Just Another Guy with Opinions

Parents Prayed While Daughter Died

Posted by shadmia on March 28, 2008


Madeline Kara Neumann,11, of Weston, Wisconsin died of diabetic ketoacidosis. Her parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, believed so strongly in the power of prayer, that they refused to seek medical attention for their daughter until it was too late to save her life.

In fact when their daughter fell unconscious the first 911 call did not come from the Neumann’s house in Wisconsin. The call came from Ariel Gomez, the sister-in-law of Leilani Neumann, who lives in California. Ariel Gomez had to call 911 twice because she did not have the Neumann’s complete address. She told the dispatcher:

“My sister in law is, her daughter’s severely, severely sick and she believes her daughter is in a coma. And, she’s very religious so she’s refusing to take (Kara) to the hospital, so I was hoping maybe somebody could go over there.”

“Please. I mean, she’s refusing. She’s gonna fight it so, she’s gonna fight it. We’ve been trying to get her to take (Kara) to the hospital for a week, a few days now so.”

After getting the correct address, the dispatcher sent the police and EMS to the Neumann house. While on the way, another 911 call was placed from the Neumann house. EMS arrived at the house to find Kara not breathing and transported her to Saint Claire’s hospital where she was pronounced dead. Hear both 911 calls here.

It is unusual for children to die from diabetic ketoacidosis. It is a serious but treatable form of type 1 diabetes, caused by acid build up in the blood. Kara’s parents claim the did not know that she had diabetes. Kara had not been to see a doctor since she was 3-years-old. The Neumanns believed in the power of prayer to cure illness.

Wisconsin Social Services has interviewed the family’s three other children — ages 13, 14 and 17 — and had them examined by a medical doctor, Vergin said. They will most likely be returned to the home.Police Chief Dan Vergin of the Everest Metro Police said that during an interview with detectives the parents said “they believed even though they knew she was ill, they had enough faith and prayer that God would heal her.”

“They said it was the course of action they would take again,” Vergin said. “They firmly believe even if they had taken her to a doctor, if this was the time God had chosen for her to die, she would die regardless of medical interference.”

Through an autopsy it was determined she had diabetic ketoacidosis.

“The doctor who did the autopsy and others have said she would have been showing signs for about six months, and she would have been symptomatic, very thirsty, lots of urination, dry skin for the last week,” Vergin said. “They felt she would have been quite ill.”

This young girl did not have to die but Vergin said the death of the girl brings up difficult issues.

“At what point do religious beliefs take over for medical help? And the flip of the coin is at what point are the parents responsible for the health and welfare of their children,” he said. “These people truly believed their prayer and faith would heal their daughter. They have no question about that.”

So far the parents have not been charged with committing any crime. However the police are now preparing a report for prosecutors. It will be up to the district attorney to decide whether or not to file charges.

Under Wisconsin statutes, parents can’t be accused of abuse or neglect if the sole reason for the injury is that they relied on prayer, said Norman Fost, professor of bioethics and pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, adding that the First Amendment to the Constitution gives citizens the right to practice religion.

But Robyn S. Shapiro, an attorney who is professor of bioethics and director of the Bioethics Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said abuse or neglect can include “failure to appropriately respond or supply medical care to your kid.

“A Jehovah’s Witness can refuse life-saving blood transfusion based on their religious belief,” he said. “They’re protected. But they can’t refuse it for their child . . . the First Amendment extends to their own behavior but not their children’s.”

“The parents certainly didn’t want their daughter to die, they didn’t want her to be ill,” Vergin said. “They just chose a course of action that allowed her to regress into coma and then death.”


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14 Responses to “Parents Prayed While Daughter Died”

  1. tysdaddy said

    Nice post. I blogged about this myself but left out many of the details you have since uncovered. Interesting stuff. They essentially murdered their daughter and now are claiming God is making them stronger. I’d hate to be Madeline’s siblings . . .

  2. Nick Bush said

    Social Services needs to take those other children out of that household and those parents need to be put in prison for life without parole, because they essentially murdered their daughter. I don’t see how this is any different from those parents who keep their children chained up and without food or water or basic hygiene.

  3. Carl said

    Only a few minutes to write. My daughter, has Type I (juvenile) diabetes. She went from active, soccer playing, 9 year old to a fatigued, vomiting, sick, kid over a 24 hour period. As experienced parents, we thought that she had a virus. So we hunkered down and tried to keep the kid comfortable, waiting out the virus… But after awhile, my wife recalled the frequent trips to the bathroom and the recent switch to 2 water bottles instead of one for soccer, so she took her to the doctor, never dreaming that my daughter actually had diabetes.

    So I know first hand that diabetes is not an easy diagnosis to make. At diagnosis, our daughter had lost 10 lbs since her last physical, but to us it had looked like she was going through a growth spurt and was getting taller. My wife is the medical field, and she did not put all the clues together until ketoacidosis set in. Our kids get regular check ups and we probably error on the side of too many doctor visits, but that didn’t help us. We know another child who saw physicians for 8 months for various symptoms before they finally agreed it was diabetes.

    This is not a case where her parents neglected or abused her in any other way. The parents did not know that their daughter had a fatal condition. They did not barricade the doors when medical help arrived. The three older kids are apparently healthy.

    Murdered is the wrong word. It is pretty clear they loved their daughter and were not trying to kill her. Can’t argue with killed, but I doubt that any jail time will make them suffer more than they already are or more than they will continue to suffer for the rest of their lives.

    • RDG said

      You have not lived with these people. I was a foster child of theirs when they lived in California! This people might have seemed to be nice but they were the total opposite. I lived with them for long enough and that little girl was like my sister. Both of her parents knew she had Diabetes she did visit a doctor not on a regular basis but the parents did know what she had. So in a way yes they sat and watched their baby die. And for her to be sick for six months and the family here in california to know about they had to know it was something serious. And for a mother that doesnt care about medical procedures and seeing doctors it didnt stop her when she had breast implants.

  4. Carl said

    Oh yea, nice blog. I especially appreciate the legal research.

  5. Jeanine said

    Was so glad to see Carl’s blog. I too have a child that was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in May of 2006. We have no diabetes in our family and did not have a clue what was wrong with her or what signs to look for. For two weeks she would feel bad one day and fine the next. She did not have a fever so we thought she had a virus. It wasn’t until I got a call from her school that she had vomited did I begin to wonder if it was more than a virus. I took her to the urgent care immediately from school and she was taken to the emergency room from there where she was diagnosed with diabetes and was nearly in a diabetic coma. She woke up that same morning fine. Although she did show symptoms she never got so sick that it was alarming until that day. Although I do not agree with prayer instead of medical care I do wonder how long this little girl was showing signs that would cause her parents to take her to a doctor. I agree that murder is not the right term to use here. I hope these parents find the strength to get through this. I can’t imagine the pain they must feel. I know the guilt we felt not knowing the symptoms and taking action sooner. Thankfully our daughter is a healthy 10 year old girl that is very well adjusted to her insulin dependent life.

  6. shadmia said


    Thanks to both of you for your thoughts and experiences. This is indeed a very tragic story. Noone is suggesting that the parents wanted their kid to die and I for one would be surprised if any charges were brought against the parents. But there is a serious question raised as to whether Kara received adequate medical attention (whether or not medical attention would have helped is another matter) and the concerns that religious beliefs MAY be at odds with proper medical care.

    This particular case is a personal tragedy for the Neumann family; however if Kara had contracted a communicable disease that not only affected her but also those around her, including her schoolmates and the public at large, is there a point at which the needs of society must take precedent over personal religious beliefs?

    This country was founded on the premise of religious freedom but there are times when the common good has to be taken into account. I don’t think that this particular case rises to that dimension but it does gives us pause to think.

    Shaun Dawson

  7. George said

    Given the news reports, including an interview with the officer who has spoken with the parents and given the contents of the three 911 calls, it is evident that the parents knew their daughter was in dire straits and not just suffering from a virus. The Neumanns called family in California and SAID they thought Kara was in a COMA. That’s a far cry from thinking your child has a virus. The sister-in-law states in communication with 911 that they had been trying to get the Neumanns to bring their daughter to a doctor for a number of DAYS – possibly as long as a week. The only way family in California could have known that this was a situation that required medical care is if the Neumanns described it as such. Had they just mentioned they thought Kara had a virus I can’t imagine family in California urging them to seek medical help and eventually taking it upon themselves to call 911 from out of state. That’s a rather drastic step.

    It is mentioned in this blog post that there was more than one 911 call – one from California and one from inside the home. That call from inside the home was not made by the Neumanns but rather from friends who were there who recognized the seriousness of the situation when they saw it. It was EVIDENT that medical care was needed. It has been reported that Kara was unable to walk or talk on Saturday and slipped into a coma either Saturday night or early Sunday morning. It is impossible that the Neumanns misunderstood the seriousness of the situation. No parent whose child is so incapacitated they can no longer walk or talk can mistake that for something other than a very dire situation. It has been reported that Kara appeared “emaciated” to medical personel who responded. That’s not the same as having lost a little bit of weight.

    So, although it may be difficult to recognize the signs of diabetes in the months, days and weeks preceding such a crisis, and while ketoacidosis may come on suddenly, it is unconscionable that Kara was not taken in for medical care by Saturday at the latest. The parents may not have neglected or abused her in any OTHER way, but they neglected and abused her in this way, and she is DEAD.

    I don’t doubt that they loved their child and did not want her to die and that they did believe God would, for His glory, either heal her or let her die and then raise her from the dead (Mrs. Neumann having been quoted as saying, “God will raise her up” – that’s not language that is used for getting well – that’s language referring to ressurection from the dead). However, no matter how much the Neumanns believed, that is a dangerously twisted view of God and prayer. The Neumann’s have been quoted as saying if this were to happen again they would proceed in the same way. If that is the case, their other children are not safe in that home. Even though it is reported that they are not being physically abused and in danger in that way, if parents have stated they will not call for medical help if another one of their children is in a similar condition, if one of them becomes seriously ill, it will be a death sentence.

    How can a parent say when their child has just died of a treatable illness, and could right now be living instead of dead, that if this were to happen again they would do the same thing? Why aren’t they saying, “How could we have missed this?! We wish we had called a doctor! We really regret that choice. If only we had known!” What kind of response to your child’s death is, ” . . . we would do the same thing.”

    I too am a parent. I too struggle at times with whether something my child is going through calls for medical care or not – sometimes I err on the side of bringing them in when it is unnecessary – sometimes I err on the side of not getting them in as early as I should. It CAN be confusing sometimes, but no parent should let their child get to a point of being so incapacitated they can neither walk nor talk and yet still not seek medical help – and then see their child slip into a coma and STILL not seek medical help. That is not a matter of not quite being clear on the situation.

    I too am a Christian who believes in prayer. Yes, God heals. God is the Great Physician, but God created a world that runs by certain rules, and although He intervenes miraculously at times, I believe He also expects us to use the intelligence He gave us. He gave us gifts for living in this world. He gave us brains which we can use in making medical advances, and He gave us the brains to accept and use those gifts. God calls us to be wise, not foolish. God calls us to be stewardly – not to test Him.

    Yes, I do feel sorry for the parents in their loss, but I feel far more angry than sorry. They could have prevented her death, and they did not.

    I also find it very strange that Mrs. Neumann, as reported, initiated a call to the media this past Monday to let it be known that their business had reopened. I can’t imagine anyone being so concerned about their business 2 days after their child’s funeral that they would call the media to get the word out.

    I am absolutely sickened.

  8. Jason Faulkner said

    As I sat down to write this response, I immediately began to lose my train of thought. Five minutes ago, I knew what to say and how to say it. The problem now is that “my” blood sugar level is dropping… fast. I have been diabetic almost 30 years now. I was on the old insulin, the new insulin, eventually a pump, and now for 2 months a new pump which essentially tests the blood sugar for you. So if you asked, this is how I know how fast it is dropping. I have decided not to eat anything until I am done, it seemed fitting.

    No two diabetics are the same (and I mean type I here). I have always required lots of insulin, and my highs go higher and lows go lower than most. I have learned the old fashioned way, before blood test machines in the home. I know how I feel, every moment of the day it changes.

    My point of all this is that most of the people responding to this fail to realize this was a beautiful little girl. It has nothing to do with the parents, doctors, or prayer. She got sick, and it was she who very slowly, very painfully died. For those of you who have been in or near a coma a few times know it does not feel good, for any of us. Kara would not have been able to verbalize this very long. But I assure you, at some point she did. Eventually, she couldn’t walk. Then she had to always sit. Then she had to lay down. Soon, she can’t think well (thus not explain to parents what’s going on). I guarantee you she quit keeping food down, or anything. Surely the parents gave her liquids (most likely with calories to substitute the food she wasn’t getting, which made her blood sugar even higher). Kara was in the early stages of diabetes, so her body gave its last gasp of insulin over those days and weeks. Now that she is always bedridden, she is burning less calories, so now the excess builds in her blood, and makes it higher. By the time she slipped into a coma, she already had permanent eye damage most likely, kidneys, etc.

    This is a brief description of what death is like for a diabetic. Very brief. Those parents openly, willingly, knowingly, and thus negligently left her to die. Sure, on day 1, or 2, or 3 it could be anything. But I assure you they saw it. They heard it. I can’t imagine people who own a cafe don’t have internet access. Yet, has anyone looked to see if at least these morons looked up the symptoms? Basically, they knew what they knew, and what they didn’t know for sure, they just didn’t want to be told. Ignorance is no excuse (if you actually believe them). They operated and lived in society. They had a business license, they had rules to follow (to make a living), and they followed them. Why is it then, in their seemingly modern life style, that they just had no idea she was “really sick”?

    Parents have a duty to their children. As a matter of public policy (in which many laws are created for the safety of those around them) we have to abide by certain rules and regulations. They turned their head. I have a duty to feed my children. Why are they not in jail for a failure to feed them? Understand, her body was starving, and began to digest itself, the by-product of which is keytones. This ‘acid’ in your blood accumulates until you die. No way around it. It is lethal. Just as an infant needs a spoon or a nipple on top of a bottle to receive their nourishment, Kara needed insulin to get her nourishment. Ask any doctor, read anything you want. Her cells couldn’t burn energy with out insulin. They would know this if they had even attempted to help Kara. They might even have inquired at their business. Everyone seems to know a diabetic now. Instead, they kept it quiet. They could keep praying, but at least try to help their daughter. They didn’t. They killed her. They even said they would do this all again, in the same manner, if it happened again. I guess ‘to live and learn’ has no meaning here, literally.

    So many children have special needs to survive. Its up to the parents to provide them. If these parents are allowed to claim religious belief, then someone, somewhere, will do this to another child. And it WILL happen. So as a matter of public policy, we have to say this is not ok. Yes, our country is founded on principles like freedom of religion. But you hide under a religious umbrella. If my religion said I could have my way with young girls, or even kill people, it wouldn’t sit too well with society. So simply put, their are limitations. There has to be.

    In the end, think about a very scared, very alone, and very terminal little girl. She was too young (and weak) to take care of herself, as all children are. Just because she wasn’t exactly like all other kids, she shouldn’t be treated any differently……………….

  9. Lisa said

    Thank you Carl & Jeannie for your posts:
    You both do know first hand being parent of diabetic children, how the symptoms can be decieving. Personally knowing the Neumann family for many years, I can assure you all and the entire public, that these parents absolutely love their children, and they and their children absolutely love Christ. They home schooled their children all of their lives, with the exception of allowing their children to go to public school for awhile to see if it suited them, it didn’t, so they began home schooling again. Carl your absolutely right when you say they are suffering enough at this time, they’ve lost their baby, and at this time, the rest of their children, this is a tough time for this family. They are one of the most loving & caring families I know, that is why they have a family from California living with them at the time of this incident, because the other family was trying to start a new life in Wisconsin & the Neumann’s opened their home to them. Kara was Loved & she new it everyday, even in her last moments, she knew how much she was love by her family, her mom & dad were right their with her, and she even knew how much she was love by God. I can almost guarantee that Kara never felt alone. This was a very close knit loving family. My children were absolutely “appauled” by the media’s view, because they know the family personally, & they know that the media & public are making assumptions, and are only reporting on “what will sell” and it’s Not the good stuff, it’s always the negative. The Neumann’s were there for us when we needed help & their for so many others, and they Never neglected their children at any time, they were always their priority. Think about it this way, we normally don’t go to the doctor unless we are either in so much pain or so weak we can’t take it, let alone go into emergency & wait for hours before we are seen, especailly if you don’t have medical insurance, it’s even harder to be seen, or to get someone to see you if they know you have no insurance, so even if they decided to take Kara in to the hospital when she was at her weakest point, they would have had to wait for hours & still might have had the same result, so where did they go wrong? Like Carl said, they didn’t try to stop medical personnel from saving Kara, but by the time they knew she was so sick everything happened so fast, I’m sure they didn’t know what to do. I myself have been in such situations with my children, where I called one of my parents before I called medical personnel. You see, the Neumann’s have nothing against medical assistance, they just had a deeper faith that they truley believed Kara would be healed. They are truely loving parents.

  10. JC said

    How many more senseless death in the name of religion? There are times God does its work through divine interventions, but a lot times we humans carry the burden of doing the work for God with His blessings. This is Stupidity at its best!!!! This tragedy could have easily been prevented.

  11. Justice said

    Second-degree reckless homicide charges have been filed against the parents as of today. Let’s hope these two morons get to spend lots of time in the “Hell” that is prison, so that they can’t hurt anyone else again.

  12. Verity said

    Any reasonable person can see that this is murder by neglect.

  13. […] Wisconsin died of diabetic ketoacidosis in March 2008. For background details on this case click here and […]

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