Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Praying for a cure leads to death of a girl

Sky News has reported a story today about a couple from Wisconsin who watched their daughter suffer from undiagnosed diabetes without seeking medical treatment for her. Instead they invited friends to sit around and watch her on the floor as she deteriorated, became unable to eat, speak, drink or walk and eventually died.

At first this story seems quite inexplicable and you might think that the parents and the friends they invited around are pure evil. However the parents and the friends actually had the best of intentions. Dale and Leilani Neumann and their friends are religious and they thought that prayer would heal their daughter Madeline (also known as Kara).

They have both been sentenced to 6 months in prison, although they could have been sentenced to 25 years. During the court case:

Leilani Neumann said: "I do not regret trusting truly in the Lord for my daughter's health. Did we know she had a fatal illness? No. Did we act to the best of our knowledge? Yes."

I think this case highlights a problem with how religion is applied in some circumstances. Mrs Neumann clearly still does not accept that trusting to God, and God alone for a cure was the wrong thing to do and her statement at the end shows that the best of her knowledge is that prayer and prayer alone is the solution to illness.

There have even been experiments to determine the healing properties of prayer such as the Harvard Prayer Experiment from a few years back. That study showed that prayer did not help the patients and in fact those that were told they were being prayed for experienced more complications.

It is a difficult issue to tackle this one but from my perspective I take a similar view to this as I do over other unproven remedies. That it is irresponsible to shun proven treatments and to plump only for unproven ones.

I also wonder if non-religious parents who refused to seek medical help for a sick child who then died would be treated as leniently as in this case.

UPDATE: Joe Otten has pointed out in the comments below that a recent case in New Zealand would be a roughly equivalent non-religious case where parents used homeopathy to treat a severe skin disorder which led to the death of their daughter. The sentences they received were approximately ten times the length of the religious case above. Direct comparisons are tricky though as it is of course a different case and a different country.


Kalvis Jansons said...

I think it is right to take into account the intentions of the person.

Dippyness. said...

No they wouldn't. I'm never comfortable when people use God as an excuse. They knew what they were doing. I think it should have been a longer sentence.
What you do as an adult is your choice. Don't force them on a child.

Joe Otten said...

The non-religious equivalent would be something like this.

Mark Thompson said...

Thanks Joe. So a different country making direct comparisons difficult but approximately 10x the sentences for a non-religious equivalent.

Very interesting. I will update the main post with this.

dazmando said...

I wonder how many kids or even people have died simply due to the belief in something. And why do these examples not affect peoples thinking. Basically when will they learn? If there is a god why would that god interfere in the natural course of events just because you prayed, God would know that you believe anyway

David said...

"think this case highlights a problem with how religion is applied in some circumstances. Mrs Neumann clearly still does not accept that trusting to God, and God alone for a cure was the wrong thing to do"

I think that if someone doesn't believe that God gave us our brains for a reason, they're not trusting in Him fully. Why on earth would God not want us to use the gifts he gave us?