Prayer, type 1 diabetes, and parents

Prayer, type 1 diabetes, and parents

Last night a young member of our community, Jay Hobbs, brought a matter to the attention of the chat group. The case involves the death of an eleven (11) year old girl who died in March of 2008, as a result of her parents withholding treatment for Type 1 diabetes, and instead opting for a regiment of prayer asking God to heal the child.

The case is in the news because the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision to allow convictions related to murder to be made. The 6-1 ruling is seen as significantly reducing the coverage of the WI statute granting immunity for parents who seek prayer as a form of healing. The court ruled that the immunity provision prevented parents form prosecuted only for the charges of child abuse. The couple had argued that they were protected from all prosecution relating to the child’s death because of the immunity provision of WI law.

According to, using prayer in place of medical treatment has resulted in “303 deaths (nationwide) since 1975” (Karla, 2013; Richmond, 2013). According to the article 1973 was the years in the early 1970 when such laws started being passed as a result of a federal mandate (Richmond, 2013).

As might be expected, it has been reported that the girl suffered a great deal as a result of not seeking treatment. “Dale and Leilani Neumann, ignored obvious symptoms of severe illness as Kara became too weak to speak, eat, drink or walk, choosing to pray rather than take her to a doctor. “ (Karla, 2013). The article also states that:

“As Kara's condition worsened, her parents resisted suggestions from her grandmother to take her to a doctor. Kara's grandfather suggested giving her Pedialyte, a supplement used to combat dehydration in children, but Leilani Neumann said that would take the glory away from God. Dale Neumann testified that the possibility of death never entered their minds. After the girl died, Leilani Neumann told police God would raise Kara from the dead” (Richmond, 2013).

One has to wonder how terrible it was for this little girl. Those of us who are type 1 can usually remember our diagnosis and how just ill we were. Thankfully my parents sought treatment. But if they had not I am stunned by the awful nature of a death caused by this type of nonsense.

The bible defines faith in Hebrews chapter 11 verse 1 when it says that faith is the substance of all things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. While this couple reportedly did not attend or belong to any particular church, one can assume that they might have been banking on faith as a way of rescuing the child. Hebrews goes on to speak about God raising the dead if they have enough faith. I have no doubt in Gods ability to do this, but I also think that God would rather us find the more practical solution, which means use faith to save the child with the resources already given to us.

I realize this is my feeling based on my understanding of Christian Faith. I hope other faith traditions will comment, but I bet we will all be pretty much the same. I find no justification whatsoever for denying treatment using insulin to a child who is dying. If we are to speak of faith and type 1, I would say the people who brought their children to Indianapolis and Toronto immediately following the discovery of insulin showed faith. Faith that an unproven drug might be obtained to treat themselves or their children (Cooper & Ainsberg, 2010).

To me this is some kind of pseudo ridiculous excuse for not going to the doctor disguised as a religious idea. It is nothing more than shameful.


Cooper, Thea, & Ainsberg, Arthur. (2010). Breakthrough : Elizabeth Hughes, the discovery of insulin, and the making of a medical miracle (1st ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press.

Karla, tom. (2013). Girl Who Died from Diabetes–Court Upholds Parents’ Conviction of Homicide!, Newspaper, DiabetesDad. Retrieved from

Richmond, Todd (2013, July 3). Court upholds parents' convictions in prayer death, AP Reprint, Retrieved from



Click one of the URL links in the references to see a picture of this girl

Had to delete what I originally wrote here. No, it didn't use any questionable language, but it would have ignited a firestorm that would not have been constructive. So I will try a much milder version. Here goes.

First, the dictionary definition of faith: "Confidence, reliance, belief esp. without evidence or proof." [OED]

Using faith to justify what an individual does to him or her self, no matter how unwise, is the individual's own privilege. Using it to torture a child to death is not, and that is what happened here. The simple fact of being a biological parent does not confer the power of life and death.

And don't speak to me of good intentions. We all know what is paved with those, and this episode is as good an example as any.

And for those to whom "faith" carries great weight, I say this: if we were created with intelligence, it was so we could put it to constructive use. If preserving and enhancing life is not a constructive use of intelligence, then show me something that is. The argument that creation is perfect just as it is and should not be overridden, modified, or improved is not only specious on its face; I submit that you don't even believe it yourself, else you would not wear clothes.

David and others,

My sense of it is that this is so horrendous it could not rationally be called a matter of faith or a matter that could reasonably be called justified. The thought of a child suffering in this way makes me sick and angry. The thought that once the child passes, she might be resurrected, demonstrates the Jerry springer syndrome. I can see it now, yes she was dead, yes she came back, yes we are here to tell her story.

Meanwhile a child suffers this torture. I have tried all day and I cannot see one bit of good in this story.


I agree with all your comments with just one minor qualification. You and I agree that it is not a matter of faith, but to the #%$#%&! parents who did this, it is. They view it as such and that's how they are able to justify, in their own minds, what they did. But I'm not even going to pursue that thought any further, 'cause it would lead me to say things that would really get me in trouble with a lot of people.

You said "not rational" and that's the key, the impenetrable barrier that leaves no room for constructive dialog with the perpetrators of this atrocity.


I have to stand with you and be counted on this one. But it's best that I don't express my feelings fully.