Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Praying parents of DKA child charged

You may remember this story from last month. An 11 year-old girl died following the complications of untreated diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Now, DKA is a serious condition and strikes fear in anyone who has diabetes. However, if recognized early, this is a treatable. And, for the most part, DKA has a good recovery rate.

The parents of this child did not see it necessary to seek medical attention for their daughter. Instead, they felt that faith alone along with prayer would be enough to heal their daughter. This Associated Press story continues:
Madeline Neumann died March 23 -- Easter Sunday -- at her family's rural Weston home. Her parents were told the body would be taken to Madison for an autopsy the next day. "They responded, 'You won't need to do that. She will be alive by then,"' the medical examiner wrote in a report.

Family and friends had urged Dale and Leilani Neumann to get help for their daughter, but the father considered the illness "a test of faith" and the mother never considered taking the girl to the doctor because she thought her daughter was under a "spiritual attack," the criminal complaint said.
The story states that each parent may face as many as 25 years in prison. What's unfortunate is that I don't think that these people really care about that. They probably still feel (and will always feel) that they did the right thing in not seeking medical attention. I do not see any remorse in these parent's future.

Now, I consider myself a spiritual-type person. But, as I read story after story after story of what people do in the name of some higher power somewhere - it really frightens me. For the most part, I still believe that there is more good in this world. But, even my faith gets tested sometimes. And, this story is one of those times....


mark's tails said...

Dr. A, it is a frustrating scenario. America was founded by people fleeing countries due to religious persecution, but where does one draw a line between the right to practice religion and breaking the law?

I think that even people who may not be religious but have a sense of morality still struggle with these difficult issues, I know I do. Young people dying because they refuse blood transfusions, tales of sexual abuse in Texas, people dying in the name of religion all over the world.

Dr. A said...

Thanks for your comment mark's tails. Good points. Forget organized religion and it's problems - what about people who just believe in some higher power somewhere. There will always be people considered in "the mainstream" and those considered "on the fringe." And, that terminology is subject to interpretation in itself.

Freedom of religion is like freedom of speech and the other freedoms that we have. Where does one draw the line? Unfortunately, the court system is helping to determine that. And, I don't think I agree with that either.

corsair the rational pirate said...

Where does one draw the line? I think, at least in this case it is pretty easy. You draw the line where your useless prayer intersects with my body. That little girl is dead because those zealots decided that they knew more about care than the built up knowledge of thousands of years of civilization. If they want to pray ("nothing fails like prayer") all day to remove the goiter from their own neck then fine, be an idiot. But when you have the direct responsibilty and obligation to care for someone else (children) then your own stupidities have to stop and you must do what is best, as defined by society as a whole, for that person. If the kid wants to grow up and be an idiot in the future and reject what works for what doesn't (how many people actually get healed at Lourdes?) then they can make that decision.

These people should spend a long time in jail and never have the ability to care for anyone ever again.

Dr. A said...

Of course this case is clear. But, let's muddy the waters a little bit. What if this is a Jehovah's Witness child and the parents refused the use of blood products? Should the parents be put in jail?

What about kids who have cancer? What if chemotherapy was refused on religious grounds? Should parents be thrown in jail for this?

There's no clear cut answer to these questions. Hopefully, interesting discussion will continue.

Dreaming again said...

this is tragic ... and I just wrote out a whole bunch and deleted.

It's wrong on so many levels.

Dr. Rob said...

I agree this is egregious. I don't think, however, the parents deserve prison time. They were certainly not in the category with others who abuse or neglect their child. They did so out of a misguided idea of God (IMO), but not out of wrong motives. Should they be charged? I suppose it is the duty of our society to enforce the laws, but I would hope that sentencing would be lenient.

Kerri. said...

Diabetes is a test of faith. I have known that for over two decades now, having lived with type 1 since I was a little girl. But if God gives us the tools to manage this condition, we should be thankful for His assistance.

Bongi said...

about the blood thing, i once had a personal experience.


Doctor David said...

I'd like to respond, Dr. A, to your questions about Jehovah's Witnesses and chemotherapy for children, since I deal with both of these in my professional life as a pediatric oncologist.

Regarding Jehovah's Witnesses, if the patient is a young child, we usually get court orders for transfusions. I'm not aware of a time when we were refused the order by the court, because a minor child (especially less than 10) cannot consent to forego a transfusion, and a parent cannot refuse when the situation is clearly life threatening.

With chemotherapy, the case is a bit more muddy, depending on the child's diagnosis and prognosis. Typically, if the child has a significant chance of being cured with chemotherapy, the courts have almost always sided on with doctors and ordered administration. This is a bit less common when cure is less likely.