The IUSB Vision Weblog

The way to crush the middle class is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation. – Vladimir Lenin

Where Parental Rights End

Posted by iusbvision on April 15, 2008

A recent story out of Weston, Wisconsin brings up a debate between a child’s right to medical treatment and a parent’s right to practice religion.

Madeline Neumann, an 11-year old girl died when her parents prayed for her healing, rather than seek out medical help for a treatable form of diabetes. Reportedly, the cause of death was diabetic ketoacidosis, which left her body with too little insulin, and she was probably ill for about 30 days. She would have been experiencing noticeable symptoms, such as, nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, loss of appetite and weakness.

The parents reported to police that they felt she died because “apparently they didn’t have enough faith.” The parents in this case felt that praying was a better option than taking their daughter to the doctor. It is reported that the parents do not attend an organized church or participate in organized religion.

There are three other children in the home aged 13-16, which the Sheriff didn’t remove, because “there is no reason to remove them. There is no abuse or signs of abuse that we can see.”

The definition of abuse and neglect for Wisconsin is listed below, from the website:

Physical Abuse

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.02

Abuse means any of the following:

Physical injury inflicted on a child by other than accidental means.

When used in referring to an unborn child, serious physical harm inflicted on the unborn child, and the risk of serious physical harm to the child when born, caused by the habitual lack of self-control of the expectant mother of the unborn child in the use of alcohol beverages, controlled substances, or controlled substance analogs, exhibited to a severe degree.

Physical injury includes, but is not limited to, lacerations, fractured bones, burns, internal injuries, severe or frequent bruising, or great bodily harm.


Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.981

Neglect means failure, refusal, or inability on the part of a parent, guardian, legal custodian, or other person exercising temporary or permanent control over a child, for reasons other than poverty, to provide necessary care, food, clothing, medical or dental care, or shelter so as to seriously endanger the physical health of the child.

There are obviously no signs of abuse in this particular incident, but there appears to be clear evidence of neglect, based upon the Wisconsin statute. The parents, who were in control of the child, failed and/or refused to provide necessary medical care, which seriously endangered the physical health of the child, which resulted in her death. Mr. Sheriff, you have more than enough grounds to remove the other children from the home. Also, Mr. or Mrs. Prosecutor, these individuals need to be fully prosecuted. If one of these other children would happen to die or encounter serious endangerment of their physical health, it will be the State of Wisconsin at fault for failing to act.

Does a parent’s rights to practice their religion, trump a child’s right to safety and medical treatment? The answer is no. Freedom of religion is one of the many things that makes this country great. However, when a right, causes a law to be broken and a child to die, the parents should not have that right. The statute in the state of Wisconsin clearly states that failing or refusing to provide the child with proper medical care, which results in the child’s physical health being endangered, is Neglect.

While the power of prayer is a great thing, there are also medical professionals that are trained and able to ensure the health of the child. There is absolutely nothing wrong with prayer, but prayer without the parents acting is the problem. From all reports, if the parents would have acted, the child would still be here.

The State of Wisconsin needs to ensure that the other children in the custody of these parents are in good health as well. They don’t necessarily need to remove them, but they need to get them to medical professionals to ensure that they are in good health.

Also, this is a call to all citizens, if you suspect child abuse or neglect, you need to contact your local Child Protective Service agency or Law Enforcement Agency. In Indiana, the number is 800-800-5556. If you suspect it and it is not true, then you have done nothing wrong. If you suspect it and don’t report it, you could be charged with a misdemeanor. In the case in Wisconsin, if someone would have made authorities aware of the situation, hopefully, someone would have forced the parents to take the child to the doctor and this horrible tragedy wouldn’t have occurred.

Larry Browning

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