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Why I'm Glad My Parents Don't Pray Much

Posted Nov 05 2009 10:00pm

You might know the story: Two local Wisconsin parents prayed instead of seeking medical help for their frail and sickly daughter. She died of untreated type 1 diabetes and they have recently been charged with murder and sentenced to prison time. Apparently, family and friends had urged Dale and Leilani Neumann to get help for their daughter, Madeline, but it fell on deaf ears. Madeline's (undiagnosed) type 1 diabetes emerged at the same time in her life that mine did: age eleven. So her story hits close to home for this Wisconsin girl and type 1 diabetic. However, contrary to Madeline's folks, my parents (not being overly-religious) didn't pray for me. Well, they may have (in fact, they surely did), but they also knew enough to take me to our pediatrician who promptly insisted I go to Children's Hospital after realizing my bloodsugar was off the charts. I was treated for juvenile or type 1 diabetes and am healthy and living well twenty years later. But the Neumann family decided upon a different trajectory for their daughter and her illness, one that ultimately killed her.

abc_katu_prayer_death_son_081006_mn.jpg Just hours after her daughter died of untreated diabetes, her mother told police she never considered taking her tired, pale and skinny daughter to a doctor for what she believed was a spiritual attack, considering the illness "a test of faith" and thinking she was under a "spiritual attack." So, without treatment and without anyone to advocate loudly enough of her behalf, little Madeline died March 23. This was, as irony would have it, on Easter Sunday.The little girl died at her family's rural home in Weston, Wisconsin, and anyone who has gone through a type 1 diagnosis knows how awful you feel in the days and weeks before being treated. I can imagine how awful she felt before death. And while I feel for the parents, I am also angry at them for their neglect from blind-faith and ignorance. Neumann said her husband thought briefly about getting their daughter to a doctor. "I said, 'No, the Lord's going to heal her.' I believed that God was going to just restore our daughter.

Stories like these make me angry and sad and frustrated. I believe in the freedom of every American to worship freely and believe as they wish. I know there are times when as parents we do what we think is in the best interest of our children and fall flat on our faces realizing only in retrospect how misguided a choice or decision may be. I get that. I really do. But in this case, I have to admit I am glad that the parents were brought to trial for the error of their ways. Last month they were sentenced to six months in prison. It isn't much, but it's something.

0_61_032608_madeline.jpg It is said that no one escapes childhood unscathed, and I think that's true. However, needless deaths at the hands of one's own parents and in honor of a blind faith that has the power to kill when in the hearts and minds of those too stubborn or misguided to see clearly really make me angry. Children can't speak up for themselves a lot of the time. They need advocates. They need informed parents. They need people to pay attention. They need to be listened to and more than that, they need to be heard. They need to be treated not as second-class citizens but as human beings with the same rights as anyone else, no matter their age and no matter what religious beliefs their parents hold. [photo of Madeline]

As an aside, and perhaps for a bit of comic relief after such a sad tale, comedienne Roseanne Barr had her own interesting relationship with her parents' faith when she was a child, as well, though she survived it. It is a slightly disturbing but ultimately funny story that ended much better than this one. Scroll down to her story here beneath the poem to read it.
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