Believing That God Wanted You to Let Your Kid Die Is Not a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card

On March 23, 2008, almost a year and a half ago, in Weston, Wisconsin, Dale and Leilani Neumann watched their 11-year-old daughter, Madeline Kara Neumann, die from diabetic ketoacidosis.  The Neumanns had watched for two days as their child suffered, first mildly, then terribly, and yet they refused to call a doctor or seek any medical assistance at all.  Instead, they prayed.  In the end their prayers were not answered, and the young girl died what can only be described as an excruciating death.  And all she need to live was a shot of insulin.

The Wisconsin Rapids Tribune reported yesterday that Dale Neumann has now been found guilty of second-degree reckless homicide.  His wife was found guilty earlier this year.  During the trial Neumann took the stand in his own defense.  However, his defense was only that he felt obligated to trust in God to heal his daughter.  He thought it would be a sin to seek out medical help for her illness.  "If I in a moment of crisis and in a moment of time, I went to anyone else but the Lord, it would not have been favorable to God," Neumann said with a Bible in his hand during his four-hour testimony before the court.  So, this man’s justification as to why he let his child in agony was because he was afraid God would not like it if he took her to the doctor, and, according to a reporter sympathetic to Neumann who was there, Neumann never suggested that he did anything wrong.

What is truly mind-blowing about the coverage from the Neumanns’ local newspaper of this tragedy is that the article in question actually seems to suggest that Dale Neumann be treated leniently at sentencing.  Writing for the paper, Jeff Stark says:

But how will Marathon County Circuit Court Judge Vincent Howard view the couple when he sentences them Oct. 6? Are they the negligent and uncaring parents that prosecutors portrayed during Dale Neumann’s weeklong trial on reckless homicide charges? Or are they devout Christians who were faithful to their convictions and already have been punished by the loss of their child, 11-year-old Madeline Kara Neumann, as defense attorneys contended?

In a section of the article headed “A Deep Faith,” Stark writes:

Unlike Leilani Neumann’s trial, in which neither she nor her husband testified, both took the stand in this trial.

For the first time, the depth of the Neumanns’ faith was revealed. With his Bible in his hand, Dale Neumann took jurors on a four-hour description of his journey from life as a young man who partied and drank hard to a family man who sought to walk in the steps of Jesus. Quoting scripture and speaking with great conviction, Neumann made it obvious that he had no regrets about his decision.

The last quote makes it clear where Stark sits given the earlier question he raised as to whether Neumann was negligent or a devout believer.  The above quote paints him as the latter.  But so what?  In fact, is there a dichotomy at all?  Must it be that the Neumanns were either negligent or they were “good” Christians?  From the circumstances, it is obvious that they are both.  That is, they are devout believers who put their faith in God, and they are negligent parents who did not act in their child’s interests!  One does not rule out the other, and, in this case, I have no problem accepting the Neumanns as true believers while condemning them as the most horrible of parents who let their child die for no good reason.

When considering what sentence would be appropriate, the article suggests that the interests of the Neumanns’ other children should be considered.  It is with that in mind that there is some conjecture by a source that the sentence would be light.  From the tone of the piece, I can only gather that Stark thinks such is appropriate.  But I do not understand this at all.  The risk that the Neumanns might be a part of the decision making process concerning the welfare of their other children suggests that the sentence should include imprisonment as long as possible.  These people have already demonstrated what they think is “taking care” of their children, and they have demonstrated that they do not regret the choice they made.  The idea that anyone would think that these people would be of any benefit in the rearing of their other children is one of the stupidest things I have ever heard in my life.

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