A mother and father who prayed instead of seeking medical help as their daughter died in front of them were properly convicted of homicide, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.
Eleven-year-old Madeline Kara Neumann died of undiagnosed diabetes on Easter Sunday in March 2008 at her parents’ Weston home. Prosecutors said her parents, Dale and Leilani Neuman, ignored obvious symptoms of severe illness as their daughter became too weak to speak, eat, drink or walk, choosing to pray rather than take her to a doctor. After the girl died, Leilani Neumann told police God would raise the child from the dead.
As we previously reported on this story: Madeline Kara Neumann, 11, of Wisconsin, died of undiagnosed diabetes on March 23, 2008. The parents were charged with second-degree reckless homicide and convicted. Here is the original story from the NY Times. They were sentenced to 30 days in jail each year for the next six years and were placed on 10 years’ probation. Weird sentence. They have other children but were apparently required to provide medical services for them as part of the sentence. The original case suggested that religious exemptions were given preferential treatment. A child died because of their belief. It does not matter if it’s religious or some other supernatural. It was dangerous.
Doctors had testified that the child would have benefitted from medical care.
This case is important because it emphasizes that religious rights only go so far. When the child’s life is in danger, the immunity ends. This ruling does give guidance to other states with similar cases. Religious immunity is not an excuse. It is criminal to withhold medical care for a child.
A prudent course of action is for communities to reach out to these local religious sects that they know subscribe to faith healing and make it VERY clear that medical care is an obligation for which they are NOT exempt.