God is a crappy doctor

Maybe I’m not as well versed in all things Biblical text as I’d like to be, but I haven’t been able to find the verse in the Bible that says medicine is worthless and prayer is the perfect cure-all. If anyone can find it, please let me know.

Right now my blood is a bit boiling. All I wanted to do was check the weather and I stumbled on this article about the parents of 11 year-old Madeline Neumann in Wisconsin who died of diabetes complications because they haven’t taken her to a doctor since she was 3. They saw no need to since they could just pray instead.

The autopsy showed that Madeline died of diabetic ketoacidos, and apparently it could have easily been avoided had she been taking insulin. But this family, who describes themselves as “not crazy, religious people” who have “nothing against doctors” just decided that God treats diabetes just as well as insulin.

She had probably been ill for about 30 days, suffering symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, loss of appetite and weakness, [Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin] said. She had not been diagnosed with the ailment previously.

Thirty days. She was sick for thirty days and no one thought that she should go to a doctor. Then two weeks ago they noticed she was getting lethargic. I guess they prayed really well because she stopped being so tired.

But then they must have gotten sloppy with their prayers since she got tired again. But they kept praying, and they believed she would get better, but she died the next day.

Who would have thought with all the healing powers of prayer and believing that she would have still died?

Right now the police are finishing up the investigation. Next week the state’s attorney will be looking at it and deciding what charges the family will face, if any.

But good ol’ mom isn’t worried. She has God on her side.

She said the family is not worried about a police investigation into her daughter’s death because “our lives are in God’s hands. We know we did not do anything criminal. We know we did the best for our daughter we knew how to do.”

The best for your daughter would have been to take her to the emergency room. I’m sure you “knew how to do” that.

Hopefully these parents will be spending many years in prison, away from their other three children. And hopefully the children will be taken in for check-ups in the near future.

ETA:  After reading PZ Myers’ write up on this story, I came to find out that the other three children are, in fact, still in the home with their parents because they are not in any danger and have not been abused.  I guess being forced to watch your sister die from diabetes because she didn’t have enough faith isn’t abuse, and the fact that type 1 diabetes is genetically-linked doesn’t put the other kids in danger either… maybe they’re just more faithful.


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. Aye, I read this over at PZ’s. I am apalled and angered beyond the capacity for rational thought.

    The remaining children should be removed, and the parents charged.

  2. Hmmm….sounds like those folks seriously lost touch with reality. You’d think that the parental instincts would kick in-but i guess nothing is stronger than delusion.

  3. I haven’t been able to find the verse in the Bible that says medicine is worthless and prayer is the perfect cure-all. If anyone can find it, please let me know.

    Really? I will be happy to provide the scriptures that are used to justify this type of behavior for those who are interested. Can’t do it right now, but I will try to pull something together tomorrow.

    I wrote a bit about my own experiences using prayer instead of doctors here:

    Fortunately, I did not die. This is really the saddest story I’ve heard in a long time and I think the parents should be prosecuted for child abuse and gross neglect.

  4. So. disgusted. with humans. I really hope that the law does not begin allowing people to neglect and torture their kids because the constitution says they can’t infringe upon their religious beliefs – and by “religious beliefs” in this case, of course I mean crippling idiocy.

    Recently, up here in Canada, there was a case where these parents were refusing their newborns a blood transfusion that would save their lives on religious grounds – the hospital gave them the transfusion anyway. Kudos for that decision, but the children are back in these parents’ care. Sigh. What’s it going to take?

    Here’s a URL to the Canadian story:

  5. Absolutely sickening. If the parents cited any other excuse – political affiliation, they saw it in a movie, the voices made me do it, I heard it in a song – they would be ripped to shreds in the courtroom and their kids would be safe in a new home. But simply because the abuse is attached to their religious beliefs, they get a free pass.

    Religion is the last socially acceptable justification for child abuse. This needs to change now.

  6. “The girl’s father, Dale Neumann,…started CPR ‘as soon as the breath of life left’ his daughter’s body.'” But it wasn’t until relatives in a different state called the police that she was taken to the hospital? Something doesn’t click here.

    “Mrs. Neumann said she deeply loves all her children and has nurtured them spiritually, emotionally and physically.” I’m guessing she means it in that order too.

    *sigh* I know, not funny.

  7. Now now, let’s be open minded about this. Maybe there really are some people whose faith is so strong that they can call down divine intercession to cure a dying child.

    I have devised a simple test for those who believe that their “prayer power” is up to the task. As long as they’re willing to first take this test, I have no problem with them denying medical care to their kids. Or with them leaping from a rooftop and flying around the block at supersonic speeds, for that matter.

  8. What’s unbelievable is that the Tribune article actually crazies-down the parents. Reading the article PZ had… wow… just wow.

  9. I just saw this on Digg. Send them to jail.

    We know we did the best for our daughter we knew how to do.”
    Madeline last saw a doctor when she was 3 to get some shots.

    She was sick for a month – only an abusive parent wouldn’t take their kid to the doctor, let alone for eight years.

    I understand why my best friend, who is a school counselor, thinks parents should take a test before having kids. My sister, who reviews social worker cases, would be appalled – especially since my niece has diabetes. And the remaining kids are still at home? They’d be at DCF in my state. Psychos.

  10. The bible passage you are looking for is probably Mathew 15:11. Jesus is being critisized for not washing his hands before eating. He replies that sickness is caused by what one says, not from what one eats. As metaphore it is cute, but poetry doesn’t make him Christ Scientist.
    This is not a perfect match for ‘medicine is worthless and prayer is the perfect cure-all’ but it may be as close as you’ll get.

  11. A few Bible verses about divine healing (by the way, most people who pray for healing still go to the doctor; it is only a small group who go to the extreme of ONLY using prayer — and sometimes exorcism and a form of verbal magic called “confession” — to fight disease):

    Mark 16:15-20
    Luke 5: 12-13
    Acts 10:38
    Isaiah 53:5
    Psalms 103:1-4
    III John 2
    Proverbs 4:20-22
    I Peter 2:24
    Matthew 8:16-17

    There are more. If these don’t make any sense to you, I can (perhaps) at some time in the future write and post a sermon on divine healing. :-)

  12. Damn, I forgot one of the most important verses:

    James 5:14-15
    Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up.

  13. I guess when I said “haven’t been able to find”, I should have said “never really tried to find”.

    Thanks, Donna.

    But none of these are actually anti-medicine, or am I missing something?

  14. No, there are no scriptures that are specifically anti-medicine that I can think of, but if you go into some of the teachings about faith and how to get God to heal you, it can be argued that going to the doctor is a sign of weak faith, that you don’t really believe God will heal you.

    Also, many Christians who believe in divine healing, feel like this:

    A case can be made that human physicians do not have the ability to cure any of us. Instead, physicians diagnose ailiments, cut (surgery), burn (radiation), recommend/prescribe/dispense drugs (including chemotherapies). At best, the drugs attack pathogens or stimulate our bodies’ own curative abilities. Physicians also offer advice, but none of what they do is inherently curative. Successful medical treatments, even via “alternative” medical approaches, rely on our bodies’ natural recuperative powers and/or on supernatural authority. The natural recuperative powers are provided by our Creator. The topic of the supernatural brings us back to our Creator, Who provides Divine healing.

    I’d actually forgotten about this argument, until I did a google search on divine healing this morning. But I heard this type of thing quite frequently over the years.

  15. Providence may do the healing, but it’s also true that God helps them who help themselves.

    A pity no one in that girl’s family chose to help her.

  16. In fairness to the people that wrote the bible, prayer was probably just as effective as any medical science that existed at the time.

    It is an absolutely horrific story. That this wasn’t a wake-up call to those parents might be the worst part of the whole thing.

  17. Religion is a plague, it’s harmful to us as a species. That’s why I am atheist. If someone told me they let their daughter die because an invisible man in the sky might heal her if they pressed their palms together an asked, I’d have slapped them and sent them to an asylum faster than I could say “You deluded moron”.

    This is clearly neglect, and their children should have mandatory monthly check-ups or something to ensure they don’t die from similar cases of neglect. It’s awful that such stupid fictional old book could cause so much pain, religion has gotten out of hand.

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