Dale and Leilani Neumann watched their 11-year-old daughter, Madeline Kara, die in their home of untreated childhood diabetes. They never brought her to a doctor and instead relied on the power of prayer.
On Wednesday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court reaffirmed their homicide charges after refusing to exonerate the Neumanns under a state law that protects people who favor spiritual treatment over modern medicine from being charged with child abuse.
Madeline died on Easter Sunday 2008 after her parents disregarded symptoms of her illness, with her condition degrading to the point where she could n0t talk, walk, or even eat and drink. The parents, who likened going to the doctor to worshipping a false idol, refused pleas of Madeline’s grandmother, who insisted that the ailing girl needed medical attention. They even refused to give Madeline Pedialyte, a pediatric rehydration drink, because it would take the glory away from God.
While the law under which the Neumann parents are charged protects them from child abuse charges, it does not protect them from homicide charges, and their immunity runs out as soon as they realize that there is a substantial risk of death, according to the court’s ruling.
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"The juries could reasonably find that by failing to call for medical assistance when Madeline was seriously ill and in a coma-like condition for 12 to 14 hours, the parents were creating an unreasonable and substantial risk of Madeline's death, were subjectively aware of that risk, and caused her death," Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote for the majority.
Even so, David Prosser, the only dissenter in the 6-1 ruling, refused to affirm the charges because the law lacked a clear standard by which the Neumann’s actions could be judged.
Prosser recognized that their actions were far beyond the realm of rational thought, but argued, "there were and are serious deficiencies in the law and they ought to be addressed by the legislature and the courts. Failing to acknowledge these deficiencies will not advance the long-term administration of justice."
While the Neumann’s say they do not belong to a church, they were convinced that God would raise their daughter from the dead when police arrived following her death.
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There have been several other instances where people of deep faith refused medical help for themselves without criminal action, namely the deaths of Pentacostal snake-handlers Dwayne Long in 2004 and Mack Wolford in 2012.