Medicine, Faith, and Parenting

Last March, an 11-year-old Wisconsin girl, Kara Neumann, died from diabetic ketoacidosis (a serious complication of diabetes that results when glucose is unavailable to the body as a fuel source, fat is used instead, and toxic byproducts of fat breakdown, called ketones, build up). Kara had undiagnosed type 1 diabetes. She was never treated by medical professionals because her parents believe that only God can heal the sick. They prayed for their daughter’s health, but they did not seek medical attention.

According to The New York Times, a family member living out of state finally called the sheriff’s department near the girl’s residence. An ambulance was summoned, but Kara died before reaching the hospital.

A month after Kara’s death, the Marathon County state attorney charged her parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, with reckless endangerment. Although the Neumanns have claimed that the charges violate their constitutional right to religious freedom, Judge Howard, the county circuit court judge, has ordered them to stand trial independently this May and June. If convicted, they face up to 25 years in prison.

Judge Howard, who noted that the First Amendment “protects religious belief, but not necessarily conduct,” is also quoted in The Times as ruling that “Wisconsin law exempts a parent or guardian who treats a child with only prayer from…child welfare laws, but only as long as a condition is not life-threatening.” He added that Kara’s parents “were very well aware of her deteriorating medical condition.” The Court has ordered regular medical visits for the couple’s three other children. 

Shawn Peters, the author of three books on religion and the law, told The Times that the case will hinge on “whether the parents could have known the seriousness of their daughter’s condition.” He also said that “the outcome of the Neumann case is likely to set an important precedent.” 

You can read more about the Neumann story at

Source: The New York Times

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