A story in the NY Times today sets out the case of Kara Neumann, an 11 year old girl who died of juvenile diabetes. Instead of taking their daughter to the hospital, her parents relied on the healing power of prayer. The girl’s body eventually succumbed to ketoacidosis (the downstream effect of the body’s failure to produce insulin). The day before she died, she apparently stopped speaking entirely. Still, the parents prayed.
The Neumanns are being charged with reckless endangerment in Wisconsin, where a state law will not allow parents to be charged with abuse or neglect “solely on the fact that the child’s parent, guardian, or legal custodian in good faith selects and relies on prayer or other religious means for treatment of disease…” [W.S.A. 48.98] To me, it’s troubling that in 2009 we still have statutes on the books in 30 states that may allow parents to rely on faith healing when the potential harm to the child is death, and the intervention is relatively safe and effective. It looks like some of these state laws do not allow parents to seek safe haven if the disorder is life threatening, which is a step in the right direction. The case will likely hinge on what the parents knew, and whether their treatment was in fact reckless. The child had not been to a doctor’s office in several years, but the actual time frame for the acute episode appears to have been relatively short (around 3 days).
I understand that Kara’s parents were followers of an online faith network called Unleavened Bread Ministries, run by David Eells. Members of the group have claimed on their website that “if we are going to judge this family — which we really have no right to do — we need to understand completely what the Bible states about healing and prayer.” Actually, we don’t need to rely on what the Bible says. In courts of law, the Bible is not controlling.
(thanks to Julia for the reference)