilizer washed onto their yard then they would break some covenant with God if they consumed it. The family was some sort of “Jews for Christ” thing.

    Okay, at this point it just sounds creepy, but the sad part was she wouldn’t feed her family anything that wasn’t organic “because everything else has sprays and fertilizer”. (Organic gets sprays and non-biblical fertilizers too, so there goes that covenant anyway.)

    They didn’t make enough money to afford to feed the family organically since mom couldn’t work (and it’s hard to find organic at the Supercenter at any price) so they grew some vegetables. Without any soil fertility and virtually no yield. Just dirt, seed, and prayer.

    I gathered from the conversation that they were somewhat malnourished and lacking enough protein in their diet. Did I mention she had a 3-year-old? If they lost their garden, I don’t know what would have happened. She didn’t seem too worried since if they followed every rule in the bible (even those weird ones with how to shave your beard), God would provide abundantly. Maybe she was expecting manna. He certainly hadn’t provided up to that point. Must have been that fertilizer.

    By the end of the conversation she twisted her interpretation enough to allow herself to at least buy antibiotic-free poultry and beef.

  9. #9 Tanta
    April 2, 2008

    Anyone who can sit around obsessing about his or her own personal relationship with God–saving his or her own soul–while watching a child die a slow and painful death is a sadist using religion as a cover. That’s all.

    I had a cat once who suffered a terrible stroke in the night. It was a horror to sit by him, waiting for morning so we could take him to the vet for what we knew would be euthanasia. I considered myself a terrible coward for not having borrowed the neighbor’s gun and shot him at 3:00 a.m. I think I would have if I were sure that he was in as much pain as I feared he was in. The trouble with cats is they can’t tell you if it hurts or not.

    That child surely cried out in her agony.

    These people are stone killers. That is all. To heap praise on them as martyrs for their religion is to reward them for being stone killers, to stroke their already hideously inflated egos. I got no time for excusing people whose own “salvation” gives them the right to force others to undergo torture, that the torturer might be found acceptable to God.

  10. #10 Jerry
    April 2, 2008

    Jenny, In Judaism it’s forbidden to rely on the supernatural, at all, for anything. The attitude is that you have to do “your part”; God is doing the thing out of your control (think of a farmer plowing and planting but God brings the rain). Also, in Judaism saving a life automatically overrules religious observance, like sabbath or kosher. Finally, my vote for Greatest Jew Ever was a kickass doctor with a skeptical heart and an approach to medicine hundreds of years more modern than most of his time: Maimonides.

  11. #11 amancay
    April 2, 2008

    The difference between these parents and run-of-the-mill, delusional, “the dog told me to do it” parents is that they have an authority who put these notions into their head. Surely it must have horrified them to watch their daughter suffer, but that demonstrates the depths to which they had allowed themselves to be brainwashed. Until legal responsibility can be placed at the doorsteps of these churches, the ultimate perpetrators are free to continue to kill more children.

  12. #12 josh.f13
    April 2, 2008

    “…many states have laws that that permit exceptions to requiring proper medical care for religious reasons–even in the cases of children.”

    We need a list of these states. If I find out there’s something like that in the books here in Michigan, I’m gonna write every lawmaker and representative I can find.

    Anyone got any ideas on how to put together such a list?

  13. #13 josh.f13
    April 2, 2008

    “…many states have laws that that permit exceptions to requiring proper medical care for religious reasons–even in the cases of children.”

    We need a list of these states. If I find out there’s something like that in the books here in Michigan, I’m gonna write every lawmaker and representative I can find.

    Anyone got any ideas on how to put together such a list?

  14. #14 amancay
    April 2, 2008

    The difference between these parents and run-of-the-mill, delusional, “the dog told me to do it” parents is that they have an authority who put these notions into their head. Surely it must have horrified them to watch their daughter suffer, but that demonstrates the depths to which they had allowed themselves to be brainwashed. Until legal responsibility can be placed at the doorsteps of these churches, the ultimate perpetrators are free to continue to kill more children.

  15. #15 Mike O'Risal
    April 2, 2008

    Let’s assume it as given that there is some possibility that some amount of faith is capable of curing real disease. In this case, the question is simply of devising some method of quantifying that faith before relying upon it for this use. I have devised a simple test that will assist parents who are considering faith-based treatment in place of modern medicine for their sick children. The test doesn’t result in some measurement of faith with units, but it does provide a simple absolute marker to see if the parents’ faith is at least enough for use like this.

  16. #16 Amanda
    April 2, 2008

    I just wanted to add that I had read somewhere that the extended family (in this case, an aunt who lives, I believe, in California) had called the authorities on the parents, saying that they believe the parents were being unreasonable and that the family believed that the little girl was gravely ill and the parents were not going to get help because of their religious beliefs. I am not sure of which news site I read this, or I post a link. Sorry!

  17. #17 Tom T.
    April 2, 2008

    Other articles indicate that the other relatives begged these parents to seek treatment and ultimately called the police. Also, the mother is quoted as saying that “the family does not belong to an organized religion or faith”; that’s when she goes on to say “we just believe in the Bible.”

    So, to be fair, no church was telling them to do this to their child. Frankly, these people strike me as isolated lunatics who picked up some of the language of religion. If it hadn’t been the Bible, I’ll bet they would have lost themselves in New-Age spirituality, or hoarding, or good old alcohol.

    Consequently, of course, the solicitousness with which authorities and commentators are approaching their profession of religious belief seems wholly misplaced.

  18. #18 Ray C.
    April 2, 2008

    Quoth Jesus as quoted by Matthew:

    18:5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
    18:6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

  19. #19 davidbt11
    April 2, 2008

    I just found this article from Colorado about similar cases they had a few years ago.

    http://www.sullivan-county.com/nf0/fundienazis/col_children.htm

    It’s from 2001, so things may have changed in the mean time, but it says that only Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nebraska and North Carolina DON’T have “statutes that allow parents to use their religious beliefs as a defense against prosecution for withholding medical treatment from their children”.

    I think that wherever you live you need to write to lawmakers to ensure that parents are prosecuted for this kind of criminal neglect.

  20. #20 Calli Arcale
    April 2, 2008

    The big problem with religion is that it *can* excuse anything. It is the route by which very good, generous, kind people can commit the deeds of monsters, because they believe — honestly believe — that the alternative is worse.

    There was a wonderful episode of Babylon 5 on this subject. It was called “Believers”. An alien family brought their ill son to the station. He could be cured with a relatively simple surgical procedure, but they believed this would destroy his soul. I won’t spoil how it turns out, but the station’s doctor does what he feels is right, and so do the parents. It doesn’t provide easy answers to the problem; one wants to respect religious beliefs (freedom of religion is really important, after all), but there are times when to do so would be wrong. It’s tough.

    This is not a new problem, either. A lot of kids have died because their parents were Christian Scientists. The father of one such kid successfully sued his ex-wife and the church for the kid’s wrongful death. He was able to do this in large part because denying the kid medical care also meant denying the dad his parental right to have a say in his kid’s medical care. And I’m sure he was furious with the legal system for going the usual route of assuming the mom to be more competent than the dad, except that the result was so much worse than in most cases like that. In this case the kid died.

    Minimum standards of care are legally enforced for animals. I think we ought to be able to require minimum standards of care for children and for incompetent adults who did not previously sign some sort of form (while competent) declaring their wishes. We haven’t heard about it yet, but I suspect it’s only a matter of time (assuming it hasn’t happened already) before someone lets their elderly parents suffer for the child’s religious beliefs.

  21. #21 DonZilla
    April 2, 2008

    Gotta love organized religion. Do anything you want, no matter how weird or warped that may be. Then, if it should ever come under fire, shame others for questioning your piety.

    Alternatively, to get away with doing whatever you want (although I’d think this method would only work once or twice if people are paying attention), when “busted,” publicly apologize profusely, and claim that you’ve found Jesus, ala Michael Vick.

    In the movie “Contact,” Jodie Foster plays a scientist who questions the existence of God. She is shamed by a colleague who asks her: “Your father, did you love him?”

    “Yes,” the Jodie Foster character replies.

    “Prove it,” the colleague retorts. Of course she can’t answer.

    Shame: the ultimate defense.

  22. #22 marion
    April 2, 2008

    You know, as a semi-churchgoing Catholic, I follow a religion to some degree (cafeteria Catholicism, that’s me) and believe in God. But when I want to go somewhere, I don’t sit on my doorstep and pray to God to find a way to transport me there. I get in my car and drive. (I may occasionally pray to God on the way to spur my local politicians to provide more mass transit options, but that’s another matter.) I see this belief that medical treatment must be eschewed in favor of prayer to be along those same lines, only on a higher, more horrible level. That poor child.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go take a shower. I prayed to God to make me clean, and He responded with, “Your bathroom is 10 feet away; get back to me when you have a real problem.” Darn non-helpful deity!

  23. #23 Joe
    April 2, 2008

    There was a report a few years ago about a family that “followed” the bible while their daughter died of diabetes. The reporter asked a theologian who replied “Nowhere in the bible does it say not to bring a child to a doctor.”

  24. #24 Jerry
    April 2, 2008

    Jenny, In Judaism it’s forbidden to rely on the supernatural, at all, for anything. The attitude is that you have to do “your part”; God is doing the thing out of your control (think of a farmer plowing and planting but God brings the rain). Also, in Judaism saving a life automatically overrules religious observance, like sabbath or kosher. Finally, my vote for Greatest Jew Ever was a kickass doctor with a skeptical heart and an approach to medicine hundreds of years more modern than most of his time: Maimonides.

  25. #25 Beth
    April 2, 2008

    This post gets it absolutely right.

    I have personal experience w/this issue: I was born with a disability that would have been easily diagnosed and cured (with no drugs or surgery, just a flexible brace) had my CS parents taken me to a doctor when I was a child, but it is not treatable in an adult. I know that had the law required them to provide medical care, they would have done so. They were also opposed to seatbelts (because they felt admitting the possibility of accidents made accidents more likely) but as soon as seatbelt use became law, we used them. Religious exemptions to child abuse and other protective laws should be abolished!

    For more about how these laws came to be, see the book _God’s Perfect Child_ by Caroline Fraser.

    For more about the laws themselves and efforts to overturn them, see http://www.childrenshealthcare.org/

    (Josh.f13, you can find info about which states have these laws at that site.)

  26. #26 Rev/. BigDumbChimp
    April 2, 2008

    Orac, I emailed you this but….

    the burning from the stupid is too much

  27. #27 Prometheus
    April 2, 2008

    Tragically, in the US, the only sure-fire defense for irrational, disruptive or destructive actions is to claim that it is an article of your religious faith (no matter how wacky said faith might be).

    Fortunately, the deaths of these two children are aberrations – still rare enough that they warrant media attention. And, in a country of around 300 million people, it is a fact that these acts of negligent homicide are relatively rare – that most parents seek appropriate care for their children.

    That said, it is still a tragedy of epic proportions that these two children are dead – not from cancer or some exotic illness that lacks an effective treatment, but from diseases so prosaic and treatable as bacterial infection and diabetes.

    It is interesting to note that, in the Oregon case, the Oregon legislature had (in 1999) modified the “shield laws” to specifically make failing to seek appropriate medical care for a child a crime – even if said medical care was barred by the parents’ religious beliefs. Apparently, some people have had enough of these tragedies.

    Trying the parents for murder (negligent homicide) will not bring back these two children. But it will restore one of the basic (if unspoken) tenets of American liberty: that parents are free to make choices for their children – but will be held accountable for the results.

    Rather than have “the government” peeking into everyone’s home, checking to see that the children are getting the “appropriate” (as defined by who?) medical care, I think that it is much more proper (not to mention more efficient and effective) to hold parents strictly accountable for the result of their decisions, no matter what “alternative” reasoning they hold to.

    It is my hope that more states will “see the light” and decide that religious beliefs are no more privileged than any other form of superstition when it comes to the safety of children. I will certainly be sending these stories to my state legislature and encouraging them to ensure that religious beliefs are not a legal excuse for child abuse.

    Prometheus

  28. #28 AL
    April 2, 2008

    That’s not an outlandish belief; people are praying for the health and recovery of friends and loved ones every day, all the time.

    Yep. It’s not outlandish if everyone is doing it. Now let’s all join Scientology. It’s the most surefire way to make it no longer outlandish to us.

  29. #29 PsyberDave
    April 2, 2008

    Orac, I like the phrase “malignant stupidity”. I find it most eloquent.

  30. #30 Jim
    April 2, 2008

    Beth: My momma was CS also so I got to grow up cross-eyed.
    Had to put up with a bunch of hassle from the other kids but it kept my ass out of ‘nam: the Lord works in miss-steer-ious ways (or some such BS).

  31. #31 PennyBright
    April 2, 2008

    I think we need an Adult Survivors of CS Parents group somewhere. It’s appalling the stuff we lived through.

    The CHILD website is excellent – the direct link to their listing of states that currently have religious defenses against child abuse is http://www.childrenshealthcare.org/legal.htm.

    For a fine example of how to discuss and organize to change such laws, this site is great – http://www.masskids.org/dbre/dbre_1.html . And for us CS survivors it’s heartening to see this kind of action in MA.

  32. #32 David Harmon
    April 2, 2008

    I have a somewhat mixed attitude toward this, mostly due to my own sense of “natural justice”. Consider the following:

    1) Yes, “society” has a right to demand that parents take proper care of their kids.

    2) The reason for this demand is that a basic purpose of society is to be less hostile than the “natural world”.

    3) In the natural world, the rules are very simple — if you let your kid die, you lose (some of) the only thing that counts in the long term — the survival of your personal lineage. Yes, there are plenty of creatures which broadcast their offspring to the winds, and hope that 1% or 0.1% survive… but that’s not anything close to a human strategy. The human strategy is, “kids are precious, you want to keep them alive (and healthy), by any means necessary”.

    4) So, I consider that having rejected the rules of society, these parents now face “natural justice” — the implacable consequences of their actions, namely the loss of one-fourth of their permanent contribution to the future.

    5) Nevertheless, I do support the removal of the remaining kids from that home, because even if the parents are willing to let their kids die of neglect, society still has a separate interest in rescuing its future citizens from such abusive conditions. (See point 2.)

  33. #33 Kim
    April 2, 2008

    This is well written and put together. It certainly serves an argument for those who wish they could stamp out science in favor for their bible.
    I really wish stuff like this got MORE press, but I doubt any of this would ever be posted on FOX. This is child abuse, no worse- torture, regardless of personal belief.

  34. #34 Brian
    April 2, 2008

    The odd thing is, the people that are giving the Neumanns a free pass are probably the same group of people that were crying out when Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed. At the risk of being in bad taste, maybe Terri’s husband should have said that he was praying that God would put food in her stomach.

  35. #35 SteveM
    April 2, 2008

    “The odd thing is, the people that are giving the Neumanns a free pass are probably the same group of people that were crying out when Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed.”

    Removing the tube was actually doing something to cause her death. I wonder what the reaction would have been if he had not allowed the tube to be inserted in the first place? There is always this line between active and passive. It is okay to do nothing but once you start something (respirator, feeding tube, etc), you are not allowed to stop doing it.

  36. #36 akibare
    April 2, 2008

    I can sort of understand the argument that the parents MEANT WELL, they were sincere in their beliefs, they had no malice, so let’s not take the kids away for abuse reasons, or some such.

    But if we go there, surely we can then argue that the kids should be removed due to incompetence of the parents?

    Go ahead, write “Mom really loves all the kids” in the record if it soothes anything, but if Mom is in such a state where she is denying medical treatment in favor of prayer, the kids are in danger, aren’t they? Just as in the case where Mom hears voices, or Mom is mentally incapacitated to the point of being unable to communicate with the children?

    Heck, if they want to say Mom can visit, or even live in, okay, but the ultimate “who has the final say on care” shouldn’t be Mom.

    I’m sure there’s a slippery slope in there, but I agree wholeheartedly with the depiction of how the specific class of religious belief is priviledged over other beliefs and opinions.

  37. #37 Be Careful Here ...
    April 2, 2008

    I would caution you not to send the parents to the electric chair before getting all the facts. I speak from experience as a parent whose daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 11 months old.

    I went to the ped’s office 3 days before the diagnosis with a lethargic child who just didn’t seem right. I was sent home. Two days later I went to the ER with her (after doctors hours) due to continued concern for her health. I was met with … “it’s probably the flu” — She had vomited a few times. The next day, she was failing rapidly and was in severe DKA. It was touch-and-go for a while. Let’s also not forget that a doctor (who used to post here – or at least was linked to from here previously – he tended to use his bloated ego to condemn parents who questioned vaxx’s)… was recently (within 2 years) brought up for charges in a case where he failed to diagnose a child with type 1 diabetes and the child died….

    The point being… everyone wants to say how it had been a month of severe sickness, the child was suffering for a long time, the parents stood by as the child died, etc. etc. Whatever you want to say… You really have no idea. I can’t tell you how many stories I have heard about a child who has almost died due to DKA. Peds not recognizing the signs… parents trying to “wait it out” because the child is vomiting (instant thought – flu) … who wants to go to the ER when the kid has the flu, etc. etc. Perhaps some of you have never had this experience… I have. Again, I wouldn’t “assume” anything here. I could see how a parent who believed strongly in prayer and who was somewhat put off by doctors or whatever could have waited just that little bit longer than the average person… That amount of time could have been the difference between life and death. Does that mean that the parents wanted their child to die? Of course not. The distinction would have to be made whether or not the parents KNEW that what they were doing could cause the death or serious injury to their child. It’s not clear from the information given…

    Certainly, the parents COULD have been completely out of their minds and neglectful in regards to the prayer will save us mentality, etc… That is a definite possibility… I just think some of you are jumping to huge conclusions here.

    I assure you … there was not a cut and dry “hang the parents” response when this was posted on my list for parents with type 1 diabetes (people who would know and have been there, done that). A lot of back and forth… Sometimes it’s easier to judge when you are somewhat ignorant to the facts.

  38. #38 Beth
    April 2, 2008

    Be Careful Here, the point of laws is not to “hang the parents.” The point of the laws is that they make parents’ responsibilities clear. For difficult cases, a court will take into account all extenuating circumstances. That’s what courts are for.

    Right now, laws give people a free pass, in advance, to watch their kids die, whether their actions can be reasonably explained or not.

    We don’t do this with other laws. Sometimes people have good reason to steal (I needed that rowboat to survive the flood), or they don’t mean to steal (oops, I thought it was free). We don’t write laws that say, “Stealing is illegal, except that if you sincerely believe you are doing the right thing, you can’t be investigated in the first place.”

    The situation is completely dissimilar to your account of misdiagnosis. You knew something was wrong and you took reasonable steps to get help for your infant. These parents knew something was wrong but deliberately rejected reasonable steps that would have saved their 11yo daughter. How do we know? They said so.

  39. #39 davidbt11
    April 2, 2008

    While I understand wwhere you’re coming from I don’t think you are correct in your assertions here Be Careful Here … When you say that

    The distinction would have to be made whether or not the parents KNEW that what they were doing could cause the death or serious injury to their child. It’s not clear from the information given.

    you’re missing the point. It’s self-evidently true that the parents loved their child and wanted her to get better, the important thing is how they went about it. If they thought that a voodoo spell would cure Madeline I don’t think you would be defending them. They clearly knew that she was gravely ill, for more than just a couple of days, and decided against medical intervention. This is clear from their news report.

    “We just noticed a tiredness within the past two weeks”.

    “And then just the day before and that day (she died), it suddenly just went to a more serious situation. We stayed fast in prayer then. We believed that she would recover. We saw signs that to us, it looked like she was recovering”

    According to Madeline’s father, who is a former police officer, he started CPR on his daughter “as soon as the breath of life left” Madeline’s body.
    The family called 911 but unfortunately, Madeline didn’t make it.

    The parents clearly decided that they wouldn’t give Madeline the professional care she needed when she needed it and only intervened when it was too late. These weren’t uneducated people who didn’t know how to care for her, this was a conscious decision to deny treatment, whatever the reason may be.

    The case you described

    I went to the ped’s office 3 days before the diagnosis with a lethargic child who just didn’t seem right. I was sent home. Two days later I went to the ER with her (after doctors hours) due to continued concern for her health. I was met with … “it’s probably the flu” — She had vomited a few times. The next day, she was failing rapidly and was in severe DKA. It was touch-and-go for a while.

    was completely different . You did everything one could expect from any loving parent. You gave your child the best possible care and it was the negligence/incompetence of the doctors that let you down. No one could blame you had things turned for the worst.

    You rightly blame your doctors while the Neumann’s say that

    “We didn’t have enough faith.”

    I think that says it all.

  40. #40 Regan
    April 2, 2008

    After Madeleine Neumann’s death, Madison.com story, 3/26

    “…The mother believes the girl could still be resurrected, the police chief said.”

    If this is an accurate account, I might be concerned about the welfare of the other children staying under their parents’ supervision in the event of another serious/life-threatening illness. Not that anyone has mentioned it, but I am wondering what the other siblings might have been thinking while this was going on?

  41. #41 Leni
    April 2, 2008

    I wonder if Madeline died thinking she didn’t have enough faith. How could she not?

    It seems to me there is not much worse you can say to your kid than “I’m sorry, I guess God thinks that you aren’t good enough to live.” It’s heartbreaking. And infuriating. How could you possibly tell your child that?

    Part of me feels compassion for the parents. There can’t be anything worse than being responsible for your child’s death. But I also feel some sympathy for drunk drivers. They don’t usually mean to kill anyone either. Doesn’t mean I think they shouldn’t lose their licenses or go to prison for manslaughter or negligent homicide when their bad decisions harm others.

  42. #42 What's the Charge?
    April 2, 2008

    “Be Careful Here, the point of laws is not to “hang the parents.” The point of the laws is that they make parents’ responsibilities clear. For difficult cases, a court will take into account all extenuating circumstances. That’s what courts are for”.

    Right, the courts can take into account all the extenuating circumstances… I’m cool with that. There seem to be others here who are not so willing to hear how the case plays out in court. Some of the comments here were:

    “These people are stone killers”.

    “Negligent homicide? Try torture-murder”.

    “I’d like to see the parents hanged. Slowly, very very slowly, make it take days”.

    All I am saying is… you may not really know the whole story. Again, despite the fact that my daughter was in severe DKA when finally diagnosed… Until the time when she was REALLY sick (at the doc’s office before heading over the the ER)… I never imagined in my wildest dreams that she could have DIED. I was worried more about her being dehydrated (as she was peeing all the time – due to the diabetes – and refusing to drink by that time). I am not alone in that… Again… A lot of stories of parents using the “wait and see” approach with their kids who ultimately ended up in severe DKA.

    My attitude would be completely different if some of these basic questions were addressed such as:

    1) If the parents said that they would NEVER have brought the kid for medical attention… no matter what.

    2) If the parents said something like… no matter what I would never allow my child to have insulin treatment. If it’s God’s will for the child to die than it’s God’s will and I won’t allow her to have insulin.

    Those types of comments would be unacceptable and frankly they should have to be forced to deal with strong consequences. I simply don’t know if that is the case here.

  43. #43 Beth
    April 2, 2008

    Be Careful Here/What’s the Charge, I understand your point better now. Thanks for explaining.

  44. #44 Mary
    April 2, 2008

    I’m the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries to Korea. My parents adopted a Korean baby boy who had been abused in the name of woo, or whatever alternative medicine the local mudong put him through. Once given proper medical care, at a hospital founded by the Presbyterian Church, he flourished. He’s about 40 years old now (we don’t know his actual age).

    I’m also a pediatric RN, and attending Duke Masters Nursing program, which I hope is recognized as a scientifically rigorous program. I ask my patients’ parents about their religious practices in order to make sure we’re providing for their spiritual needs as well as their physical needs.

    Yes, I’ve seen some wacky religious stuff. I was called the devil by one off-brand denomination family whose daughter died of liver failure. That was a bad day. But her death was not the fault of her parents, who ensured that she had been brought for medical treatment, any more than it was the fault of science and medicine.

    Maybe some so-called religious people look backwards and are anti-science, but western science and western religion are very well married.

    As much as I enjoy reading this blog, its anti-religious tone is disturbing. It’s not the religiosity of these parents that should define them, it’s their ignorance. Those two things, in my experience, do not go together; rather, religious beliefs are coupled with great curiosity and intellectual search for answers through science. I’m sorry that so many of the readers and commentors here have had other experiences, but perhaps they are generalizing from an insufficient sample.

  45. #45 Liesl
    April 2, 2008

    Mary:

    I’m new to reading this or any other science blogs and I’ve noticed the anti-religion bent on quite a few, too. It isn’t anathema to me as I am also not religious or faithful, but I find that much of it moves into the realm of hysteria. I have to say, though, that I have yet to see that in one of Orac’s posts. Just my opinion, of course.

    As for the reason for why we should condemn the parents of the child: we do have to look at cause and effect. If these people hadn’t believed in a particular interpretation of a particular doctrine this may not have happened. That’s the thing, though, we can’t know because it did happen because they did believe this thing. The religious belief and the actions taken in its name are inextricably joined.

    Also, surely you can admit that religious belief is more often than not coupled with certainty. Certainty in faith is anything but tolerant of intellectual search since it denies the very nature of faith. That is not to say that people who have faith are automatically staid and closed minded; however, if a faith denies that there are other possibilities by claiming that there is only one path, then…. how curious are you allowed to be?

    Don’t get me wrong, I think faith is a nice thing. I sometimes wish I had it, though I know I can’t take that leap. It’s just that faith has its place and that place just isn’t in science or certainty.

  46. #46 DLC
    April 2, 2008

    What’s the charge?
    In Wisconsin, it would be this statute :

    940.06 Second−degree reckless homicide. (1) Whoever
    recklessly causes the death of another human being is guilty
    of a Class D felony.

    Why the charge?
    Because the lack of medical attention warrants the charge.
    If I allowed a minor child under my care and supervision to die without seeking medical aid, I would deserve it.
    The burden is on the parent(s) to seek aid for their child.
    They failed to do so, and this after at least 2 weeks of suffering. They may be somewhat ignorant, but how ignorant do you have to be before you get a pass on a charge of this nature ?
    It might be possible to offer “we didn’t know how sick she was” as an affirmative defense by the parents’ legal counsel at trial, but I’m not a lawyer, and so I couldn’t comment on how effective this might be, if it’s even permissible.

    Meanwhile, anyone remember the case of Linda Burfield Hazzard ?

  47. #47 HCN
    April 2, 2008

    Dustin said “Okay, at this point it just sounds creepy, but the sad part was she wouldn’t feed her family anything that wasn’t organic “because everything else has sprays and fertilizer”. (Organic gets sprays and non-biblical fertilizers too, so there goes that covenant anyway.)

    They didn’t make enough money to afford to feed the family organically since mom couldn’t work (and it’s hard to find organic at the Supercenter at any price) so they grew some vegetables. Without any soil fertility and virtually no yield. Just dirt, seed, and prayer.”

    I thought of this post after I went swimming this evening. I ran into a woman who is also trying to lose weight, and said she lost weight using only organic food. I told her that I am trying to control my cholesterol with diet, so no butter, cream or cheese… though I found that the Tofuti fake cream cheese was okay.

    She asked me if I tried to eat foods without “chemicals”. I told her I need salt. She replied “not that kind of chemical!”… I told her salt and water were chemicals and she would have to live with that. I may have made her mad, because she was not in the pool that long. I don’t know if I made her mad, or if she just paddles around for twenty minutes (I try to get in between 1000 to 1500 yards in an hour, I usually do 2000 yards, but I can’t do the 90 minute swim time because of a change in schedule).

    Then I thought of your posting even more after I came home and set to work planting my new Colette climbing rose and a pink jasmine vine. Putting in some “natural vegetable fertilizer” with 4-6-2 amounts of certain chemicals (I would have used bone meal, but I think I used the last of that when I planted bulbs last fall).

    To Mary: I don’t think Orac is as anti-religion as many on Scienceblogs (especially PZ Myers). He is a lapsed Catholic, like my dear hubby.

    I used to be religious, but I was corrupted by hubby. Though my step-mother did not help matters by sending me mailings of prayers from her Unity Church. It is not that far removed from Christian Science, only they do accept medical care and are a bit more new-agey. The thing that drove me nuts was reading one person’s account as to how she hurt herself and (instead of calling 911) just prayed!

    I found this offensive. I told my step-mother that God gave us brains and free will to use to help ourselves. We now have telephones and emergency medical services to help us in those situations. I don’t know if she really understood (though, this was a woman who sneaked medical help to her nieces who were being raised as Christian Scientists!).

    All I can think about during this blog post and comments is the story of the man in the flood. He prayed for help from his god. When the neighbor came by with a rowboat, he did not go in because his god will rescue him. When the National Guard came with a little power boat he did not go with them because his god will rescue him. When the helicopter came, he did not go because his god would provide. Then his house got swept away and he drowned. When he died and saw his god, his god asked him why he did not go into the neighbor’s rowboat, the National Guard powerboat or the helicopter that he sent to rescue him!

    With a little googling I found it in a joke archive:
    http://www.jakesjokes.com/joke_26702.php
    and another version:
    http://inthehereandnow.wordpress.com/2008/02/17/let-me-tell-you-a-story-about-god/

  48. #48 David Ratnasabapathy
    April 3, 2008

    Mary:

    religious beliefs are coupled with great curiosity and intellectual search for answers through science.

    Perhaps it’s you who is “generalizing from an insufficient sample”? Consider: the most popular version of the Bible currently is the NIV translation. Read the NIV study bible and you would come away under the impression that:
    1. The Documentary Hypothesis is a mere guess, not believed by any respectable scholar;
    2. The “expanse” of the sky in Genesis 1 is merely a reference to the atmosphere;
    3. That Daniel wrote the book of Daniel, around 530 BC;
    4. That Isaiah wrote all of the Book of Isaiah.

    I could go on. None of the above, as far as I can see, are supported by scholarly analysis of the Bible. The NIV’s position is directly opposed to “great curiosity and intellectual search for answers through science”. Yet it is a popular translation.

    Heck, drop into a Christian bookstore, pick 10 books at random. At least 9 will lie. Is this what “great curiosity” asks for?

  49. #49 The Integral
    April 3, 2008

    I’m a committed Christian, but I am absolutely disgusted at some of the things people do in the name of God. They are not true followers of Christ if this is what they do. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.

    Sigh………these people are giving us a bad name. Seriously.

    TI of athenivanidx

  50. #50 Militant Agnostic
    April 3, 2008

    Mary – the key issue here is how religion, especially Christianity (but ohters as well) gets a free pass when it causes harm or is used as an excuse for morally reprehensible actions. The fact is that in many states, religion is used to shield child abuse from prosecution.

    If Madeline’s mother had said the voices in her head were telling not to get medical help, she would probably be institutionalized and her other children would certainly be taken away. Odds are if she were a Wiccan for example, I bet her children would be taken away. The parents are seriously, dangerously mentally ill and should be dealt with accordingly.

    I see little difference between this case and someone sacrificing their first born child to some god.

  51. #51 DT
    April 3, 2008

    I would caution against the natural reaction to persecute the parents and remove the other kids from their care. They might be in all other respects loving, caring and capable parents. Only an intensive review by social services and other appropriate professionals of the circumstances and home situation can determine this.

    At the end of the day, any decision should be in the best interests of the surviving siblings. If it is that they would do better at home with their parents, with rigorous safeguards having been put in place to monitor what is going on, then I could live with that.

    I am reminded of the Eliza-Jane Scovill case, where she died of AIDS, her mother (Christine Maggiore) having denied her the chance of life because of her own AIDS denial and refusal to get her daughter tested. Subsequently there were calls to remove her other child (who tested HIV negative) from parental care. As stupid as the parents might be when it comes to knowing what is right in respect of HIV, they appeared to be very good parents. The decision was not to prosecute them, and to let the remaining child stay with them. On balance I think this was right.

    I know this particular case is not directly comparable, but someone who is suitably experienced, qualified and trained to make the right judgement for the overall good of the kids needs to be involved.

  52. #52 Tulse
    April 3, 2008

    I would caution against the natural reaction to persecute the parents and remove the other kids from their care. They might be in all other respects loving, caring and capable parents.

    Parents that will not provide necessary medical care to their children are not “capable”.

    As others have said, these kind of sympathetic attitudes would likely be very different if the motivations involved weren’t religious. If, for example, these people refused medical help because they believed that aliens would land and use their superior technology to cure their child, I doubt that anyone would defend them as “capable”.

    I don’t doubt that these people are loving and caring. But with these attitudes toward medicine, any official evaluating this case who left the children in these people’s care would be gambling with their lives.

  53. #53 phantomreader42
    April 3, 2008

    I would caution against the natural reaction to persecute the parents and remove the other kids from their care. They might be in all other respects loving, caring and capable parents.

    Parents that will not provide necessary medical care to their children are not “capable”.

    As others have said, these kind of sympathetic attitudes would likely be very different if the motivations involved weren’t religious. If, for example, these people refused medical help because they believed that aliens would land and use their superior technology to cure their child, I doubt that anyone would defend them as “capable”.

    I don’t doubt that these people are loving and caring. But with these attitudes toward medicine, any official evaluating this case who left the children in these people’s care would be gambling with their lives.

    I doubt that these people are loving and caring. Loving, caring parents do not murder their children.

    I’d go so far as to say that any preacher who advised these parents to prevent their children from getting medical care should be arrested as an accessory to murder.

  54. #54 phantomreader42
    April 3, 2008

    I would caution against the natural reaction to persecute the parents and remove the other kids from their care. They might be in all other respects loving, caring and capable parents.

    Parents that will not provide necessary medical care to their children are not “capable”.

    As others have said, these kind of sympathetic attitudes would likely be very different if the motivations involved weren’t religious. If, for example, these people refused medical help because they believed that aliens would land and use their superior technology to cure their child, I doubt that anyone would defend them as “capable”.

    I don’t doubt that these people are loving and caring. But with these attitudes toward medicine, any official evaluating this case who left the children in these people’s care would be gambling with their lives.

    I doubt that these people are loving and caring. Loving, caring parents do not murder their children.

    I’d go so far as to say that any preacher who advised these parents to prevent their children from getting medical care should be arrested as an accessory to murder.

  55. #55 phantomreader42
    April 3, 2008

    I would caution against the natural reaction to persecute the parents and remove the other kids from their care. They might be in all other respects loving, caring and capable parents.

    Parents that will not provide necessary medical care to their children are not “capable”.

    As others have said, these kind of sympathetic attitudes would likely be very different if the motivations involved weren’t religious. If, for example, these people refused medical help because they believed that aliens would land and use their superior technology to cure their child, I doubt that anyone would defend them as “capable”.

    I don’t doubt that these people are loving and caring. But with these attitudes toward medicine, any official evaluating this case who left the children in these people’s care would be gambling with their lives.

    I doubt that these people are loving and caring. Loving, caring parents do not murder their children.

    I’d go so far as to say that any preacher who advised these parents to prevent their children from getting medical care should be arrested as an accessory to murder.

  56. #56 phantomreader42
    April 3, 2008

    Ugh, the preview is having some problems, it said it couldn’t post, then did it three times!

  57. #57 Prometheus
    April 4, 2008

    I would agree that the parents in these cases should not be “condemned” out of hand. It is entirely possible that they were not aware that their actions would lead to the death or injury of their child. In that case, the question might be:

    “Are they sufficiently competent to be allowed to raise their other children without close supervision?”

    I don’t think that these people wanted their children to die or even to suffer, although that is a determination that the court (and possibly a jury) will have to make. In most Western law, intent is a major factor in deciding what crime – if any – was committed.

    However, even absent an intent to harm or neglect their children, these parents have demonstrated that their judgement and child-raising skills are significantly below the community standard.

    Frankly, it doesn’t matter if their poor decisions were motivated by religion, mental illness or intellectual incapacity, they have demonstrated – by their failure to seek medical attention – that they do not meet the “reasonable person” standard of child care.

    “Be Careful Here”/”What’s the Charge” makes this point most effectively in his/her narrative. A reasonable parent would have sought medical attention and, if that did not resolve the child’s problem, would have gone to another doctor, ER, clinic, etc. until it was resolved. That’s what parents are supposed to do in the 21st century.

    If these families had been in an isolated area, with medical care unavailable, it would have been reasonable for them to resort to prayer. If they had been transported back to the 18th or 19th century, it might even have been prudent for them to use only prayer. But they were in the 21st century, in cities with abundant modern medical resources that could have saved their children. And they failed the reasonable parent test.

    I don’t condemn them, but I also hope that the “authorities” don’t “wait and see” if they make better decisions for their children in the future.

    Prometheus

  58. #58 Reasonable People
    April 4, 2008

    “A reasonable parent would have sought medical attention and, if that did not resolve the child’s problem, would have gone to another doctor, ER, clinic, etc. until it was resolved. That’s what parents are supposed to do in the 21st century”.

    Somewhat OT because this bugs the crap out of me…

    What happens when reasonabbe people go to their doctors/ pediatricians and beg them to help with their children suffering from GI problems, allergies, etc. etc. and the doctors IGNORE them? This (as we all should know) happens often to parents whose children have autism… What then?

    I say, those doctors should be brought up on charges of neglect… too bad that it would likely take out 80% of the medical professionals.

  59. #59 Renee
    April 5, 2008

    This brings up an interesting question – what should be the consequences if a doctor misses the diagnosis of diabetes in a child and the child then develops ketoacidosis? The doctor is trained in treating the disease and recognizing its symptoms, is would be well aware that lack of treatment could be life-threatening. Should he/she be given a free pass, just because so many feel that ‘doctors are only human’, they make mistakes too.’

    In terms of consequences, I don’t mean parents filing a lawsuit. I mean investigations by a state board of medical examinors, or hospital authorities, or even law enforcement if a case is serious enough.

    You can’t hold parents accountable for the consequences of non-treatment of diabetes in a child, and yet at the same time give doctors a pass when they fail to diagnose the disease.

  60. #60 Prometheus
    April 6, 2008

    Reasonable People asks, “What happens when reasonabbe [sic] people go to their doctors/ pediatricians and beg them to help with their children suffering from GI problems, allergies, etc. etc. and the doctors IGNORE them?”

    If this is the case, I would expect truly “reasonable people” to find other doctors. If, as RP seems to suggest, all doctors are “ignoring” these issues, it might be time for the “reasonable person” to ask themselves why every physician is “ignoring” their complaints. Is it possible that they aren’t ignoring but are rather failing to agree about the significance or cause of said complaints?

    Renee brings up a situation that occurred in my city not too long ago. It was initially dealt with through a civil lawsuit (malpractice) and was later addressed by the medical board suspending the doctor’s license. I have heard of a few cases where physicians have been charged with manslaughter, but Renee is correct to assume that it is the exception.

    The question hinges, I believe, on the difference between a doctor’s “mistake” made during a brief office (or ER) visit and the parent’s “mistake” of watching their child deteriorate and slip into a coma over the course of weeks.

    As Renee said, doctors are human, too. If my child is still sick (or getting worse), it is my duty as a parent to persist in my attempts to get them help. Another visit, another doctor, another city – whatever it takes.

    One thing every pediatrician has always said when we bring our kids in for a problem is “Call me if (s)he gets worse or fails to get better.” If my child gets worse and I don’t bring them back, is it the doctor’s failure or mine?

    Prometheus

  61. #61 It Doesn't Work Like That
    April 9, 2008

    “The question hinges, I believe, on the difference between a doctor’s “mistake” made during a brief office (or ER) visit and the parent’s “mistake” of watching their child deteriorate and slip into a coma over the course of weeks”.

    I don’t know what is so hard to understand, Prometheus. You still seem quite ignorant as to the effects and the course of action of DKA. You have no idea in regards to what happened in this case. Again, a few short hours before my child was diagnosed in severe DKA … I was at the emergency room with my daughter and they sent me and my 11 month old child HOME. I can only assume they would not have done that if they were overly concerned about her health. Perhaps you haven’t worked with children who have been recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – the symptoms and speed of DKA are not always cut and dry…

    You guys (mostly doctors) DO NOT want to jump on this bandwagon… Trust me. The jails are already too crowded to add thousands of clueless doctors into the mix.

  62. #62 It Doesn't Work Like That
    April 9, 2008

    “The question hinges, I believe, on the difference between a doctor’s “mistake” made during a brief office (or ER) visit and the parent’s “mistake” of watching their child deteriorate and slip into a coma over the course of weeks”.

    I don’t know what is so hard to understand, Prometheus. You still seem quite ignorant as to the effects and the course of action of DKA. You have no idea in regards to what happened in this case. Again, a few short hours before my child was diagnosed in severe DKA … I was at the emergency room with my daughter and they sent me and my 11 month old child HOME. I can only assume they would not have done that if they were overly concerned about her health. Perhaps you haven’t worked with children who have been recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – the symptoms and speed of DKA are not always cut and dry…

    You guys (mostly doctors) DO NOT want to jump on this bandwagon… Trust me. The jails are already too crowded to add thousands of clueless doctors into the mix.

  63. #63 It Doesn't Work Like That
    April 9, 2008

    “The question hinges, I believe, on the difference between a doctor’s “mistake” made during a brief office (or ER) visit and the parent’s “mistake” of watching their child deteriorate and slip into a coma over the course of weeks”.

    I don’t know what is so hard to understand, Prometheus. You still seem quite ignorant as to the effects and the course of action of DKA. You have no idea in regards to what happened in this case. Again, a few short hours before my child was diagnosed in severe DKA … I was at the emergency room with my daughter and they sent me and my 11 month old child HOME. I can only assume they would not have done that if they were overly concerned about her health. Perhaps you haven’t worked with children who have been recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – the symptoms and speed of DKA are not always cut and dry…

    You guys (mostly doctors) DO NOT want to jump on this bandwagon… Trust me. The jails are already too crowded to add thousands of clueless doctors into the mix.

  64. #64 It Doesn't Work Like That
    April 9, 2008

    “The question hinges, I believe, on the difference between a doctor’s “mistake” made during a brief office (or ER) visit and the parent’s “mistake” of watching their child deteriorate and slip into a coma over the course of weeks”.

    I don’t know what is so hard to understand, Prometheus. You still seem quite ignorant as to the effects and the course of action of DKA. You have no idea in regards to what happened in this case. Again, a few short hours before my child was diagnosed in severe DKA … I was at the emergency room with my daughter and they sent me and my 11 month old child HOME. I can only assume they would not have done that if they were overly concerned about her health. Perhaps you haven’t worked with children who have been recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – the symptoms and speed of DKA are not always cut and dry…

    You guys (mostly doctors) DO NOT want to jump on this bandwagon… Trust me. The jails are already too crowded to add thousands of clueless doctors into the mix.

  65. #65 It Doesn't Work Like That
    April 9, 2008

    “The question hinges, I believe, on the difference between a doctor’s “mistake” made during a brief office (or ER) visit and the parent’s “mistake” of watching their child deteriorate and slip into a coma over the course of weeks”.

    I don’t know what is so hard to understand, Prometheus. You still seem quite ignorant as to the effects and the course of action of DKA. You have no idea in regards to what happened in this case. Again, a few short hours before my child was diagnosed in severe DKA … I was at the emergency room with my daughter and they sent me and my 11 month old child HOME. I can only assume they would not have done that if they were overly concerned about her health. Perhaps you haven’t worked with children who have been recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – the symptoms and speed of DKA are not always cut and dry…

    You guys (mostly doctors) DO NOT want to jump on this bandwagon… Trust me. The jails are already too crowded to add thousands of clueless doctors into the mix.

  66. #66 It Doesn't Work Like That
    April 9, 2008

    “The question hinges, I believe, on the difference between a doctor’s “mistake” made during a brief office (or ER) visit and the parent’s “mistake” of watching their child deteriorate and slip into a coma over the course of weeks”.

    I don’t know what is so hard to understand, Prometheus. You still seem quite ignorant as to the effects and the course of action of DKA. You have no idea in regards to what happened in this case. Again, a few short hours before my child was diagnosed in severe DKA … I was at the emergency room with my daughter and they sent me and my 11 month old child HOME. I can only assume they would not have done that if they were overly concerned about her health. Perhaps you haven’t worked with children who have been recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – the symptoms and speed of DKA are not always cut and dry…

    You guys (mostly doctors) DO NOT want to jump on this bandwagon… Trust me. The jails are already too crowded to add thousands of clueless doctors into the mix.

  67. #67 It Doesn't Work Like That
    April 9, 2008

    “The question hinges, I believe, on the difference between a doctor’s “mistake” made during a brief office (or ER) visit and the parent’s “mistake” of watching their child deteriorate and slip into a coma over the course of weeks”.

    I don’t know what is so hard to understand, Prometheus. You still seem quite ignorant as to the effects and the course of action of DKA. You have no idea in regards to what happened in this case. Again, a few short hours before my child was diagnosed in severe DKA … I was at the emergency room with my daughter and they sent me and my 11 month old child HOME. I can only assume they would not have done that if they were overly concerned about her health. Perhaps you haven’t worked with children who have been recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – the symptoms and speed of DKA are not always cut and dry…

    You guys (mostly doctors) DO NOT want to jump on this bandwagon… Trust me. The jails are already too crowded to add thousands of clueless doctors into the mix.

  68. #68 It Doesn't Work Like That
    April 9, 2008

    “The question hinges, I believe, on the difference between a doctor’s “mistake” made during a brief office (or ER) visit and the parent’s “mistake” of watching their child deteriorate and slip into a coma over the course of weeks”.

    I don’t know what is so hard to understand, Prometheus. You still seem quite ignorant as to the effects and the course of action of DKA. You have no idea in regards to what happened in this case. Again, a few short hours before my child was diagnosed in severe DKA … I was at the emergency room with my daughter and they sent me and my 11 month old child HOME. I can only assume they would not have done that if they were overly concerned about her health. Perhaps you haven’t worked with children who have been recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – the symptoms and speed of DKA are not always cut and dry…

    You guys (mostly doctors) DO NOT want to jump on this bandwagon… Trust me. The jails are already too crowded to add thousands of clueless doctors into the mix.

  69. #69 It Doesn't Work Like That
    April 9, 2008

    “The question hinges, I believe, on the difference between a doctor’s “mistake” made during a brief office (or ER) visit and the parent’s “mistake” of watching their child deteriorate and slip into a coma over the course of weeks”.

    I don’t know what is so hard to understand, Prometheus. You still seem quite ignorant as to the effects and the course of action of DKA. You have no idea in regards to what happened in this case. Again, a few short hours before my child was diagnosed in severe DKA … I was at the emergency room with my daughter and they sent me and my 11 month old child HOME. I can only assume they would not have done that if they were overly concerned about her health. Perhaps you haven’t worked with children who have been recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – the symptoms and speed of DKA are not always cut and dry…

    You guys (mostly doctors) DO NOT want to jump on this bandwagon… Trust me. The jails are already too crowded to add thousands of clueless doctors into the mix.

  70. #70 It Doesn't Work Like That
    April 9, 2008

    “The question hinges, I believe, on the difference between a doctor’s “mistake” made during a brief office (or ER) visit and the parent’s “mistake” of watching their child deteriorate and slip into a coma over the course of weeks”.

    I don’t know what is so hard to understand, Prometheus. You still seem quite ignorant as to the effects and the course of action of DKA. You have no idea in regards to what happened in this case. Again, a few short hours before my child was diagnosed in severe DKA … I was at the emergency room with my daughter and they sent me and my 11 month old child HOME. I can only assume they would not have done that if they were overly concerned about her health. Perhaps you haven’t worked with children who have been recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – the symptoms and speed of DKA are not always cut and dry…

    You guys (mostly doctors) DO NOT want to jump on this bandwagon… Trust me. The jails are already too crowded to add thousands of clueless doctors into the mix.

  71. #71 It Doesn't Work Like That
    April 9, 2008

    “The question hinges, I believe, on the difference between a doctor’s “mistake” made during a brief office (or ER) visit and the parent’s “mistake” of watching their child deteriorate and slip into a coma over the course of weeks”.

    I don’t know what is so hard to understand, Prometheus. You still seem quite ignorant as to the effects and the course of action of DKA. You have no idea in regards to what happened in this case. Again, a few short hours before my child was diagnosed in severe DKA … I was at the emergency room with my daughter and they sent me and my 11 month old child HOME. I can only assume they would not have done that if they were overly concerned about her health. Perhaps you haven’t worked with children who have been recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – the symptoms and speed of DKA are not always cut and dry…

    You guys (mostly doctors) DO NOT want to jump on this bandwagon… Trust me. The jails are already too crowded to add thousands of clueless doctors into the mix.

  72. #72 It Doesn't Work Like That
    April 9, 2008

    “The question hinges, I believe, on the difference between a doctor’s “mistake” made during a brief office (or ER) visit and the parent’s “mistake” of watching their child deteriorate and slip into a coma over the course of weeks”.

    I don’t know what is so hard to understand, Prometheus. You still seem quite ignorant as to the effects and the course of action of DKA. You have no idea in regards to what happened in this case. Again, a few short hours before my child was diagnosed in severe DKA … I was at the emergency room with my daughter and they sent me and my 11 month old child HOME. I can only assume they would not have done that if they were overly concerned about her health. Perhaps you haven’t worked with children who have been recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – the symptoms and speed of DKA are not always cut and dry…

    You guys (mostly doctors) DO NOT want to jump on this bandwagon… Trust me. The jails are already too crowded to add thousands of clueless doctors into the mix.

  73. #73 It Doesn't Work Like That
    April 9, 2008

    “The question hinges, I believe, on the difference between a doctor’s “mistake” made during a brief office (or ER) visit and the parent’s “mistake” of watching their child deteriorate and slip into a coma over the course of weeks”.

    I don’t know what is so hard to understand, Prometheus. You still seem quite ignorant as to the effects and the course of action of DKA. You have no idea in regards to what happened in this case. Again, a few short hours before my child was diagnosed in severe DKA … I was at the emergency room with my daughter and they sent me and my 11 month old child HOME. I can only assume they would not have done that if they were overly concerned about her health. Perhaps you haven’t worked with children who have been recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – the symptoms and speed of DKA are not always cut and dry…

    You guys (mostly doctors) DO NOT want to jump on this bandwagon… Trust me. The jails are already too crowded to add thousands of clueless doctors into the mix.

  74. #74 It Doesn't Work Like That
    April 9, 2008

    “The question hinges, I believe, on the difference between a doctor’s “mistake” made during a brief office (or ER) visit and the parent’s “mistake” of watching their child deteriorate and slip into a coma over the course of weeks”.

    I don’t know what is so hard to understand, Prometheus. You still seem quite ignorant as to the effects and the course of action of DKA. You have no idea in regards to what happened in this case. Again, a few short hours before my child was diagnosed in severe DKA … I was at the emergency room with my daughter and they sent me and my 11 month old child HOME. I can only assume they would not have done that if they were overly concerned about her health. Perhaps you haven’t worked with children who have been recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – the symptoms and speed of DKA are not always cut and dry…

    You guys (mostly doctors) DO NOT want to jump on this bandwagon… Trust me. The jails are already too crowded to add thousands of clueless doctors into the mix.

  75. #75 It Doesn't Work Like That
    April 9, 2008

    “The question hinges, I believe, on the difference between a doctor’s “mistake” made during a brief office (or ER) visit and the parent’s “mistake” of watching their child deteriorate and slip into a coma over the course of weeks”.

    I don’t know what is so hard to understand, Prometheus. You still seem quite ignorant as to the effects and the course of action of DKA. You have no idea in regards to what happened in this case. Again, a few short hours before my child was diagnosed in severe DKA … I was at the emergency room with my daughter and they sent me and my 11 month old child HOME. I can only assume they would not have done that if they were overly concerned about her health. Perhaps you haven’t worked with children who have been recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – the symptoms and speed of DKA are not always cut and dry…

    You guys (mostly doctors) DO NOT want to jump on this bandwagon… Trust me. The jails are already too crowded to add thousands of clueless doctors into the mix.

  76. #76 It Doesn't Work Like That
    April 9, 2008

    “The question hinges, I believe, on the difference between a doctor’s “mistake” made during a brief office (or ER) visit and the parent’s “mistake” of watching their child deteriorate and slip into a coma over the course of weeks”.

    I don’t know what is so hard to understand, Prometheus. You still seem quite ignorant as to the effects and the course of action of DKA. You have no idea in regards to what happened in this case. Again, a few short hours before my child was diagnosed in severe DKA … I was at the emergency room with my daughter and they sent me and my 11 month old child HOME. I can only assume they would not have done that if they were overly concerned about her health. Perhaps you haven’t worked with children who have been recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – the symptoms and speed of DKA are not always cut and dry…

    You guys (mostly doctors) DO NOT want to jump on this bandwagon… Trust me. The jails are already too crowded to add thousands of clueless doctors into the mix.

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