Thursday, 27 March 2008

Parents kill daughter through prayer

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,341574,00.html

This is as disgusting as it is sad. An 11 year old girl died from an entirely treatable form of diabetes because her parents decided that prayer was a better option than medical treatment. It's even worse than that, though: predictably, the parents' faith was not shaken by the failure of their prayers. In fact, it was strengthened. They put the failure down to not praying hard enough. The mother reportedly still believes that the girl could spring back to life, even though there is no evidence of this ever having happened before throughout all of history.

The parents have apparently not been arrested and their other children have not been removed from their care the grounds that:
There is no reason to remove them. There is no abuse or signs of abuse that we can see." (local Police Chief)
I have enormous difficulty with this statement. A couple allowed their child to die despite readily available medical care because they choose to believe - in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary - that she would recover because of their prayers. Prayer has never worked before in the history of the world, but we really love Jesus. He really loves us. So it's bound to work, right?

They felt so special. They killed their daughter. And you know what? I bet they still feel special now. They will rationalise the death as part of god's plan (she is with Jesus and the angels now) and feel privileged to have murdered their daughter.

No abuse? Withholding essential medical care from their daughter, leading to her death, for no good reason at all? How does that not constitute abuse? It is an abuse of trust, it is an abuse of responsibility, it is an abuse of power and it is abuse of another human being.

But I don't understand why evidence of abuse should be necessary before the children were removed. Isn't the important point that the children are protected? How can they be judged to be safe with parents who not only refused to seek medical care for a desperately ill child, but apparently showed no remorse (other than for not praying hard enough) or signs of having learned a lesson from the incident? It would be frustrating enough to think that a child had to die before something was done about it, but even more so to learn that nothing will be done about it even though a child has died, because it is somehow not considered abuse or otherwise worthy of action.

To be fair, an investigation is being carried out to determine whether charges against the parents are appropriate, but I'm willing to bet that if the parents hadn't been religious (and specifically Christian) the law would have taken a very much dimmer view.

Edit: This link:

http://www.wausaudailyherald.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080326/WDH0101/803260640/1981

has more on this issue.
It remained unclear Tuesday whether the parents of 11-year-old Madeline Kara Neumann knew she had diabetes and could die without medical attention, key factors in determining whether they can be held legally accountable for her death.
I don't understand what the question is here. The parents knew the child was desperately ill, medical expertise was available and they chose not to use it. The fact that they didn't know for sure in advance that she could die seems irrelevant. The fact that she had diabetes and the question of whether the parents knew it was diabetes is irrelevant. What is relevant is whether they provided the duty of care they owed to their daughter by using the appropriate means available to them to care for her health. They can pray all they want, but to use prayer instead of medical care is plainly negligent because it is based on no evidence.

It's important not to be moralistic or pass judgment on parents who think they can heal a child through prayer, said Dr. Norman Fost, professor of bioethics and pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin Medical School in Madison.

"They believe they're helping their child; they love their child, and they believe prayer has an effect," Fost said.

This is complete and dangerous nonsense. For one thing, they could have prayed and sought medical advice. Why didn't they do this? Second, when beliefs impact the safety of a child - or lead to a child's death - they are no longer acceptable. How dare these parents force their beliefs on someone who couldn't object? How dare they do so to the extent that she died? And how dare the police or anyone else suggest that the parents views were ethical or even remotely valid?

Wisconsin law holds parents responsible for the health of children, and failure to provide medical help is a form of child neglect, said R. Alta Charo, a professor of law and bioethics at UW-Madison. Failure to act or intentional actions that lead to child neglect, resulting in death, are subject to a Class D felony, which carries a 25-year prison sentence.

Now that's more like it.

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