Saturday, March 29, 2008

Religion Kills 11-Year-Old Diabetic

First up from the God machine this week is one of the more painful religious stories I’ve seen in a while. I suspect very few people would ever want to interfere with parents’ rights and the religious upbringing of their children, but this does seem criminal.

Police [in Weston, Wis.] are investigating an 11-year-old girl’s death from an undiagnosed, treatable form of diabetes after her parents chose to pray for her rather than take her to a doctor.

An autopsy showed Madeline Neumann died Sunday from diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition that left too little insulin in her body, Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin said.

She had probably been ill for about a month, suffering symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, loss of appetite and weakness, the chief said Wednesday, noting that he expects to complete the investigation by Friday and forward the results to the district attorney.

The girl, who was homeschooled, had not been to a physician since she was three. Family members begged her parents to take her to the hospital, but they refused.

When her health deteriorated, the girl’s aunt called authorities to seek help. “My sister-in-law, she’s very religious, she believes in faith instead of doctors …,” she told a sheriff’s dispatcher in a call from California. “And she called my mother-in-law today … and she explained to us that she believes her daughter’s in a coma now and she’s relying on faith.”

When the dispatcher asked if an ambulance should be sent, the family member said the girl’s mother is “refusing” to seek medical care for her daughter. The dispatcher eventually got the family’s location, but by the time paramedics got Madeline Neumann to the hospital, she was declared dead.

Leilani Neumann, Madeline’s mother, said she and her husband are not worried about the investigation because “our lives are in God’s hands. We know we did not do anything criminal. We know we did the best for our daughter we knew how to do.”

I have no idea what the law is regarding these kinds of cases, but it sounds like criminal negligence to me. People can be as religious as they like, and believe whatever they choose. But when they let a little girl slip into a coma and die — from an easily treated ailment — without getting her care, it’s time for the state to intervene.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* After losing in court a few weeks ago, state lawmakers in Kansas passed another law this week to restrict some right-wing religious fanatics from protesting at funerals for U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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