Suicide, Sacrifice, and Murder: Children Die in the Name of God

On average in the United States, ONE CHILD PER MONTH dies because of their parents religious beliefs.

Jury selection starts for the trial of Leilani Neumann this week. She is charged with second-degree reckless homicide for the death of her eleven-year-old daughter Madeline 'Kara' Neumann. Dale Neumann's trial is scheduled for July.

Not long ago was the woman who starved her son to death (because he wouldn't say "Amen"). I'm glad to see she has been charged with first degree murder, since this is not neglect but murder.

Gaytor recently posted on the thirteen-year-old from Sleepy Eye Minnesota who is refusing chemotherapy. Daniel Hauser has Hodgkin's lymphoma, which doctors consider the most curable type of cancer. This isn't just a case of his parents denying him medical treatment; he is professing his opposition and his parents are backing him.

Daniel says the treatment would violate his religious beliefs. He has filed an affidavit stating that he is "a medicine man and church elder in the Nemenhah, an American Indian religious organization that his parents joined 18 years ago." He told the court "I am opposed to chemotherapy because it is self-destructive and poisonous. I want to live a virtuous life, in the eyes of my creator, not just a long life." This poor kid has plain-and-simply been brainwashed!

If a court order does come down requiring chemotherapy, his mother (Colleen Hauser) has already stated she would not comply; and obviously Daniel is going to resist. So what can the court, or a judge do? Science blogger Orac lists what he sees as the only options:
  • Try to make Daniel and his family see reason. (Not bloody likely.)
  • Force Daniel to undergo therapy. (Very ugly and problematic from an ethical standpoint.)
  • Let Daniel die from religious-inspired medical neglect. (Horrible and wasteful.)

If you're interested, check out the more detailed blog report from Orac: Another child sacrificing himself on the altar of irrational belief

Views: 29

Comment by Gaytor on May 11, 2009 at 8:17pm
But Johnny, they said Faith! It's intellectual home base. Who are you to challenge that? I'd like to take a moment to revere Jesus for these dead Children....................................
Thanks for hunting down some stats.
Comment by Stacy B on May 11, 2009 at 11:39pm
This is horrible, but that just sounds like natural selection. It's a shame that there is a child, someone who doesn't have the true capacity to understand and make those kinds of decisions, involved, but people who cannot reason through a decision like this and understand the lack of logic in following religious beliefs to the grave when simple interventions can cure them are not going to be the best equipped to survive, so their deaths are not surprising. Sad, but completely natural.

I wonder what Fred Phelps would think about these people dying because their beliefs exclude medical treatment. Is it punishment for their sins? It seems unlikely since they are devoted enough to die for their beliefs. So why do these deaths happen in his eyes, I wonder?
Comment by Leo on May 12, 2009 at 10:33am
On average over 100 children die per month from abuse in the US, for non-religious reasons. Is that natural selection as well?

You have to have a license to drive, a license to carry a gun, a license to cut hair; but anyone with working and fertile sexual organs can have a child.

Perhaps we should just require a license to parent and those who are too stupid to pass should be sterilized.
Comment by Johnny on May 12, 2009 at 12:08pm
@Leo: I'm all for licensing parents. I've got a take on what I think would be perfect (although a bit extreme and an infringement of rights - so I know it never would). I think ALL kids should get a shot at birth that 'turns off' their reproductive capability. Then anytime after their eighteenth birthday, they can take a parenting class. Once they receive a passing grade they are issued a license, and they receive a shot to 'turn on' their reproductive capability.

I'm well aware this is extreme, and infringement of rights, and unrealistic in today's society. Suspend the disbelievability for a moment, and play through the hypotheticals. No unwanted teen pregnancy, hell, no wanted teen pregnancy; potentially less government money going to subsidize unplanned pregnancy for couples who weren't financially prepared; and potentially few unfit parents.

+++++ +++++ +++++ +++++ +++++

On average over 100 children die per month from abuse in the US, for non-religious reasons.
This is a sad statistic (do you have a source), but it is not the same issue. In EVERY state in the U.S. when a child dies from child abuse, the parent(s) responsible can be charged and tried for abuse, neglect, murder, etc according to the circumstance of that case. Refusing medical attention falls into the realm as well, unless the parents claim they refused medical attention or treatment for religious reasons.
There are only a handful of states that can change and try the parents if the parents claim "religious freedom." Most states can do nothing. Meaning that in most states parents can refuse medical treatment for their child, and in doing so result in the death of the child - and the parents cannot be held responsible if they claim their choice was for religious reasons.

If adults want to deny themselves medical treatment, and they die as a result, that is natural selection. But if an adult denies medical treatment to their offspring who is too young to choose, and as a result their offspring dies, that is murder.
Comment by CJoe on May 12, 2009 at 2:55pm
Has no one suggested taking this kid away from his parents because they are "unfit". I mean, I don't understand how Child Protective Services can't get involved here. Does the kid have to die in order for people to step in and make charges? Do they really have to find his emaciated body in a closet before they decide the parents are idiot fundamentalists?

I mean, this IS the equivalent of the mother starving her kid because he wouldn't say Amen. Parents are their children's caretakers; denying them whatever they need for life is murder... whether it's food or medical treatment.
Comment by Johnny on May 12, 2009 at 3:42pm
The court has started intervention Cara. The kickback at the moment is that the kid is claiming that it is his choice. As far as I can gather from the article, the court is still hearing evidence on whether he is mentally fit enough to make the decision himself. Also his mother has blatantly stated she would not comply to any court order; so if they do order something they will have to take him away first (and you know in his current brainwashed state, he won't come willingly).

Rather than the equivalent of direct starving... I'd say this is more like the kid knowing there is food available, even if his parents haven't offered it to him. But he refuses it because his parent have told him if he takes it they will disown him or he will go to hell.
Comment by Leo on May 12, 2009 at 11:53pm
@Johnny Who is going to create the test? I have a feeling mine would be substantially different from yours. Besides the 18 age doesn't guarantee much from a parental capability standpoint.

Unlike your attention grabbing intro, I do have a source for stats- one of many You can easily google for more. Sure you could argue that some of those "could" be for religious reasons, but you would be stretching it. Based on my own experience as a foster/adoptive parent I have been involved with CPS on several occasions and religion is typically far removed from the situation. Whacko or otherwise.

Do you have a source on the laws that are so easily used to commit these "Suicides, sacrifices, and murders"? Please include the laws that mention the requirement of a parent or legal guardian for the welfare of someone in their care as well so we get a complete picture of the overall legal situation.

I think it is the same issue, needless deaths of children. In both cases the parents can be charged and tried, whether it happens or not is a completely different story. On both counts...
Comment by Johnny on May 13, 2009 at 1:18am
Rita Swan is the source of the opening statistic I gave. She is the executive director of Children’s Health Care Is a Legal Duty, a group based in Iowa that advocates punishment for parents who do not seek medical help when their children need it. The articles I linked above have the information, but here are two more. The statistic usually quoted is "in the United States in the last 25 years, 300 established instances of a child’s having died an entirely preventable death due to parental refusal on religious grounds to seek—or even to allow—treatment." The math on that works out to 'one per month.'

Also, I could site Seth Asser (a pediatrician) who has documented 170 children's fatalities due to religion-based medical neglect in the U.S. between 1975 and 1995 (that comes out to an average of 1.4 per month). He estimates 90% of those were easily preventable by standard treatments. More recently he quotes "more than 200 children" in the past 15 years (an average of 0.9 per month).

"Criminal codes in 30 states provide some form of protection for practitioners of faith healing in cases of child neglect and other matters." From the NY Times article, the judge in the Neumann's initial hearing (Judge Vincent Howard) stated that in Wisconsin this law will not protect them since Kara's condition was life threatening.

I don't have the precise laws and at the moment do not even have a complete list of the states; however here are some additional links I've pulled information from: link, link, link, link, link.
Comment by Leo on May 13, 2009 at 2:39pm

The quote from the NY Times is vague and I would rather see the code than rely on "some form of protection" meaning "getting away with murder". Parents by default are afforded "some form of protection" from the State coming in and taking their kids. This is good and bad based upon the circumstances and the evidence presented as well as decisions made by the legal authorities.

I have seen families ruined from false accusations and children die from bad decisions on the part of the court system. Neither scenario is good and in all cases, religion had nothing to do with it.

In my opinion/experience being a "religious" nut job does not mean you will get away with murder or abuse any more than another other nut job or sorry excuse for a parent.
Comment by Stacy B on May 13, 2009 at 4:30pm
The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act provides an exemption to prosecuting parents for child deaths or other medical neglect if religion is invoked - i.e. they refuse to get medical treatment for their child because of religious reasons.

42 U.S.C.
42 U.S.C. § 5106i
"(a) In general
Nothing in this subchapter and subchapter III of this chapter shall be construed—
(1) as establishing a Federal requirement that a parent or legal guardian provide a child any medical service or treatment against the religious beliefs of the parent or legal guardian; and
(2) to require that a State find, or to prohibit a State from finding, abuse or neglect in cases in which a parent or legal guardian relies solely or partially upon spiritual means rather than medical treatment, in accordance with the religious beliefs of the parent or legal guardian. "


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