The parents of Kara Neumann, an eleven-year old who died of untreated juvenile diabetes are being charged with reckless endangerment after refusing to seek medical care for their daughter due to their religious beliefs. The court has ordered regular medical checkups for their two surviving children.
The case might help to set precedent for an unsettled area of law: where does an adult’s religious freedom end and society’s responsibility to children begin? Can parents who believe strongly that medicine is morally wrong be allowed to let a child die of a treatable condition while they pray for recovery?
Can the law dictate that children must get certain kinds of medical treatment?
It seems obvious enough that an insulin-dependent diabetic child should be treated. But what about vaccination resisters? Should they be forced to allow their children be immunized? Where do you draw a line between society’s responsibility and parental authority?
Defenses of the parents will probably draw on freedom of religion. Prosecutors will charge child abuse. What do you say? Should these parents go to jail, their children sent to foster homes? Or do they have a right to allow a child to die if they believe it is for the salvation of something beyond–and more important than–her physical body?
image: Kara Neumann, Associated Press