When belief kills

By Phil Plait | January 22, 2009 10:07 am

Where does religious freedom end?

This is an important question, a vital one. At times, a matter literally of life and death.

In Wisconsin, the parents of Madeline Kara Neumann are going to stand trial soon for killing their child. She had juvenile diabetes. Her parents did not take her to get medically treated, but instead prayed over her. Last March, she died of diabetic ketoacidosis: she dehydrated, and her body basically shut down. She was 11 years old.

Diabetic ketoacidosis occurs in people with diabetes who don’t get insulin. It is almost completely preventable with regular insulin shots, a simple medical procedure. In other words, had Kara been diagnosed with diabetes — and that’s a relatively easy disease to diagnose in children during routine medical checkups — she would almost certainly be alive today. Medical science provides children with diabetes the ability to live a relatively normal life.

This is so, so sad; the death of a child, especially one that was almost certainly completely preventable, is an awful thing to contemplate. But we have to think about it, because it appears that Kara’s death was her parents’ fault. From the New York Times article linked above:

The Neumanns… are known locally as followers of an online faith outreach group called Unleavened Bread Ministries, run by a preacher, David Eells. The site shares stories of faith healing and talks about the end of the world.

It’s clear from the news reports (for example here, here, and here) that the religious beliefs of the parents were to blame for this little girl’s death. I won’t beleaguer you with the details of knowing that faith healing doesn’t work beyond the placebo effect, and in the case of diabetes doesn’t work at all. What’s important to think about here is, if religion is behind Kara’s death — and we know that fringe religious beliefs of parents have caused countless cases of children becoming sick or even dying — then what recourse does the justice system have?

I have no doubts that many religious people would claim that they have the right to do as they see fit to take care of their children. A case can be made for that; I personally don’t want the government telling me what I can and cannot do to raise my child. But then, we already acknowledge that laws exist that govern this very thing. I cannot sell my child, or abuse her, or do any number of other things that violate her rights as a human.

Certainly, causing the death of a person takes away their human rights.

In this country, we have a right to believe what we want. I agree with that idea. However, we do not have the right to necessarily act on those beliefs.

What if my religion says I must pray by screaming at the top of my lungs at funerals? Or if it says I have to commit genocide to bring about the Rapture? Or if I can only get into Paradise by flying planes into buildings?

Obviously, these are not rhetorical or even hypothetical questions. Clearly, religious rights have limits. According to the NYT article, the laws on the books about belief-related deaths vary from state to state, and the outcome of this trial may set precedents across the country. If it is indeed shown that the parents of this young girl caused her death due to their religious beliefs, then I sincerely hope they are locked away for a long, long time.

You have the right to believe what you want. But you don’t have the right to allow that belief to cause harm to come to children under your care. And diabetes doesn’t care what you believe.

My thanks to BABloggee Spencer Cunningham for sending me this news. Thanks also to Steve Novella for advice.

Comments (149)

  1. Gnat

    I don’t know where I heard this before, but I always thought it a good sentiment: “The right to swing your fist ends at my face.”

  2. CS

    Clearly, religious rights have limits

    In cases such as this one, I believe that the limits to religious rights should be extended to banning the preaching of religions that are life threatening.

    This is part of the insane justification on http://www.helptheneumanns.com/

    “…They had chosen prayer over medicine and God chose to take Kara home….Also, equally as important, and which seemingly is being ignored is, what would Kara herself have done if she alone could choose? The answer can only be based on what Kara believed. Kara believed what the Bible teaches and had more faith than some of us reading this…..this is nothing else but a modern day Roman Coliseum where the Christians are made sport of while the lions devour them with their mouths

  3. billsmithaz

    “And diabetes doesn’t care what you believe.”

    Wild applause from a regular (almost said devout – ha!) diabetic reader.
    Funny how reality tends to trump ideology when the rubber hits the road, ain’t it?

  4. SteveG

    I recall reading the phrase, “your individual liberty ends when it interferes with another individual’s liberty”

    However, I think this case is a simple one and justice would be better served by avoiding the religious component altogether (not likely) and enforcing the law against causing someone’s death. It doesn’t matter why.

  5. Note that they have three other children. At least they’re teenagers, and I don’t see anything about them having chronic illnesses.

    I have little hope that these monsters will be convicted because they don’t appear to have broken the law.

  6. Dark Jaguar

    My thoughts exactly. There WILL be a huge protest about this from the religious, I can see it, saying government is “telling us how to raise our kids”, but you sum up quite well that this has been going on for some time.

    Further, I have to agree with Richard Dawkins when he argues that phrases like “our kids” stem from the false idea that a parent actually owns their child as property. He argues that trying to get a kid into your own religious faith, bringing them to church and telling them “this religion is the right one and the one you should believe” is a form of abuse. I can see that, but realistically I don’t see anyone, anywhere, being capable of pushing that sort of agenda in America, and really there’s little we could do to stop a parent of faith from teaching it to their kids. That said, when a parent demands to be able to teach their kids patently false scientific information in a home schooling environment, I’d say that steps over a line itself.

  7. IVAN3MAN

    Prof. Richard Dawkins is right when said that imposing religion one’s children is tantamount to intellectual child abuse.

  8. BradB

    I hate type one diabetes and ketoacidosis is one of the most miserables feelings imaginable. It takes a good amount of time for it to build to where it is lethal especially in some one who just developed the disease because of a period called the “honeymoon period” where the islet cells are still pumping out some insulin. I am frankly disgusted at how evil you would have to be to watch your child die in this manner. Maybe its because I have a personal connection being diabetic myself but this has me seeing red.

  9. However, I think this case is a simple one and justice would be better served by avoiding the religious component altogether (not likely) and enforcing the law against causing someone’s death. It doesn’t matter why.

    But it DOES matter why in law. That’s why there’s so many different laws regarding death: murder, manslaughter, negligence, and mitigations like accident, self-defence, and so forth.

    The question of law is one of the validity of religion. It’s probably fair to say that this isn’t a case of murder. The general test for murder is that the accused intended to cause the death of the victim.

    Manslaughter is typically less – the accused intended to harm the victim in some way and the victim died. Oopsie. Probably not the case here either.

    For negligence, the test is usually somethign like “the accused knew or ought to have known that their action/inaction was harmful”. And that’s where religion enters. If the accused “knew” that God was on their side, were they negligent. Say no and and you just gave a bye to every real or imagined God wallopper to be negligent at other people’s peril. Say yes and you’re judging the value of religion… not a big deal if you’re an atheist because you’ve already judged it, but definitely a big deal culturally in the USA.

    The judge is going to need an industrial-sized bucket of TUMS for this one.

  10. IVAN3MAN

    @ Dark Jaguar,

    Excuse me, I did not see your post before I posted my comment.

  11. BradB

    Slight edit, hate should be have.. must have been a freudian slip.

  12. Nyx

    To paraphrase Marcus Brigstocke, this little girl was no more a Christian than she was a member of the postal workers’ union.

    I think the parents should be charged with negligent homicide, just as a mother would be for leaving her child in a car in the middle of the summer here in Phoenix, Arizona. I actually believe there’s a good chance of a conviction here, but maybe I’m overly optimistic.

  13. Hoonser

    I don’t see any issue with teaching kids a religion when they’re young. If that’s what the family does then that’s what it does. You can’t expect churchgoing parents to raise their child as an atheist, then when the child get to around 15 decide it’s time to introduce them to religion.
    Most protestant denominations have confirmation classes. Where when the child gets to about 15 they have to study their religion and decide whether or not they want to accept it as their faith. In my case I wasn’t confirmed, so that negated my baptism.

  14. Helioprogenus

    I know the religious creed of the parents of this unfortunate girl is fringe, but regardless, their deeds are no different than knowingly pulling a pillow over the face of the girl because they think she’s possessed by a demon. Once again, religion is exactly what we don’t need, but with so many jurors, even those sympathetic to the girl’s cause, religion will come to play in their verdict, and unfortunately, the parents will get off with a slap on the wrist.

  15. @Squid: But how can’t hey prove that they knew god was on their side? There’s not way to prove it, as far as the courts are concerned, one way or the other. While I don’t think that a murder charge would stick, I can see this as an open and shut negligent homicide.

    Negligent homicide is a charge brought against people, who by inaction, allow others under their care or presence intentionally to die

  16. Peptron

    To me it’s an obvious case of death by criminal negligence. They knew that diabetes was a fatal condition if left untreated, and decided not to get it treated. They knew the outcome would be death but decided to go with it anyway. I equate it to leaving your child underwater while praying for him/her to successfully breath underwater, and if he doesn’t then claim that God wanted to get the child back all along. Or leave him to starve to death claiming that faith will feed the child.

    However dying from diabetes is a particularly slow and painful way of dying, that makes it all the more unforgivable IMHO. That’s not just stupid but also quite sadistic.

    Also, I can see a dangerous precedent if it goes “relatively unpunished”. Let’s suppose I have a child, but for some XYZ reasons I do not like it and I am also not known for my empathy. I could then “dispose” of the child by letting it starve to death or some other indirect murder method like that, to then claim that “I prayed for him and therefore am a pious person” as a way to get reduced punishment for the murder.

    Anyway, I still equate letting a diabetic die in such a way the same as taking a gun up to that person’s head and shooting.

  17. I made a big deal of this case when it first happened on my local newspaper forums (in their “Faith” section) demonstrating the powerlessness of prayer (with some help from godisimaginary.com). Also saw a segment on “Enemies of Reason” where the water dowsers were being tested. It was amazing to see the mental gyrations they went through to explain why they did no better than random guessing… I see the same with prayer…

    This sort of behaviour is what has driven me from being a nice quiet atheist to becoming much more vocal and outspoken. It makes me physically ill to see humans behave this way.

  18. Todd W.

    One thing to keep in mind on a case like this. The majority of religious people are likely going to be on the side of “What the F* were they thinking!” Such extreme religious views like those of the Neumanns are on the fringe and most Christians or believers of other religions would condemn what these parents did.

    Just wanted to get that out there before every single religious person gets lumped together into one big pile of suck. Can religion kill? Yes, when it is taken to extremes.

    And Evolving Squid, thanks for the post about how the law views death. I’d say a negligence charge is probably what will come out of this. The parents should have known that their actions (or inaction) would result in the physical harm of their child. The spiritual side of the equation does not factor into that determination. The law does not deal with that. It only views what can be proven as legal fact.

  19. Redx

    “What if my religion says I must pray by screaming at the top of my lungs at funerals?”

    I don’t think there are any laws preventing Westboro Baptist from doing that, though. They can’t trespass while they do it or assault people, but they can scream all they like at funerals, IIRC.

  20. Todd W.

    @Redx

    They can’t trespass while they do it or assault people, but they can scream all they like at funerals, IIRC.

    Unless, of course, they violate any disturbing the peace ordinances.

  21. Quiet Desperation

    Where does religious freedom end?

    Where someone else’s begins.

    *BING*

    What do I win? :-)

  22. Peptron

    Like some said, I hope it will be treated by completely ignoring the religious side.

    1- They knew diabetes was fatal if untreated.
    2- They left diabetes go untreated.
    3- The diabetic died.

    God or religion really should not come into play at any point in the procedures. Doing it in any way could lead to unintended consequences like I said earlier. (ie: using the religion/god card to get reduced sentences for indirect murders, or maybe even eventually direct murders.)

  23. Chris A.

    I must take issue with the false dichotomy presented here, in effect saying that the only way to teach your child belief is to tell them that what you believe is the only option (whether that be atheism or belief). Rubbish. You explain (and hopefully demonstrate) why you believe what you believe. You take them not just to your church of choice (even if that’s no church at all), but to many churches, so they have something other than your word to go on. And you explain that one of the greatest freedoms we enjoy is for each of us to decide for ourselves what we believe. And, when they are old enough to make their choice, you respect their choice and support them in that belief, even if it’s not the same as yours.

    What rankles me about Dawkins is that he seems to want to make all believers out to be as bad as the worst of us. It’s disingenuous and insulting.

  24. Quiet Desperation

    Oh, and the parents should be found guilty and sentenced to vivisection.

  25. I agree that negligence is the appropriate charge here, although I’m neither American nor a lawyer (although my work often involves legal issues, so I am not unread on such matters).

    Peptron said: “They knew the outcome would be death but decided to go with it anyway.”

    That’s what the prosecution is going to have to demonstrate. Their defence will be that “we left it in God’s hands. God’s will be done. You’re picking on us because we’re religious. You’re exasperating our pain of losing a daughter.” The prosecution is going to have to portray them as malicious loonies who should have known better. The defence is going to portray them as deeply devout people saddened by God’s plan and now having to put their lives back together. As a bunch of skeptics, that may sound weak, but in front of a potentially (likely) religious jury… well, I wouldn’t be taking wagers.

    I don’t know if this kind of a trial results in a choice in the USA like it probably would in Canada – but in Canada the defendants would definitely want a jury trial so they can play on the heartstrings of the jurors. (In Canada, you can elect trial by judge alone for some crimes, and this is usually done if the crime is icky and the defence will be based on what amount to legal technicalities that are unlikely to sway or even be understood by a jury. You elect jury trial if your defence is more of the “I did what anyone would do in my situation” sort of thing. I don’t know if this election exists in the USA.)

    And while I agree that even mainstream religious people will be looking at this and thinking “WTF??”, there will be a lot of yahoos and borderline yahoos who are going to get publicity claiming that this couple is being persecuted due to their religious beliefs.

    In recent years, in Canada, the courts have run with saving the life of the child – even if the child was religious and refusing treatment on religious grounds… but this didn’t happen in Canada. The US court may look at that because we have similar legal systems, but I wouldn’t expect them to give it much weight. This case will, in part, be a test of the weight that religious belief is given in the face of science and common sense.

    If they’re convicted, they’re going to claim a certain level of martyrdom.

  26. Michelle

    Quite frankly? I think that like alcohol, preaching religion to children should be forbidden. It’s just as dangerous.

  27. Non-Elite

    “I won’t beleaguer you with the details of knowing that faith healing doesn’t work beyond the placebo effect … ”

    No, please, I like to see science to back up claims. By all means, beleaguer me.

  28. Todd W.

    @Evolving Squid

    The Constitution of the U.S. grants citizens the right to a trial by a jury of their peers, so if the family really wants a jury trial, they can request it. Now, if they have a jury trial, then the lawyers for both sides get to interview the jurors and exclude people from sitting. I think they are allowed a couple exclusions without justification, each. Beyond that, I’m not sure of the criteria.

  29. Brian

    Someone (I don’t remember who) suggested that the parents should be sentenced to having their beta cells removed from the pancreas’s islets. Let’s see how long the parents are willing to treat their own diabetes with nothing but prayer.

  30. R

    Remove religion from the question for a second. What if the parents had diabetes and refused treatment for themselves? For no reason what so ever, or at least no reason ever to be known by you, all you know is that it’s a deliberate decision. Do we allow them to do this?

    Now, do we allow them the same control over their children?

    This isn’t a religious question at all, you’ve let yourself be distracted.

  31. Todd W.

    @Brian

    Eye for an eye? Intriguing. Goes with a strict belief in the Bible just as much as their own actions, though I’m sure they would probably object.

  32. R: I agree in principle, but in reality this will be couched as a religious freedom issue in the courts and in the media. So it’s something to consider.

    Your point is valid though. Religion or no, parents making a conscious decision that could harm their children is wrong, and we have many laws about that already.

  33. @Chris A., While there is a bit of a false dichotomy argument in lumping all the theists in with these extremists, keep in mind that theistic beliefs are formed in the same way as many other superstitious and rediculous beliefs. I highly recomend a series called “Enemies of Reason” to highlight that, which examines not only theistic beliefs, but many “wooisms” like dowsing and whatnot.

  34. DemetriusOfPharos

    Personal freedom ands them moment you begin creating victims.

    You want to take drugs? Fine, but the moment it affects someone else (such as emotionally for your family or you kill or steal to get the drugs) you’ve crossed the line.

    You like porn or bondage? Fantastic, find a willing partner of legal age and do every single thing you’ve ever wanted to. The moment your partner isn’t willing, you’ve stepped over the line.

    You like invisible friends and talking to voices in your head? Fantastic, but the moment your invisible friends tells your to kill in their name, or your belief in your invisible friends results in the death of someone (such as a child or loved one), you’ve crossed the line.

    Scientology, Christian Science and Faith Healing all share one common bond – they are lower than psuedo-science and cause the deaths of many people every year. They should be prosecuted no differently than negligent homicide, because thats exactly what it is.

  35. Martin Moran

    @ Larian LeQuella, to avoid being an enemy of reason for sure you have to be objective, but to me you just sound like a blind man standing on a wooden floor telling me that you don’t believe in trees.

  36. Russ

    The biggest absurdity is that if their car broke down, they would take the car to the mechanic. Why, because their car is a material object. But somehow their child’s body is broken, and they don’t see fit to see a doctor? Aren’t they supposed to be dualists?

  37. In 1998, an LA court upheld a ruling that dismissed a suit over the death of a 12-year old diabetic boy. The boy’s caregiver was a member of the Christian Science Church and died because he was not given medical treatment. His mother sued the church. Her suit was dismissed because it would have violated First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion. Click my name for the story.

  38. For a different article on this topic, click my name. That article notes that the U.S. Supreme court

    has ruled that parents do not have an absolute right to deny their children medical treatment on religious grounds, saying in a 1944 decision that while parents “may be free to become martyrs themselves,” “it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children.” The court reprised the same thought in a 1990 case.

    So, there is Federal precedent that could trump the parents’ religious rights. I am trying to find other case law on this issue.

  39. Redx

    Evolving squid wrote: “(In Canada, you can elect trial by judge alone for some crimes, and this is usually done if the crime is icky and the defence will be based on what amount to legal technicalities that are unlikely to sway or even be understood by a jury. You elect jury trial if your defence is more of the “I did what anyone would do in my situation” sort of thing. I don’t know if this election exists in the USA.)”

    Here in The States that is known as a bench trial. In most cases a defendant can waive their right to a jury trial, and receive a bench trial instead. In at least some states, the prosecution can attempt to prevent a bench trial, but a trial by one’s peers is always an option.

  40. doug

    Someone could of explained to the parents “medical treatment for diabetes is a gift from god, and god is working through the doctors. Follow gods will and give the child treatment”

    That is a probably a language they would understand

    This is where belief I think should be ring fenced. As Phil said “You have the right to believe what you want”, but where that belief affects another adversely (in this case it couldn’t get any more adverse), it pays to be sensible.

    This may sound strange but in a way the parents are victims of indoctrination and propaganda. They also were probably raised from children into these ways of thinking, which in the end has lead to such inflexibility in action on the part of their child.

    What a shame, she looked like a beautiful kid.

    http://a.abcnews.com/images/US/abc_neumann_080327_mn.jpg

  41. @Peptron “I could then “dispose” of the child by letting it starve to death or some other indirect murder method like that”

    I find it ironic that many of the same people who want to throw the Neumanns under the bus are also the same people who supported Michael Schiavo’s absolute right to cause his wife’s death via starvation by removing her feeding tube. Remember, apparently it is the legal guardian’s right to pass judgment on the quality of life of their dependent and if it is the opinion of the legal guardian that that quality of life does not come up to par, they have the right to snuff out that life. If I was the defense attorney for the Neumanns that is the legal argument I would use since there is already legal precedent in the Schiavo case.

  42. What I find most absurd is that when people pray for something that doesn’t happen, they never chalk it up to prayer not working. They just say, “Meh, gods will…” It makes me wonder just what would have to NOT happen for them to realize that prayer doesn’t work. Apparently the death of one’s child is not the threshold.

  43. rob

    here is a blurb from wikipedia on the Free Exercise Clause of the 1st ammendment:

    “In 1878, the Supreme Court was first called to interpret the extent of the Establishment Clause in Reynolds v. United States, as related to the prosecution of polygamy under federal law. The Supreme Court upheld Mr. Reynolds’ conviction for bigamy, deciding that to do otherwise would provide constitutional protection for a gamut of religious beliefs, including those as extreme as human sacrifice. The Court said (at page 162): “Congress cannot pass a law for the government of the Territory which shall prohibit the free exercise of religion. The first amendment to the Constitution expressly forbids such legislation.” Of federal territorial laws, the Court said: “Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious beliefs and opinions, they may with practices.”

    the parents should be held responsible for their actions. hiding behind religious beliefs should not be allowed as a defense, just as claiming ignorance of the law cannot be used as a defense.

  44. I wonder if these same parents believe in forced birth (ie. anti-abortion)? It’s interesting that it’s ohhhkaaayyy to kill a child (in their viewpoint) if religion says it’s okay (i.e. their religion) but not to allow others the choice to terminate a pregnancy before the clump of cells goes through the whole pregnancy thing and becomes a child upon birth — based upon — ta-dahhhh– religion!!

  45. Ray

    Redx,

    “What if my religion says I must pray by screaming at the top of my lungs at funerals?”

    I don’t think there are any laws preventing Westboro Baptist from doing that, though. They can’t trespass while they do it or assault people, but they can scream all they like at funerals, IIRC.”

    The most recent court case I know of with the Westboro group was a lawsuit brought forward by the parents of a slain Marine. The parents won the lawsuit. Its currently on appeal.

    Also, several states, including Kansas (where the Westboro Chruch is located) have passed laws prohibiting protests outside funerals. Essentially, the laws require a 500 foot bubble of no protesting.

    It hasn’t stopped the whackos from protesting, but several counter-protest groups, such as the Patriot Guard Riders show up at funerals and put themselves between the whackos and the funeral to limit the protest.

  46. Daffy

    In general, The U.S. government and its citizens have no trouble whatsoever telling American Indians they can’t use peyote in their religious ceremonies, but will condone murdering a child in the name of Christianity.

    This culture is unbelievably sick.

  47. Tim G

    This is a profound case where there was a clear appropriate mode of action. The parents did not need to describe all the symptoms perfectly to a medical professional. Merely taking the child to a health clinic would have likely saved her life. But I wonder how often religion plays a role when what would be appropriate is not clear cut. For example, on issues such as falling grades, suspected drug abuse, etc. the parent prays as a substitute for confrontation. Eventually the child drops out of school and overdoses.

  48. Martin Moran

    @ Tim G, probably not as often as stupidity in general.

  49. quasidog

    I agree these parents should have had medical treatment issues for their girls diabetic condition. However I do not agree with the sentiments expressed by many here that ‘religion’ is to blame. Idiocy is to blame. Plenty of religious people in the world would not do such a thing. It is wrong to just group it altogether as a problem of religion. What about kids that get treatment from certain doctors that end up being complete nutjobs, quacks, and then in turn the child dies from medical misuse? It has happened. Was medical science to blame? No just bad medical science. What about kids that die from a bad diagnosis? What if a baby dies because of hospital neglect? (I have personally experienced this) In this case do we just blame hospitals? No. Clearly not.

    I am not suggesting prayer would have fixed his child’s problems. I am not suggesting medical treatment would not have either. I am pointing out that the bigotry displayed by many that connects one stupid act from a misguided couple of parents, does not constitute that religious belief is to blame. Maybe their certain cult like values were to blame, I concede that, but again, this is a minority. There are a minority of quack doctors out there too that misdiagnose or even kill patients with po0r medical applications, and yes this is rare, but it does happen. It would be stupid to then go and blame all of the medical field for this.

    Religious bigotry does not apply here. These parents were clearly misguided, just as some doctors are misguided. Both parties in these cases should be put before a court of law and tried. Using this issue as a springboard to express bigotry and hatred regarding religious freedom is wrong and anyone displaying this view is incorrect.

  50. magista

    Tom Marking, the two cases are not equivalent. No type of medical intervention would have returned Terry Schiavo to health. Her brain was practically more space than tissue at that point. There was no sign of consciousness in her brain activity. To deny her body nutrition at that point does no harm to the ‘person’, only the body. The tenant’s moved out; the house is empty.

    With treatment, Kara Neumann would have lived. Instead, she was denied medical assistance and her brain would have functioned quite well enough for her to have been in intense discomfort up until the point where she mercifully lost consciousness.

  51. RL

    Every religious person I know, and, dare I assume, that the vast majority of believers are or would be appalled by these parents actions. I can’t speak for every church goer but my faith is definitely in the “God helps those who help themselves” camp.

    To me, this is in no way a religious freedom issue. As someone correctly pointed out, there is a parents rights issue related to this case (vs the power of the state) which may be fueled by religion or any other motivational source for the parent. These cases run the spectrum in terms of degrees but in this case, things seem pretty clear cut.

    I don’t agree with some of those here who want to see this case as a reflection of our world or culture. This is a rather isolated but unfortunately not-rare-enough event.

  52. Quiet Desperation

    I think they are allowed a couple exclusions without justification, each.

    Here in California, every time I go to jury duty, both sides excuse dozens of people and I don’t see them making any justifications to anyone. The last time I went they ran out of people that got sent to the courtroom, and had to finish the next day, and they almost ran out *again*. I was excused by the defense the second day, so I’m not sure what happened. Must of been because when asked I said, yes, I do own a gun and that I felt owning a firearm carried a great responsibility. ;-) It was a drive by shooting case. Lawyers… so easy to game.

  53. Cindy

    Tom Marking

    I think the big difference between this case and the Terri Schiavo case is that treatment/continuing treatment would have a profound improvement in the quality of life for the Neumann child. Not only would she have survived, but diabetes can be managed and she could grow up into adulthood, have kids herself, etc. Yes, she would have been dependent on insulin for the rest of her life, but her health would have improved. No amount of treatment improved Terri Schiavo’s brain functions over several years. I also believe Terri Schiavo expressed that she would not have wanted to be kept in a persistent vegetative state before she lapsed into a coma.

    I read this in the paper and thought the parents should be prosecuted. These parents treated their daughter worse than how I treat my cat. My cat is diabetic and we give him insulin.

  54. Elmar_M

    It is at least negligent homicide, probably even murder. That depends on whether you judge stupidity as criminal intent or negligence. A very difficult decision. These people are clearly of below average intelligence. Maybe even to the point that they dont understand the need for a person to get medical attention. Now is someone who is debile responsible for his actions and then how much?
    Same goes for people that have been brainwashed into believing something. Are they fully aware of the consequences of their actions? In this case I think a psychiatric evaluation of the parents, maybe the entire family would be justified in order to shed some more light onto this.
    Anyway this is one of the problems of the open society like what western cpuntries are striving for (open to other cultures, to religious freedom, to tolerance of others and of course to open to knowledge and science).
    It clearly shows that even the US and Europe, we are still evolving our society and still have to find the right (if there is such a thing) way to handle certain things that fullfills both the demands of an open society (respect and tolerance for other peoples believes) and the need for society to keep functioning (or in some cases even existing).
    E.g. lets assume that a religion that is a sworn enemy of democracy and of science and knowledge starts gaining followers rapidly within an open society like ours. What do you do? Do you try to shut the religious group down and therefore betray your own principles, or do you let the do their thing and take the risk that you might cease to exist once this religious group reaches critical mass.
    These are things that have been plagueing my mind often.

  55. jeri meaux

    I belong to a very conservative religion (LDS or Mormons) and we believe that God has inspired scientists and medical personnel to develop treatments and cures for the diseases that plague mankind. Our scriptures say…for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. God expects us to do as much for ourselves as we can. To try to force God to heal their daughter through a miracle, without any efforts on their part save praying, not only expresses a profound lack of faith in Him, but a general lack of humility as well.

  56. Mantiss

    [RANT=ON]

    It’s this sort of stuff who really switches on My misanthropy and leads Me to believe that there’s really no hope for this race while there are still ties to all that mumbo jumbo that is religion, a tool of mass control that has been fiendishly refined since the dark ages.

    I don’t know if they lived recluse or whatever but I am appalled that no one took to heart to bring that poor kid to a doctor to get checked, stuff the parents, stuff their beliefs, in this case the laws of evolution clearly has prevented their genes to be passed on, but I find the idea of them surviving that poor kid insufferable. And of course it was god’s wish to take her back, what a googleplex of whelk crap.

    While religion exists there can be no peace, it’s a chain that the humanity carries and that hampers our chances of finally making it, a virus that insidiously poisons the most beautiful of what man and woman have to offer.

    [RANT=OFF]

  57. MrQhuest

    This reminds me of the joke where the believer was praying to be rescued from a flood. A truck, boat and helicopter tried to rescue him. “God will save me,” He says. He gets to heaven and asks why god did not save him. “What are you talking about?” says god, “I sent you a truck, boat and a helicopter!”

    Where did that whole “God helps those who help themselves,” thing go? Point being, 100 years ago being diagnosed as a diabetic WAS a death sentence. Banting and Best solved that problem by discovering insulin and coming up with a treatment. This needless death is no different then letting a child bleed to death, or die from influenza. The solution was there. The treatment was available. I don’t know how your medicare works if the family couldn’t afford the treatment, but It looks to me like they did not even try. Their argument is void if they allowed even one other child to take cold medicine, immunization, antibiotics, or even use a band-aid.

    I hope they throw the book at them.

  58. TheBlackCat

    @ magista: Also, it was Terry Schiavo’s decision, not her husband’s. He was simply carrying out her wishes. This child was not legally entitled to make such a decision, being a minor.

  59. @quasidog

    What if a baby dies because of hospital neglect? (I have personally experienced this) In this case do we just blame hospitals?

    At least in the U.S., the hospital can be held partially accountable for the negligence of its employees.

    @Tom Marking

    The Schiavo case could be used as a precedent, but I don’t think it would work. One of the primary issues in that case was what Theresa Schiavo had indicated was her wish before she entered the permanent vegetative state. Because she was an adult, it was her decision, and by proxy the person that could prove they knew her final wishes.

    In the Neumann case, a minor is involved. In such a case, her parents or guardians are typically going to be the ones that have say over what medical treatment their child undergoes, except where that decision may lead to negligence and harm to the child. The U.S. government in such situations tends to place greater value on living than on dying.

  60. Matt

    To those saying that this isn’t a religious freedom issue… well, ok, except that it is. As Peptron puts it: “They knew that diabetes was a fatal condition if left untreated”. But any defense lawyer worth anything* will claim that they did NOT know that. Why? Because of their religious beliefs. Freedom of religion gives them the right to BELIEVE that a god/fairy/invisible pink unicorn will cure their child’s diabetes/autism/leprosy/ugliness if they pray/stand on one leg/sacrifice goats. If they truly believe that, then they don’t know that not giving their child a dose of Evil Atheistic Western Medicine (TM) will kill their child. (Or, if you want to split hairs, you could equally claim that they believe that praying/standing on one leg/sacrificing goats IS treatment. Either way.) As ESquid points out, the “why” is important in law, and the “why” is inextricably linked to religious belief in this case.

    Now, whether or not freedom of religion gives them the right to ACT on their belief, is another matter. And I hope (pray/stand on one leg/sacrifice a goat) that the court will rule that their rights end where another’s start.

    *OK, “lawyer worth anything” is a dubious phrase, I realize that…

  61. @Martin Moran, your analogy makes no sense what so ever, and fails on so many levels… Substitute the last word with Unicorns, and you might have been closer…

  62. Martin Moran

    @Larian LeQuella, you obviously haven’t thought this through.

  63. Peptron

    @Tom Marking:

    I think you might be onto something when you say that some people seem want to have the Neumanns thrown under a bus. I think something similar with a twist should be done:

    I would put them on rails with an incoming train. The train would come from far enough to give them a few minutes of reflection. They would have 2 options:
    1- Stay on the rails the entire time while praying for the train to not hit them.
    2- Get off the rails.

    If they get off the rails, I would have to call them hypocrites.

  64. Helioprogenus

    This was a case of parental negligence, and even if they used religion as a crutch for their negligence, the deed is done under the guise of their precious “beliefs”. The problem here is that the defense will use the jurors own religious sympathies to sway them in behalf of the parents. Unfortunately, these mental viruses that we call religion will sit festering in the minds of the jurors, and who knows how it may sway their decision.

    If the girl’s parents were alcoholics and ignored her disease, then religion would not be an issue here. Her parents weren’t alcoholics, and they knowingly, for whatever ignorant reason fed them through their idiotic faith, allowed her to die. In their minds, they’ll justify this by saying that “it was meant to be, and she’ll be closer to god”. Well, how pleasant that a sky fairy can dictate how to criminally neglect ones own children.

    On one side of the world, a sky fairy dictates that you must sacrifice yourself in a fiery explosion that will cost many innocent lives so you’ll have some heavenly virgins, whilst the same sky fairy with a different nomenclature dictates that if you try to help a woman terminate her pregnancy safely, your life is worthless and you must die in a fiery explosion. You stick a rusty nail in a piece of stale bread, and you’re worse than a misanthropic genocidal dictator with self confidence issues, megalomania, and nuclear weapons. I can continue unabated with examples until this thread is 17 days old, but the common theme is that these poisonous religious memes invade ones mind like a virus and force otherwise normal people to behave completely irresponsibly and inhumanely.

    I’m sure these parents never intended to harm their child, but neither did the drunk driver who got behind the wheel of his car, or the contractor who cut corners and used weaker concrete in the buttresses, or the Chinese dairy owner who tainted his milk with melamine. The difference is that religion will be used to appeal to the sympathies of the jurors and may sway their opinions.

  65. Caleb

    Seems to me to be a case of someone refusing the rescue boat because “God will save them.”

    It’s sad to see people who feel a choice must be made between science and technology and religion in cases like this. Why can’t the advancements and science and technology be viewed as gifts from God brought about by enlightened men and women in the scientific community?

    Being a religious person, I hold faith in the idea that a being who I believe created the universe (however you interpret that) must have the ABILITY (not OBLIGATION) to heal. But since I also view scientific and technological advancements as God given gifts, the means to be “healed” may have already been given to man to use for themselves.

    In my view, the place of an individual’s prayers in the medical field is in tandem with the best efforts of medical professionals, not as a replacement for it.

    Of course, this is an extreme edge case of this kind of technophobia. I would bet that the majority of religious people would accept whatever medical advice given by their doctors while at the same time praying for divine influence.

  66. Nyx

    @Martin Moran

    You’re being obtuse and annoying. I’m sure you really have figured it all out, and are absolutely sure that you’re right, but I can almost guarantee that any argument you make isn’t going to be a) new or b) impress me. If you have some great truth to post, just do it.

  67. wench

    This made me think. I now have questions to which I don’t have answers.

    How does the scenario change when you have some parents who choose to live in a remote location and their child dies from an easily preventable medical condition because they lived too far away from medical care?

    How about a scenario where the parents simply have a deep and abiding distrust of doctors, and there’s no religious component?

    Is a religious choice different from these two choices?

  68. @Moran, basically your analogy is: “The universe exists, therefore God-did-it.” if I am not mistaken. That’s a classical Non Sequitur. I contend you have not thought it through…

  69. DTdNav

    @ Tom Marking.

    No. This is not like the Terry Schaivo case. Terry Schaivo was an emancipated adult when she made her own decision not to be kept on life support indefinitely if the circumstances arose. Saddly, it did when she had her accident. Terry Schaivo ceased to exist when her brain died. There was nothing further preventable about her condition or her quality of life. Her situation could not be changed for the better by anyone or anything.

    The Neumanns, on the other hand, physically prevented their daughter from receiving very attainable, very effective, and very routine care that could save her life. I don’t know if they actually would have violated their religion by seeking this care, but they clearly had a chance to improve her condition but chose not to. I don’t know where the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” comes from, but even if it’s not directly from the Bible it should be taught in every church.

  70. Nyx

    @Caleb

    You view technological advances as a gift from God? What about those people that worked really hard to discover that stuff?! ;)

    I have to disagree that this is a case of technophobia. They did what they did because of religious belief, not out of fear of medicine and technology.

  71. Matt

    Helio, I wouldn’t normally bother responding (because your ranting doesn’t really add much to the rational discussion — we get it: you think religion is bad, believers suck, etc etc, now do you have anything else to add? Something of substance, perhaps?), but in this case I just have to point out a slight flaw in your reasoning.

    You said: “religious memes invade ones mind like a virus and force otherwise normal people to behave completely irresponsibly and inhumanely”. You do realize, right?, that if you’re talking about a regular physical virus, then the parents would actually be not-guilty. Legally you’re not guilty if you’re too insane to know what you’re doing. So arguing that religion = mental illness actually absolves the parents.

    If you really want to exact justice (or vengeance) on the parents, you need to claim that being religious doesn’t exempt them from reason… Oops.

  72. UNDERCOVER

    The fact is that the opium of mankind is given far too much repect in today’s world and its being given a status which it doesn’t deserve. And this is what you get thanks to a biased press and biased social networking websites! Not to mention governments ruled by a bunch of dogmatised monkeys who say that they have to offer respect for a bunch of monkey-like beliefs invented by some ancient barbarians! It’s time to start fighting this viral mental disease called religion which is currently pandemic in today’s world before it literally destroys us or sends us back to the dark ages! And I’m telling you, in times like these it makes me wish that the Soviet Union haven’t broken up, just because of its state atheism! And right now China seems like the best place to be!

  73. Martin Moran

    @Larian LeQuella,’WTF’ where did you get that from?, in the comment I was referring to you were not objective.

  74. Laura

    Reading the article, it seems that when the girl stopped breathing, they finally decided to call an ambulance. (?) Why is it ok then?

    And an online faith group? Computers, OK. Doctors preventing our daughter’s death? Evil.

    The lack of any real thought or even actual love and compassion for their daughter is just unfathomable.

  75. Kesstra

    As a parent I would put myself in the line of fire for my children. Does this qualify as suicide taking a bullet or a bus for one of them because my love is just that deep and parenting instincts are just that rooted? So if it does then suicide it is because a good parent can’t watch their own child down when there is a chance in hell they could help them. Did they love this child? On some level they must not have cared whether she lived or not.

  76. Nyx

    @UNDERCOVER

    Wait… what? Do you mean opiate of the masses? Biased social-networking websites? Is this some sort of terrible attempt at satire? Well either way, good luck hacking away at your straw men.

  77. DTdNav

    Undercover,

    You would seriously choose China and the USSR over other secular societies? Opium of the masses? Methinks you may have your own “biased” agenda. As do we all, really. I don’t think I’d follow you though. Good luck.

  78. inertially guided

    I wish I had something constructive or profound to add to this discussion. Guess all that I can express is my sympathy for a young child who never had the opportunity to discover the wonders of our world, and who was lost to us because of stupidity.

  79. @Moran, then my apologies. I mistook your analogy to one I hear all too often. :) Although, there are many, many fascinating studies as to the origins of belief in the human brain, and how we come to defend things that have no rational need to be believed in.

  80. Ed Hands

    Bah. Rubbish.

    For every one overly zealous religious person there is at least an equal amount of non-religious committing equal or greater crimes. Yet it makes for a fine soapbox, so all you “anti-religion” zealots come out beating your chest and, frankly, being as unscientific about the entire matter as the religion you happily trash. Its called “Affirming the consequent” May want to look it up. Regardless, what is it called when you attribute a characteristic to a group based on the actions of an individual?

    Oh yeah…bigoty.

  81. David D

    @UNDERCOVER–

    Awesome in your ignorance and naivete. But by all means, please give those locations a try. ‘Cause those societies are/were all about the individual, and reason, and rational thinking . . .

    Let us know how that works out for you.

  82. Ed Hands

    @ UNDERCOVER

    “And I’m telling you, in times like these it makes me wish that the Soviet Union haven’t broken up, just because of its state atheism!”

    LOL!!!

    While I have nothing to base this on, something tells me that your experience with the Soviet Union is limited to what you’ve read in textbook.

    Fear not! Undercover. Your atheist dream state is but a mere plane trip away. The Cubans and North Koreans would love to have you! Your a propagandist dream! It may take a bit of work on your part, but I’m sure if you really want to you could get in touch with one of the consulates.

    Somehow, however, I suspect you don’t have the testicular fortitude to actually go through with it though.

  83. Papabear

    All rights have limits. Those rights are not protected anymore once they begin to interfere with another persons rights. That goes for any right, not just religion. This is a tricky case because if you prosecute these people, but not other parents of children who died in preventable ways….say not putting a locked fence around a pool and a child drowns in the pool for example, then it will be very easy for a lawyer to spin the religious persecution angle. Even if it’s not true. It will be interesting to see how this turns out, but I hope it doesn’t turn into a rallying cry of sorts to ban religion. I am not a religious person anymore, but I would much rather be in a country that allows me to believe, or not to believe, in any religion I want.

  84. David D

    Belief kills, eh?

    Bill Maher, star of Religulous, you know, that “comedy’ that skewered religious beliefs–one would think that, well, he’s got to be a pretty rational guy, right?

    Apparently, he’s not a big fan of Western medicine. On his HBO show in 2005, Mr. Maher said: “I don’t believe in vaccination. . . . Another theory that I think is flawed, that we go by the Louis Pasteur [germ] theory.” He has told CNN’s Larry King that he won’t take aspirin because he believes it is lethal and that he doesn’t even believe the Salk vaccine eradicated polio.

    Sometimes, “unbelief” kills, too . . .

  85. El Jefe

    Ketoacidosis is incredibly uncomfortable; to have one’s own child suffer that way is unfathomable.
    Hereabouts we have members of a certain religious group that were showing up periodically for treatment of rattlesnake bites (If you pass them around God will protect you if you’re worthy) I am happy to report that these folks and their “shepherds” were jailed for criminal endangerment; perhaps there’s enough precedent to put these current wackos away.
    I’m still incensed over both incidents.

  86. Helioprogenus

    @Matt
    Notice I said “like a virus”, I didn’t say it was a virus. Religion is an artificial construct of our naturally selected brain wiring and can be seen as a disease, but more complex than that. I don’t ever recall saying it was a mental illness either. I did relate it to something like (but not) a disease of the mind, but it doesn’t absolve the parents of their responsibility to their child’s safety. We’re not talking about paranoid schizophrenics here.

    In a way however, you are completely correct. Under the line of meme reasoning, the parents are a victim of religion. I don’t know if that is enough to absolve them of criminal negligence, and I would hope it’s not, but if religion the meme can subvert otherwise good intentioned people into something criminal like this, then we need to look at religion from this perspective. I know, one can argue that they were mentally subverted to suicide bomb someone, and hope that they can get off in trial as well. This then only highlights the further danger of religion. It can subvert an otherwise ordinary person into doing something drastically harmful.

    Nationalism is also a meme, in that in can infiltrate the mind and influence an ordinary person into murdering in the name of one’s ideology. Yet, not one person is absolved of this, because of personal responsibility. Another example is chain of command. If your superiors in the military tell you to perform a criminal act and you are caught, you’re going to be prosecuted as well. Just because there’s a chain of command there does not absolve you of personal responsibility. Just because a religious meme has infected your mind, does not absolve you of personal responsibility either. But the courts have to decide on how to assign personal responsibility when religion is involved in subverting someone’s mind. This is a welcomed debate, because it would mean that the jurors themselves have to come to believe in the religion as a meme concept. It would then mean that they would have to question their religions as illusions of the mindl.

    In essence then, if you do accept the religion-as-a-meme concept, then you’re naturally going to face the legal consequence of that being used as a defense. Would you then choose to ignore this concept, knowing that it does help explain the prevalence of religion in our society, only to prosecute the parents to the fullest possible extent of the law?

  87. David D

    @Helio–

    There is actually a study done at Baylor University ( I think it was released last fall) that shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.

    Even Martin Gardner felt that the decline of traditional religious belief among the better educated was one of the causes for an increase in pseudoscience, cults and superstition. He referenced a 1980 study published in the magazine Skeptical Inquirer that showed irreligious college students to be by far the most likely to embrace paranormal beliefs, while born-again Christian college students were the least likely.

    I don’t think the religion=irrational concept is as black and white as you seem to believe.

  88. chris H

    Tom Marking Says:
    “I find it ironic that many of the same people who want to throw the Neumanns under the bus are also the same people who supported Michael Schiavo’s absolute right to cause his wife’s death via starvation by removing her feeding tube.”

    Theres a difference between a live child with all his mental faculties and a woman that has the mental faculties of a vegetable. the things in her head that made her who she was were gone, so why do people still argue about it. when your brain dead theres only a human body but nobody in it

  89. Stark

    David D – they are making a non-existant distinction there…. saying that the religious beliefs of evangelicals and born agains are somehow less paranormal than belief in ghosts, tarot reading, astrology etc. is a bit silly. It’d be more accurate to say that evangelicals only believe in their particular subset of paranormal phenomena – Mary sightings, relics, miracles and such. This is not any better than believing in astrology, tarot, etc.

  90. Nyx

    @David D.

    I think the important question is why the educated lost faith.

  91. David D

    @Stark–
    The study showed that people with a more religious turn of mind were less likely to believe, and that less religious people, including non-believers, were more likely to believe in paranormal subjects.

    I see your point in that you lump religious believers together with people who believe in the paranormal; whether that is a valid way of looking at “belief” is not clear to me.

  92. MadScientist

    So what’s the point of punishing the parents? What about the bastards who promote that crap? The parents are victims as well; would they have let their child suffer so much if some money-grubbing idiot didn’t convince them that faith will cure everything?

  93. Helioprogenus

    @David D,
    I was essentially going to argue that the initial question here is whether the paranormal and religious belief are distinct or part of the same substructure of the mind, but I can see Stark beat me to it.

    The point I was making was that we have these illusory constructs in our minds that came about from the evolutionary pressures involved in the formation of our modern brain. It doesn’t mean that sky fairies are real, even if there are psychological benefits to it. Even if religion is an irrational argument, I’m not saying it has no place in our lives. It is a good indicator of how our mind works, and the shortcuts we take in our reasoning abilities. Think of optical illusions, although they’re completely unreal, the process that leads to them registering as such in our minds is absolutely fascinating. Similarly, religion should be studied as such a phenomenon.

    Incidentally, critical thinking is what must overcome the stranglehold of religion, not some other concept like astrology, spirituality, paranormal beliefs, etc. This is exactly what Phil and others like Neil Tyson are trying to do. They’re trying to interject critical thinking to overcome religious slavery, which is somewhat counter, but not necessarily any more effective than PZ Meyers or Richard Dawkins methods of public discourse. Whereas the latter are trying to confront irrational thinking more harshly and directly.

  94. Radwaste

    Four things:
    1) Please read up on the law. I’m seeing the terms, “murder”, “negligence” and so on. You should know that laws have definitions, which courts must be held to lest court powers go astray.

    2) In the Schiavo case, custody was remanded to the court long before Terry’s body was cut off. At that point, Mr. Schiavo was not the legal guardian and had no control over what-remained-of-Terry’s fate.

    3) Natural Selection would have eliminated the child in a world without available medical treatment. This discussion should also address the level of treatment a parent should be ordered to provide by the State, since it is the State determining what parental negligence means and the commensurate penalties.

    4) This is still better than this.

  95. MadScientist

    @Dark Jaguar:

    Kids are individuals and in human society we see the parents as having an obligation to care for their children. What we expect as humans exceeds what we observe in animals. Somehow this strange notion has developed in society where people believe they can do anything to their children and that no one else has a right to be involved. This may be true of the monkeys but humans don’t do that; we impose our own order on things rather than merely following basic animal behavior. I don’t agree at all with Richard Dawkins that this is a case of people seeing their children as possessions; such a view is not an essential condition to the abuse of children; in my opinion Dawkins has found his own little god to explain the situation and really hasn’t thought it through. Society in general needs to be educated and give up the ridiculous notion that parents can do what they wish to their children. Even today the government takes children away from their parents due to abuse and neglect; people like the Neumanns are no different and have chosen to abuse and neglect their child.

  96. Darth Robo

    Kesstra

    >>>”On some level they must not have cared whether she lived or not.”

    Maybe they cared.

    They just cared about God more.

  97. Bobcloclimar

    From reading the NYT story, it seems as if the parents didn’t actually know that their daughter had diabetes, merely that she was very sick – she hadn’t been to a doctor since she was 3, not sure where else she could have been diagnosed as diabetic.

    Not really sure if that makes a difference legally – what is the legal standard for the point at which a parent is required to take a sick child to a medical professional? May or may not have changed their behavior if they’d known what the problem was, as well.

  98. jeri meaux
  99. As a human being and a father, this makes me sad. A child lost her life when it did not need to happen.

    As a doctor, I also find it frustrating. Very often our proposed treatments are refused for one reason or another – and sometimes by parents on behalf of their children. There is of course the tension between dictating what parents may or may not do in raising their child on the one hand, and ensuring (evidence-based) care and protection on the other. It’s often a tough call, but in my opinion this is an easy one, as there is clear, effective treatment, which would have prevented the fatal complication of her disease.

    As a psychiatrist, I find it really intriguing that humans often seem to need to believe in something – be it religion, astrology, TV soaps …. As Helioprogenus indicated above, this seems to be a basic and perhaps hard-wired part of our mental functioning; it’s a search for meaning perhaps, or maybe just a difficulty tolerating uncertainty, with a consequent need for something concrete to look after/guide us. Ritual is another widespread and pretty deep-seated need, and I think possibly the biggest casualty of secularising society. We do seem to need ritual to mark important occasions, and this is increasingly lacking.

    Anyway, nothing can change the fact that this was tragic and needless. I do feel sad for the parents, but as has been mentioned, ignorance of the law is no defence. By extension, holding beliefs of any kind that lead to acts against the law is no defence. So the question is simply: does a parent witholding from their child evidence-based and clearly effective treatment for a life-threatening condition constitute a criminal offence? As a doctor, a parent, and a human, I hope so.

  100. Erin

    @Michelle, who said: “Quite frankly? I think that like alcohol, preaching religion to children should be forbidden. It’s just as dangerous.”

    The problem with that statement is that forbidding anything to a child makes it that more alluring to them. I’ve been drinking alchol since I was 5 years old, sips here and there, to try things (usually prefaced by my parents saying “Sure, but you won’t like it”) As it was never forbidden to me, I was never that interested in it as a substance. But kids I grew up with, where it was absolutely forbidden to them, ended up binge drinking an awful lot. I’ve seen it with other items as well (soda, toy guns, caffine, candy, television, etc). The temptation that the forbidden can have for kids and teens can be incredible.

    I feel religion is the same way. Forbidding it to kids will make it that much more alluring. Instead, teach about it, remove the mystery, and show/teach them clearly about each religions beliefs and ways. And then let them make up their own minds.

  101. TheBlackCat

    @ Bobcloclimar: She lost the ability to move or even speak a day before she died, she just lay on the ground moaning. It doesn’t matter whether they realized she had diabetes or not, her health had progressively deteriorated to the point where she could no longer move. That should have been a clue that they needed to take her to an emergency room right away.

  102. @magista “To deny her body nutrition at that point does no harm to the ‘person’, only the body. The tenant’s moved out; the house is empty.”

    You appear to be espousing mind-body dualism which is typically a religious philosophical position. There is no scientific evidence that the mind/person/soul is anything other than the operation of the physical brain contained in the physical body. Thus, harming the physical body can harm the person.

  103. @Cindy “I also believe Terri Schiavo expressed that she would not have wanted to be kept in a persistent vegetative state before she lapsed into a coma.”

    No, there was no living will signed by Terri Schiavo. All we have is Michael Schiavo’s word for it. It is much more likely IMHO that Micahel Schiavo wanted to cover up his role in causing his wife’s coma to begin with (which started when she was found lying on the floor of their house with suspicious bruises on her arms and legs). Terri’s mother and father did not want to pull the plug on her life support. They offered to take care of their daughter and absolve Michael Shiavo of all financial and other responsibility for her maintenance. They urged him to get a divorce and walk away from the situation which he could have done freely. He refused citing this supposed conversation with Terri which no one else can vouch for. He cremated Terri’s remains and didn’t invite her parents to the funeral. That’s awfully suspicious IMHO. I think the dude got away with murder to be quite frank about it.

  104. Helioprogenus

    @Tom Marking

    Aren’t you kind of jumping to conclusions here with limited data? You’re not willing to give the benefit of doubt to Michael Schiavo. Is it possible your belief of his guilt is clouded by your personal religious or spiritual beliefs?

    Also, as I recall, Teri Schiavo’s subsequent coma was shown to be related to either bulimia or low levels of electrolytes. If her husband was involved in some kind of domestic violence as you say, then why wouldn’t he just allow the parents to take care of her? It wasn’t like she was coming out of her coma, and her persistent vegetative state would not have improved, considering the extensive brain damage. Time had very easily erased any possibility of physical evidence of abuse, and documents of that would already have been released had he been guilty of that (especially after the case was under such a microscope). If he was responsible, then by all means, he could have easily absolved that responsibility as per her parent’s insistence. As far as her living will not being signed, how many people her age have one? Further, there is little proof of many conversations between husband and wife. That doesn’t mean those conversations never existed.

  105. TheBlackCat

    @ Tom Marking:

    “You appear to be espousing mind-body dualism which is typically a religious philosophical position. There is no scientific evidence that the mind/person/soul is anything other than the operation of the physical brain contained in the physical body. Thus, harming the physical body can harm the person.”

    No, you are missing the point. Terri Schiavo’s brain was essentially gone, dead. There is no mind without the brain. There is no dualism here, destruction of the physical brain results in destruction of the mind as well. Terri Schiavo’s brain was destroyed. She could not and would not recover.

    “No, there was no living will signed by Terri Schiavo. All we have is Michael Schiavo’s word for it. ”

    Which is considered sufficient in that state and many others. The spouse’s word is considered sufficient for many medical decisions, it is an inherent part of being married in this country. Now if there is any evidence that Mr. Shiavo is lying, that is something else. But there isn’t.

    “It is much more likely IMHO that Micahel Schiavo wanted to cover up his role in causing his wife’s coma to begin with (which started when she was found lying on the floor of their house with suspicious bruises on her arms and legs).”

    There was an extensive autopsy done, a voluntary one that Mr. Shiavo requested to silence any remaining doubts, which showed no evidence of any wrongdoing. Several independent doctors appointed by various courts and government bodies attested to the fact that Schiavo’s brain was gone and there was absolutely no chance of recovery. The autopsy backed this up. The only doctor to express any doubts about this was the one hired by the parents, the one hired by Mr. Schiavo and, more importantly, all of the doctors hired by the court and by the government agreed. This even includes the doctor hired by the Governor, and the Governor was a strong supporter of Terri’s parents. He even broke the law to try to stop it even after the doctor he selected told him not to.

    “Terri’s mother and father did not want to pull the plug on her life support. They offered to take care of their daughter and absolve Michael Shiavo of all financial and other responsibility for her maintenance. They urged him to get a divorce and walk away from the situation which he could have done freely.”

    This isn’t a matter of handing over responsibility, this is a matter of following someone’s own wishes. In that state, and many others, such conversations are considered sufficient. The parents didn’t even had that much, all they had was their belief, based on their own religious convictions, that she would not want that. They tried to force everyone else to follow their wishes instead of hers or her husband’s. And considering there was absolutely, positively zero chance of recovery on her part there was no risk to her from the whole thing.

    Mr. Schiavo did absolutely everything possible to satisfy her parents and all his other critics, short of violating the trust his wife had put in him when she told him her wishes on the matter.

    “He cremated Terri’s remains and didn’t invite her parents to the funeral. That’s awfully suspicious IMHO. I think the dude got away with murder to be quite frank about it.”

    He cremated her remains after an extensive autopsy by an independent group. He didn’t invite her parents to the funeral because they used extremely deceptive tactics to put him through hell for years when his wife’s wishes and the law were clearly on his side. They tried to impose their own beliefs on her when they had absolutely no right, legally or ethically, to do so. I can’t blame him for not wanting them at the funeral. Ignoring the fact that there is a very strong possibility that they would cause some sort of scene, their behavior through the whole ordeal was totally inappropriate.

    Since the autopsy didn’t show any trace of any wrongdoing then Mr. Schiavo had absolutely nothing to gain by pulling the plug. There was nothing for him to cover up, if there was the autopsy would have shown it. If the autopsy didn’t show it then he had nothing to be afraid of by letting her continue to “live (I use the term “live” very loosely, she was dead in any meaningful sense of the word).

    Unless you have an actual evidence implicating Mr. Shiavo, either of harming his wife or of lying about her wishes, then let’s hear it. Otherwise you are accusing a man of murder based on nothing but your own totally unfounded suspicions, which I think is horrible.

  106. It seems to me that the defendants’ faith is irrelevant in such a case, unless a claim is made for diminished responsibility or, perhaps, insanity.

    For God to become a relevant defence in the case, the court must surely have to accept the premise that God chose not to save this child. If the court can do that, for this case, then it must surely do it for all cases, regardless of the faith of the defendant(s) and therefore deem all deaths to be the result of God’s failure to prevent the death.

    Indeed, our courts would become useless since everything would be deemed to be an act (or the inaction) of God.

  107. MarkH

    This kinof reminds me of the the man who survived a shipwreck. He is floating on a plank of wood riding the storm that sunk his boat, a raft passes buy and the man in the raft says give me your hand. The man in the water says “thank you but I have prayed to God and he will save me”. The man in the raft is swept away by a wave and is gone from site. The next morning the storm is over, a boat pulls up beside the man in the water. “Get in” they cry. “No, thank you” the man replies. “I have prayed to God and He will save me”. The boat leaves. Several days later a helicopter hovers over the man and attempt to get the man onboard. The man says ” No thank you, I have prayed to God. He will save me.”

    The man dies. He meets God and asks what happened. God replies “What do you want from me. I sent a raft, a boat and a helicopter. I wasn’t my fault you didn’t use any of them.”

    Supposedly these people believe that god is responsible for all that happens, for all that we are. Then how come these same people refuse to believe that god gave the doctors, that could have saved their little girls life, the ability, talent, intelligence and most importantly the desire to help people in need. If these people believe in god, the they should also believe that god gave those who become doctors their ability too.

  108. fpinkney

    While I’m not the slightest bit religious, I do believe that parents have the right to raise their children within their belief system. I don’t see how bringing up a child within one’s religious framework is any different than raising them to believe in a political system. For a true believer, is teaching a child to recite a prayer any different from teaching the same child the Pledge of Allegiance before he is too young to know its meaning?

    Having said the above, no one has the right to impose harm on another – particularly a child – in the name of religion.

  109. “I find it ironic that many of the same people who want to throw the Neumanns under the bus are also the same people who supported Michael Schiavo’s absolute right to cause his wife’s death via starvation by removing her feeding tube.”

    @ Tom Marking:

    This is a girl with an illness that can be easily treated for a fairly normal quality of life (aside from daily insulin injections) with her entire life ahead of her. Terri Schiavo was a vegetable. EEGs showed NO brain activity. Her brain weighed half of what it should have. Every brain region was extensively damaged. SEVENTY PERCENT of her cortical cells – the ones that control functioning to the cortex – were lost. It was irreversable, there was NO way she could have recovered. Most of her brain had liquefied in to cerebralspinal fluid!

    Click my name to see a comparison between a normal brain and Terri Schiavo’s brain. The dark parts are LIQUID. The fact that you’d compare a little girl with an easily treatable disorder to a woman who was, for all intents and purposes, braindead, is a little bit sick. Nothing to do with mind-body dualism here – your higher functions (in fact, all of your functions) are controlled by the brain, and her brain was irreversably, extensively, permanently damaged.

  110. TheBlackCat

    “your higher functions (in fact, all of your functions) are controlled by the brain, and her brain was irreversably, extensively, permanently damaged.”

    A nitpick, but that is not entirely accurate. A surprising amount of your activity is controlled by your spinal cord, although this seems to be a bit less in humans than in other mammals. If you remove a cat’s brain and put it on a treadmill it will walk, if you put a small rock on the treadmill the cat will lift its foot over the rock when in bumps it. A cat with a brain will lift its foot before it bumps the rock, but the spinal cord is more sophisticated than you would probably guess.

  111. Mark Hansen

    @Ed Hands,
    Is it bigotry when you suggest that atheists commit as bad or worse crimes than non-atheists? And do you have some stats to back that up? Wouldn’t want you to look all unscientific now.

  112. mnpazan

    I suppose I were Michael Schiavo I would have made the judgment call to consider the spirit of Terri’s request above the letter. I might have played along and allowed the body to be kept “alive” for the sake of diplomacy, safe in the knowledge that her concerns in asking to be taken off life support had been made moot by her actual condition. Under the circumstances Terri Schiavo would actually have had nothing to fear from her body being kept on life support against her wishes, since at that point she was already proper dead and on to whatever may or may not await her anyway, not trapped in the limbo of a functional coma. And, on the other tentacle, Terri’s parents really had nothing to gain from keeping her body alive other than a bizarre sentimental keepsake, like a lock of hair in a photo album taken to morbid (and expensive) extremes. Oh, irony.

    Mark Hansen- I’ve seen it argued on the basis that secularist states like the Third Reich or Stalinist Russia and it’s offshoots committed atrocities either publicly justified by secularism, or enabled by the “moral vacuum” alleged to result from the removal of religion. Personally though, I consider that argument flawed at best, being based on cherry picked evidence. Atrocities committed in the name of faith go back all the way throughout human history. It’s only in the past few centuries that secularism has really risen to any political power, and the difference between pre and post industrial methods is huge. The “moral vacuum” argument is bollocks in general, often enough even from a scriptural perspective. For every Stalin there’s a Jefferson, just as for every saint there’s crusader.

  113. Fleegman

    @TheBlackCat:

    So, with respect, sir, what’s in it for the cat? ;o)

    Oh, and prayer doesn’t work. It’s kind of obvious, really.

  114. papageno

    There was no removal of religion from the Third Reich.

  115. Dan

    I actually just finished taking a class in Youth Law that went over this faith healing issue.

    Want to know what we decided? Absolutely NOTHING.

    This is one of the toughest issues out there. Most states actually do maintain lists of what religious organizations are considered “recognized religions” so that someone can’t come out saying “I’m a Jedi!” and get all kinds of benefits and exemptions based on that. I have serious doubts that this “online faith group” were a recognized religion in the state.

    It’s a tough call. Overall, if I were the judge I would say that the State has a compelling interest in protecting the life of its citizens, especially minor children, and that, therefore, the state has the authority to interfere with the religious free exercise in this kind of case.

  116. TheBlackCat

    @ Mark Hansen Says: “And do you have some stats to back that up? Wouldn’t want you to look all unscientific now.”

    He doesn’t, because the stats say the exact opposite. Secular countries, and states within the U.S., have much lower crime rates (this includes free countries like Norway). Atheists are grossly underrepresented in prison populations. Sure, atheists do bad things, but as an overall proportion they account for a small proportion of bad things. Now you can argue with the validity of those stats as much as you want, but they are what we have.

    And to echo what papageno said, the Third Reich was not secular. Secularists usually do no have “God is With Us” on their belt buckles, while the soldiers of Nazi Germany did. You can debate Hitler’s private views if you like, but the Nazi ideology as sold to the German people was explicitly Christian. That is not to say that they did what they did because they were Christian, and I am not saying Christians are anything like Nazis, I am just saying it is incorrect to try to label Nazi Germany as being secular or atheist, it was quite the opposite. Communism was and remains explicitly atheist, however.

  117. gss_000

    Atheistic societies, like religious ones, have done horrible things. Take the Great Purge of Stalin’s USSR or post-Revolutionary War France. Not exactly the most benevolent time periods.

    “Secular countries, and states within the U.S., have much lower crime rates (this includes free countries like Norway).”

    Actually, that’s not necessarily true. From a Telegraph article:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1541699/Britain-tops-European-crime-league.html

    Spain, Hungary, Portugal and Finland had the lowest crime rates, yet from:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_European_Union

    Some of those are the more religious countries in Europe. I don’t think you can make generalities for either case. People are people and societies can be good or bad.

  118. Dan

    @ TheBlackCat

    And Godwin’s Law shows up. Of course, the Nazi ideology was not sold AS Christian. It did, however, play off many of the old anti-semitism views of Jews. Additionally, Hitler most definitely co-opted many rituals and symbols from the Christian faith.

    Of course, the Swastika itself is Buddhist/Hindu in origin, read into that what you will.

  119. Darth Robo

    Tom Marking, I don’t think you can compare the two cases of Schiavo and the Neumann family. Terri Schiavo was already in hospital on feeding tubes and her husband went through the legal motions to get them removed. Rightly or wrongly, the court ruled in his favour.

    Madeline Neumann never got the chance to have anyone fight for her treatment.

  120. Lore

    I think that before passing judgment on the parents a few things have to be completely understood by both those who are reading about this case and chiming in on it online and by those who will sit in the jury. That would be the signs of diabetic ketoacidosis(or, DKA). For a parent not to realize that their child is in serious danger when going through the stages of that…is just not possible. You lose weight, you pass out, you sleep most of the day, you drink insane amount of water, and after a point you begin to smell like fruit (or nail polish remover). The girl was likely skin and bones by the time she finally passed away. If the parent’s lawyers were to try to convince me that they “didn’t know any better” I’m afraid I would just laugh in their faces.

    You can look at a person and tell when they’re sick. If a person has a cold, you can tell. If a person is rail thin and smelling like nail polish remover/rotting fruit then you have to know deep down inside that something was wrong. These people knew – they even tried to rally more people from their online prayer group around them to send extra prayers for their daughter. That alone should convict them of wrong doing because it copletely negates the “we didn’t know how bad it was!” defense. These parents and their little group are complete trash. I hope they get locked up for a good long time.

    DKA is no walk through the park, I should know, I’ve gone through it myself. The little girl went through an incredibly drawn out and painful death at the hands of her parents.

  121. Todd W.

    @Lore

    Thank you for sharing the symptoms of DKA.

    Regarding whether or not they knew, I’m sure that they knew something was wrong. That part of it probably will not be disputed. However, they may argue that they did not know that she would definitely die, nor that medical intervention would have been better than prayer. The standard for the prosecution to use, then, is the “reasonable person” standard.

  122. mnpazan

    I didn’t mean that the Third Reich [i]was[/i] secular, just that I usually hear them cited as such in the argument mentioned. I guess my phrasing could have been clearer.

  123. Something else to consider in labeling “atheist states” as such: While such states rejected religion, the leader of such states (and the ideology) took on aspects of reverence as to be cults in their own right. Thereby accentuating the worst parts of dogmatic thought.

  124. Sorry for not responding sooner. First off, let’s tackle Michael Schiavo whom some folks here want to canonize into the Sainthood (of course, the secular Sainthood). :)

    @TheBlackCat “Unless you have an actual evidence implicating Mr. Shiavo, either of harming his wife or of lying about her wishes, then let’s hear it. Otherwise you are accusing a man of murder based on nothing but your own totally unfounded suspicions, which I think is horrible.”

    There is evidence that Michael Schiavo may have been responsible for his wife’s collapse. Unfortunately it was never strong enough for the authorities to prosecute him.

    http://michaelschiavo.org

    “Michael Richard Schiavo led a well publicized 15 year court battle to end Terri Schiavo’s life. In the early morning hours of Feb 25, 1990, Terri collapsed at the age of 26 of unknown causes at the apartment she shared with her husband. The night of her collapse, Michael and Terri had an argument. Terri had told her brother that she wanted to divorce Michael due to his abusive behavior. Several hours after the argument, Terri was unconscious. The only person who witnessed her collapse was Michael. Even though Michael knew CPR, he didn’t administer it to her as she lay on the floor. The collapse left Terri disabled and dependent on a feeding tube for her nourishment. Approximately 30-45 minutes after her collapse, Michael called 9-1-1. Read the St. Petersburg Police report here.

    In 1992, Schiavo won over $1 million dollars in a medical malpractice lawsuit against Terri’s doctors. The medical malpractice award was based on Schiavo’s contention that Terri suffered from bulimia, which allegedly resulted in her collapse. The medical examiner proved the bulimia theory to be false. Shortly after he was awarded the money, Schiavo began a multi-year campaign to remove Terri’s feeding tube and stop all medical treatment and therapy. At this time, he began a multi-year affair with the woman he would eventually marry – Jodi Centonze.

    .
    .
    .

    In January 2006, ten months after Terri’s death, Schiavo married the woman, Jodi A. Centonze, with whom he led a 13 year affair and fathered two children. Jodi supported Schiavo’s effort to end Terri’s life. She wrote in Terri: the Truth, “What happened to Terri on that morning in 1990 was God’s will.” Jodi admitted that she didn’t care that Michael Schiavo was married to Terri when she began an affair with him in 1993.”

    So the guy was having an affair which gives him a definite motive in getting rid of his wife. He knew CPR but didn’t administer it to his wife after her collapse. He didn’t call 911 until more than a half hour after his wife collapsed. And to top it off Terri had a conversation with her brother in which she told him she wanted a divorce because Michael Schiavo was physically abusive towards her. I’d say that makes him a prime suspect IMHO.

    Why does this philandering creep get to make the decision about whether to unplug his wife’s life support and her parents have no say in the matter? Can someone explain that one to me?

  125. http://www.covenantnews.com/newswire/archives/011058.html

    “March 29, 2005
    Why Hasn’t Michael Schiavo Been Charged With Criminal Adultery?

    Adulterer Michael Schiavo

    The attorney for Bob and Mary Schindler is David Gibbs, Jr. The Schindler’s legal team has met with Governor Jeb Bush “a number of times,” and Gov. Bush has refused to use the authority of his office to pursue the criminal adultery issue regarding Michael Schaivo. [who has co-habited with another woman not-his-wife for 10 years and fathered two children by her]

    Under Florida state law, adultery is a criminal misdemeanor. Gov. Jeb Bush is refusing to enforce Florida state law in an effort which could make the case that Michael Schiavo has a clear (and obvious) “conflict of interest”, and should not be allowed to continue as Terri’s “legal guardian.” During the course of the criminal investigation, Terri could be taken into the state’s protective custody.

    Gov. Jeb Bush has also apparently refused to pursue the allegations by the hospice nurse, Carla Iyer, of Michael Schiavo’s alleged attempted murder of Terri by insulin injection.

    Gov. Bush has said publicly he will not exceed his authority. However, Jeb Bush is deceiving the people of Florida and the American – the truth is, Gov. Jeb Bush is not using the lawful authority that he has to save Terri Schiavo.

    Unless he changes his behavior and acts, his life’s legacy may well be that of a Pontius Pilate, who stood by while an innocent woman was killed by the withholding of water, one of life’s basic necessities for any one of us.”

    Ooo, so a hospice nurse accused Michael of attempting to kill his wife by insulin injection. I think this pattern of behavior by Mr. Schiavo negates any alleged remembered conversation he claims he had with Terri in which she said she wouldn’t want to be kept alive in such circumstances. Mr. Schiavo has zero credibility because he wants his wife dead.

  126. @Cindy “No amount of treatment improved Terri Schiavo’s brain functions over several years. I also believe Terri Schiavo expressed that she would not have wanted to be kept in a persistent vegetative state before she lapsed into a coma.”

    @Helioprogenus “It wasn’t like she was coming out of her coma, and her persistent vegetative state would not have improved, considering the extensive brain damage.”

    @TheBlackCat “No, you are missing the point. Terri Schiavo’s brain was essentially gone, dead. There is no mind without the brain. There is no dualism here, destruction of the physical brain results in destruction of the mind as well. Terri Schiavo’s brain was destroyed. She could not and would not recover.”

    Well, there’s just a basic disagreement on what the facts are. I disagree with your assertions. They are NOT the facts. Here is an affidavit by that same hospice nurse who took care of Terri from 1995 to 1996. So this supposedly totally brain dead woman reacts to her name, uses the phrase “help me” hundreds of times, and laughs at jokes. Who knows how far she could have progressed in therapy if her douche-bag husband hadn’t wanted her dead. He apparently was overdosing her with insulin trying to kill her. That may have caused her to deteriorate later but back in 1996 she was partially responsive and her cerebral cortex was functioning at least partially. Wasn’t she worth preserving?

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1006944/posts

    “AFFIDAVIT
    STATE OF FLORIDA
    COUNTY OF PINELLAS

    BEFORE ME the undersigned authority personally appeared CARLA
    SAUER IYER, R.N., who being first duly sworn, deposes and says:

    1. My name is Carla Sauer Iyer. I am over the age of eighteen and make
    this statement of my own personal knowledge.

    2. I am a registered nurse in the State of Florida, having been licensed
    continuously in Florida from 1997 to the present. Prior to that I was a
    Licensed Practical Nurse for about four years.

    3. I was employed at Palm Garden of Largo Convalescent Center in
    Largo, Florida from April 1995 to July 1996, while Terri Schiavo
    was a patient there.

    4. It was clear to me at Palm Gardens that all decisions regarding Terri
    Schiavo were made by Michael Schiavo, with no allowance made for
    any discussion, debate or normal professional judgment. My initial
    training there consisted solely of the instruction “Do what Michael
    Schiavo tells you or you will be terminated.” This struck me as
    extremely odd.

    5. I was very disturbed by the decision making protocol, as no allowance
    whatsoever was made for professional responsibility. The atmosphere
    throughout the facility was dominated by Mr. Schiavo’s intimidation.
    Everyone there, with the exception of several people who seemed to be
    close to Michael, was intimidated by him. Michael Schiavo always
    had an overbearing attitude, yelling numerous times such things as
    “This is my order and you’re going to follow it.” He is very large and
    uses menacing body language, such as standing too close to you,
    getting right in your face and practically shouting.

    6. To the best of my recollection, rehabilitation had been ordered for
    Terri, but I never saw any being done or had any reason at all to
    believe that there was ever any rehab of Terri done at Palm Gardens
    while I was there. I became concerned because Michael wanted
    nothing done for Terri at all, no antibiotics, no tests, no range of
    motion therapy, no stimulation, no nothing. Michael said again and
    again that Terri should NOT get any rehab, that there should be no
    range of motion whatsoever, or anything else. I and a CNA named
    Roxy would give Terri range of motion anyway. One time I put a
    wash cloth in Terri’s hand to keep her fingers from curling together,
    and Michael saw it and made me take it out, saying that was therapy.

    7. Terri’s medical condition was systematically distorted and
    misrepresented by Michael. When I worked with her, she was alert
    and oriented. Terri spoke on a regular basis while in my presence,
    saying such things as “mommy,” and “help me.” “Help me” was, in
    fact, one of her most frequent utterances. I heard her say it hundreds
    of times. Terri would try to say the word “pain” when she was in
    discomfort, but it came out more like “pay.” She didn’t say the “n”
    sound very well. During her menses she would indicate her discomfort
    by saying “pay” and moving her arms toward her lower abdominal
    area. Other ways that she would indicate that she was in pain included
    pursing her lips, grimacing, thrashing in bed, curling her toes or
    moving her legs around. She would let you know when she had a
    bowel movement by flipping up the covers and pulling on her diaper
    and scooted in bed on her bottom.

    8. When I came into her room and said “Hi, Terri”, she would always
    recognize my voice and her name, and would turn her head all the way
    toward me, saying “Haaaiiiii” sort of, as she did. I recognized this as a
    “hi”, which is very close to what it sounded like, the whole sound
    being only a second or two long. When I told her humrous stories
    about my life or something I read in the paper, Terri would chuckle,
    sometimes more a giggle or laugh. She would move her whole body,
    upper and lower. Her legs would sometimes be off the bed, and need
    to be repositioned. I made numerous entries into the nursing notes in
    her chart, stating verbatim what she said and her various behaviors, but
    by my next on-duty shift, the notes would be deleted from her chart.
    Every time I made a positive entry about any responsiveness of Terri’s,
    someone would remove it after my shift ended. Michael always
    demanded to see her chart as soon as he arrived, and would take it in
    her room with him. I documented Terri’s rehab potential well,
    writing whole pages about Terri’s responsiveness, but they would
    always be deleted by the next time I saw her chart. The reason I wrote
    so much was that everybody else seemed to be afraid to make positive
    entries for fear of their jobs, but I felt very strongly that a nurses job
    was to accurately record everything we see and hear that bears on a
    patients condition and their family. I upheld the Nurses Practice Act,
    and if it cost me my job, I was willing to accept that.

    9. Throughout my time at Palm Gardens, Michael Schiavo was focused
    on Terri’s death. Michael would say “When is she going to die?,”
    “Has she died yet?” and “When is that bitch gonna die?” These
    statements were common knowledge at Palm Gardens, as he would
    make them casually in passing, without regard even for who he was
    talking to, as long as it was a staff member. Other statements which I
    recall him making include “Can’t anything be done to accelerate her
    death – won’t she ever die?” When she wouldn’t die, Michael would
    be furious. Michael was also adamant that the family should not be
    given information. He made numerous statements such as “Make sure
    the parents aren’t contacted.” I recorded Michael’s statements word
    for word in Terri’s chart, but these entries were also deleted after the
    end of my shift. Standing orders were that the family wasn’t to be
    contacted, in fact, there was a large sign in the front of her chart that
    said under no circumstances was her family to be called, call Michael
    immediately, but I would call them, anyway, because I thought they
    should know about their daughter.

    10. Any time Terri would be sick, like with a UTI or fluid buildup in her
    lungs, colds, or pneumonia, Michael would be visibly excited, thrilled
    even, hoping that she would die. He would say something like,
    “Hallelujah! You’ve made my day!” He would call me, as I was the
    nurse supervisor on the floor, and ask for every little detail about her
    temperature, blood pressure, etc., and would call back frequently
    asking if she was dead yet. He would blurt out “I’m going to be rich!”
    and would talk about all the things he would buy when Terri died,
    which included a new car, a new boat, and going to Europe, among
    other things.

    11. When Michael visited Terri, he always came alone and always had the
    door closed and locked while he was with Terri. He would typically
    be there about twenty minutes or so. When he left Terri would be
    trembling, crying hysterically, and would be very pale and have cold
    sweats. It looked to me like Terri was having a hypoglycemic reaction,
    so I’d check her blood sugar. The glucometer reading would be so low
    it was below the range where it would register an actual number
    reading. I would put dextrose in Terri’s mouth to counteract it. This
    happened about five times on my shift, as I recall. Normally Terri’s
    blood sugar levels were very stable due to the uniformity of her diet
    through tube feeding. It is medically possible that Michael injected
    Terri with Regular insulin, which is very fast acting, but I don’t have
    any way of knowing for sure.

    12. The longer I was employed at Palm Gardens the more concerned I
    became about patient care, both relating to Terri Schiavo, for the
    reasons I’ve said, and other patients, too. There was an LPN named
    Carolyn Adams, known as “Andy” Adams who was a particular
    concern. An unusual number of patients seemed to die on her shift,
    but she was completely unconcerned, making statements such as
    “They are old – let them die.” I couldn’t believe her attitude or the fact
    that it didn’t seem to attract any attention. She made many comments
    about Terri being a waste of money, that she should die. She said it
    was costing Michael a lot of money to keep her alive, and that he
    complained about it constantly (I heard him complain about it all the
    time, too.) Both Michael and Adams said that she would be worth
    more to him if she were dead. I ultimately called the police relative to
    this situation, and was terminated the next day. Other reasons were
    cited, but I was convinced it was because of my “rocking the boat.”

    13. Ms. Adams was one of the people who did not seem to be intimidated
    by Michael. In fact, they seemed to be very close, and Adams would
    do whatever Michael told her. Michael sometimes called Adams at
    night and spoke at length. I was not able to hear the content of these
    phone calls, but I knew it was him talking to her because she would
    tell me afterward and relay orders from him.

    14. I have contacted the Schindler family because I just couldn’t stand by
    and let Terri die without the truth being known.

    FURTHER AFFIANT SAYETH NAUGHT.

    signed
    CARLA SAUER IYER, R.N.

    The foregoing instrument was acknowledged before me this 29 day of August,
    2003, by CARLA SAUER IYER, R.N., who produced her Florida’s driver’s license
    as identification, and who did take an oath.

    signed Patricia J. Anderson
    Notary Public

    My commission expires
    Notary seal of Patricia J. Anderson”

  127. *crickets*

    *crickets*

    *crickets*

    The defenders of Michael Schiavo are awfully silent today. :)

  128. This is one of those times when the problem is unsuited to the assumed solution.

    We have agreed in this country (the U.S.) that religious freedom is in and of itself a good. Of course, if you want to debate that there are certainly reasonable positions on either side, but for the purposes of my analysis, I’m taking that as an existing assumption (in any event, it is a practical given, so the meta discussion isn’t germane to the immediate issue).

    Given: religious freedom is good
    Given: some religions have belief systems that run counter to empirical rationalism

    We therefore have a situation where occasionally it will come to pass that under these two givens, someone will execute a behavior that runs counter to empirical rationalism. We choose, in this country, to accept that this is an occasional outcome of our givens; the overall good of religious freedom, in a societal sense, outweighs this occasional exception scenario.

    Some people in the comment thread are attempting to “squeeze” the exception scenario into the rules, by attempting to finesse a set of laws that will reduce the frequency of the exception scenario. I would argue that this is the incorrect approach, for several reasons.

    First of all, there is the practical problem that it is difficult (as other posters have pointed out) to quantify “belief”; any attempt to prove negligence requires you to show that the parents had the intention to harm their child.

    Secondly, generally speaking I’m not a fan of legislating morality any more than we absolutely have to, because the resulting law is usually badly worded, poorly implemented, and usually results in misuse anyway (sections of the country that are strongly religious will have a practical implementation of the law that is wildly different from other sections of the country that are less or differently religious… and worse, the “community standard” premise that is so often used in these cases can actually result in a tyranny).

    The idea that we can (or should) legislate what is and isn’t acceptable religious freedom actually maps directly onto my criticism of the “pro-life” movement: you are attempting to correct what you regard as horrible behavior using a mechanism that is unsuited to the purpose… and if you succeed, the unintended consequences of your success (which you’re probably not even considering) are likely to outweigh the goodness.

    You can’t make people who don’t believe in rational empiricism follow rational empiricism by legislating it. You can’t make people who measure goodness by adherence to a set of religious dogma match their measurements to people who believe in utilitarianism (or, for that matter, match another religious dogma).

    Now, there are some exception scenarios (say, for example, a religion that promotes human sacrifice) wherein there is an obvious huge negative result that must, for the sake of overall societal stability, be taken into account. You can’t have a stable society if people in purple robes have a right to kill people. However, when it comes to the question of “allowing people to raise their children as they see fit” there are consequences to curtailing those behaviors, and it is very easy to attempt to remove one exception from the possible list only to introduce several others.

    Yeah, is sucks that people with religious freedom refuse medical treatment for their children. Yeah, it sucks that people with religious freedom refuse medical treatment for themselves. Yeah, it sucks that people with religious freedom attempt to legislate their religion. It also sucks to try to take away religious freedom, because attempting to do that usually not only fails miserably, it also usually results in all kinds of unintended consequences.

    Imprisoning the parents isn’t the answer – you’re not even punishing them for their societal transgression, you’re martyring them for their faith. The result isn’t even what you’re looking for.

    If you want to reduce this sort of stupidity, you have to do it with education, and you have to accept the fact that it’s occasionally going to come to pass that education isn’t enough to prevent all the badness you want to prevent.

  129. @ Tom

    > Well, there’s just a basic disagreement on what the facts are. I disagree
    > with your assertions. They are NOT the facts.

    This is a pretty bald claim. There are many testimonials from medical experts prior to Schiavo’s death that claim otherwise, as well as the results of the autopsy.

    > Here is an affidavit by that same hospice nurse who took care of Terri
    > from 1995 to 1996.

    One witness account is precisely that: one witness account. The testimonial of one witness does not provide a credible counterclaim to a volume of medical evidence, particularly when lacking in any confirmation. To sum up the below: I find your evidence to be insufficient to back up your claim.

    > So this supposedly totally brain dead woman reacts to her name, uses
    > the phrase “help me” hundreds of times, and laughs at jokes.

    All of this is alleged, and has not been credibly confirmed by any other account. In fact, I’d argue that this has sufficient dis-confirmation. Some of this can be easily explained without assuming malice on the part of Iyer; independent head movement can be improperly correlated to “reaction” due to confirmation bias on the part of the observer, gutteral noises can be interpreted as speech, etc.

    In fact, I’ve found reference to a claim by Iyer that there is a video backing up her testimony, but that it was suppressed by a court gag order. And yet, I can find no evidence of such a gag order, or any other reference to the video itself. This seems to be a highly unlikely scenario; if such a video existed *and* it was ordered to be suppressed, I would expect to find some sort of reference to the suppression… in fact, in this day and age, I’d be astonished *not* to find some copy of it available somewhere on the internet. The fact that Iyer alleged that this video existed and yet I’ve been unable to find any reference to it other than her testimony would be (to me) a compelling argument that her testimony is, overall, of questionable validity.

    > Who knows how far she could have progressed in therapy if her
    > douche-bag husband hadn’t wanted her dead.

    According to the autopsy, not at all, as there were virtually no neurons left. The autopsy is available on the Internet, if you want to read it. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this copy (http://www.blogsforterri.com/archives/5050439_autopsy%20report%20and%20supporting%20documents.pdf), but I don’t have any reason to believe it is a forgery. The douche-bagginess or lack thereof of her husband is not relevant.

    > He apparently was overdosing her with insulin trying to kill her.

    Given the length of the court case and the legal fighting over her care, even if this allegation is true one can easily substitute the phrase “trying to fulfill her wish to terminate” for “trying to kill her”.

    > That may have caused her to deteriorate later but back in 1996 she
    > was partially responsive and her cerebral cortex was functioning at
    > least partially.

    You’re affirming the consequent here, and presupposing that (a) he was trying to kill her (b) she was responsive and (c) she was functional, all of which are open to debate and none of which I’d personally be willing to grant you outright :) One can easily say that all evidence of her being responsive is based upon biased eyewitness accounts seeing what they wanted to see, and there is no medical evidence to indicate that her cortex was indeed capable of regaining advanced functioning, regardless of its state in 1996.

    > Wasn’t she worth preserving?

    All I can say in this particular case is that I personally would not want my existence continued in such a state, and it is reasonable to assume that Ms. Schiavo believed similarly, barring the existence of some personal documentation to the contrary.

  130. Darth Robo

    Tom Marking

    I stand by my last post.

    You have often posted here taking a contrarian standpoint. And you often take the side of apologetics IMHO. Your bringing up of the Schiavo case is still a distraction as far as I’m concerned.

  131. @Pat Cahalan “This is a pretty bald claim. There are many testimonials from medical experts prior to Schiavo’s death that claim otherwise, as well as the results of the autopsy.”

    An autopsy conducted on woman who died as the result of being deprived of food and water for 13 days is of limited utility. Just what do you expect it to show?

    “One witness account is precisely that: one witness account. The testimonial of one witness does not provide a credible counterclaim to a volume of medical evidence, particularly when lacking in any confirmation.”

    As you are probably aware, signing an affidavit is the equivalent of sworn testimony in most jurisdictions. Thus, if Iyer was lying in her affidavit she opened herself up to a possible perjury prosecution. I think you have to tell us what her motive for lying would be. BTW, in many murder cases defendants are sent to death row on the testimony of a single witness. Thus, your assertion that a single witness account without confirmation is not credible is completely absurd.

    “Some of this can be easily explained without assuming malice on the part of Iyer; independent head movement can be improperly correlated to “reaction” due to confirmation bias on the part of the observer, gutteral noises can be interpreted as speech, etc.”

    LOL. She misinterpreted guttural sounds for “Help me” and did so hundreds of times. Yeah, right.

    “I’ve found reference to a claim by Iyer that there is a video backing up her testimony, but that it was suppressed by a court gag order.”

    Please provide the reference for that.

    “According to the autopsy, not at all, as there were virtually no neurons left.”

    An autopsy conducted in 2005 after Terri was starved to death and dehydrated for 13 days cannot have any bearing on the possible effectiveness of treatment back in 1996.

    “Given the length of the court case and the legal fighting over her care, even if this allegation is true one can easily substitute the phrase “trying to fulfill her wish to terminate” for “trying to kill her”.”

    Well, what you don’t address is that Michael Schiavo was in effect a bigamist living in a common-law marriage with another woman. This is not even in dispute by Mr. Schiavo himself. Thus, he has a basic conflict of interest. Any claim he asserts concerning a supposed conversation with Terri cannot be taken at face value because he has a motive for lying.

    “All I can say in this particular case is that I personally would not want my existence continued in such a state, and it is reasonable to assume that Ms. Schiavo believed similarly, barring the existence of some personal documentation to the contrary.”

    Ah yes, the appeal to personal preference. You wouldn’t want such and such to happen to you. Therefore it is reasonable to think that Terri wouldn’t want it either, unless there was documentation to the contrary. And I suppose now you will tell us that if you were in a similar state as Terri, you would prefer to be slowly starved and dehydrated to death over a long period of 13 days. After all, it’s the only humane thing to do.

  132. @Darth Robo “You have often posted here taking a contrarian standpoint. And you often take the side of apologetics IMHO”

    Phil is a big boy and you’re a big boy. I’m sure you can take someone disagreeing with you.

    “Your bringing up of the Schiavo case is still a distraction as far as I’m concerned.”

    I brought it up to point out that most of the people who want to see the Neumanns go to prison have not clearly thought out their position. Their stance is not: The preservation of human life through all medical means necessary is the supreme virtue and must be pursued over religious beliefs, superstitions, etc., etc. In other cases such as the Schiavo case they take the position that there are numerous caveats that must be taken into account and that medical science must be used in certain circumstances to snuff out human life.

  133. Helioprogenus

    @Tom Markin

    An affidavit from a hospice nurse compared to brain scans, numerous imaging procedures, and hundreds of doctors is solid evidence to you? Again, you accuse Michael Schiavo of using insulin to kill her? That’s pretty slanderous accusations for someone who has no defense against the core of our argument. You ignore everything else we assert in defense of Michael Schiavo, and use only one affidavit as evidence? This is pretty tenuous data that you’re using for your baseless accusations.

    Obviously, whatever ethical standards you’re applying to this case is influenced by your religious views. You want Schiavo’s husband to be guilty and therefore, you find any small discrepancy to attack his character.

    Further, you forget that the CT of Terri Schiavo’s shriveled brain was one of the numerous pieces of data that the doctors to point to her permanently persistent vegetative state. The problem here is that if you knew your dog was in a coma and unable to revive, you would probably like most people decide to put him out of his misery. Yet, if a man who’s shown to be caring and nurturing, with no record of misbehavior requests that his wife’s wish was a DNR, who had little contact with her parent’s due to their irrational religious views, he’s suddenly a murderer? This is what we mean when we say religion corrupts independent thought.

  134. Todd W.

    @Tom Marking

    Just to preface my statement, I’m not arguing that Michael Schiavo was a saint or that he was right or justified. I’m going to try to focus solely on the statements that you have presented in support of your argument.

    You mentioned that people are sent to death row based on a single witness testimony. Please provide a citation for even one case that supports this claim. It is my understanding that physical evidence is typically required, and a “beyond a reasonable doubt” conclusion reached, which is impossible based solely on a single testimony. One testimony might provide something that swings the overall balance toward a guilt verdict, but by itself it is not much.

    Ms. Iyer certainly has some motive to lie. She was terminated by the hospice. Her description of Michael’s behavior, if true, could also justify ill feelings toward him, though based solely on what you’ve posted here, we can’t conclude with certainty that she did indeed have poor relations with him.

    A couple things in her testimony that cast some doubt on it. Although she maintains that she was not afraid of being fired, and that she was concerned about the overall standard of care at the facility, she apparently did not report anything to the state medical board. Erasing notes from a patient’s chart would, I believe, be grounds for a charge of medical malpractice. Quite apart from the chart issue, if conditions were such that she had concerns about more than just Terri’s care, at the very least, an investigation of the facility should have been undertaken. It is reasonable to expect that a licensed practical nurse would be aware of what measures could be taken in cases of medical malpractice and mistreatment.

    Second, the affidavit is from seven years after she worked at the hospice. Particularly because of the great length of time that passed, and understanding the nature of human memory, the paricular words she ascribes to Mr. Schiavo are almost certainly inaccurate. It is not inconceivable that she is either remembering incorrectly and filling in the gaps based on her opinion of Mr. Schiavo at the time of the affidavit or she is lying about what he said. While it may be possible that she is accurately reporting what she heard him say, it is more likely that she is reporting incorrectly, for one reason or another.

    Others have already mentioned the possibility of confirmation bias regarding Terri’s reported reactions and vocalizations. In addition to the tendency for people to see what they expect to see, and to find patterns in otherwise meaningless stimuli (which Terri may or may not have produced), the amount of time between Ms. Iyer’s work and her affidavit again comes into play. Once again, in the seven years that passed until her statement, her memories of Terri’s behavior almost certainly changed. While the change may not have been much, the possibility must be considered that the intervening years, recountings of the experiences, hearing stories about the case, personal feelings and beliefs, etc., worked to solidify in her mind a mistaken memory of Terri’s functional level. And, as with the rest, there is also the possibility that she was lying.

    Finally, regardng the injection of insulin, you went from initially stating simply that Mr. Schiavo was accused of injecting insulin to stating that he “apparently was overdosing her with insulin trying to kill her”, as if it were established fact that he was indeed taking such actions. Based on Ms. Iyer’s affidavit, it was her belief that he was doing so, but she even stated that she had no proof that he was indeed injecting her with insulin. Be careful with your rhetoric. While you may believe that he was doing so, you have yet to provide any evidence to back up that claim.

    The affidavit aside, the Neumann case and the Schiavo case are not equivalent. The fundamental legal issues are different: the right of parents to neglect a dependent child (who by legal definition is unable to make decisions for their own care) by depriving them of proper medical care vs. the question of whether an adult made her wishes known to her husband regarding what she would want should she ever be in a severe medical condition. It is not a question of whether a parent has the right to decide to deprive their child of proper medical treatment, leading to death vs. the right of a husband to deprive his wife of proper medical treatment, leading to death. This is a very important distinction. It seems you have been trying to argue the latter. You sound pretty similar to the courts, in that they generally view life, regardless of quality, as better than death. There are numerous cases where the courts have rejected suits by those suing based on a “right to die” argument. I’m personally not convinced that life is necessarily better than death, but that’s irrelevant to this thread.

    Starting to ramble now, so I’ll just end it here.

  135. @Helioprogenus “Again, you accuse Michael Schiavo of using insulin to kill her? That’s pretty slanderous accusations for someone who has no defense against the core of our argument.”

    No, Carla Iyer made the accusation. I wasn’t there so I can’t make the accusation. I merely referenced it.

    “You ignore everything else we assert in defense of Michael Schiavo, and use only one affidavit as evidence?”

    Please pay attention. I provided much more than just one affidavit. Go read http://michaelschiavo.org for more information.

    “Obviously, whatever ethical standards you’re applying to this case is influenced by your religious views.”

    Yes, strong stuff coming from a fella who claims President Obama is a closet atheist based on absolutely nothin’. If we gave you a million dollars you might be able to buy a clue (Hint, Obama isn’t an atheist but I am). LOL.

    “Yet, if a man who’s shown to be caring and nurturing, with no record of misbehavior”

    You haven’t addressed Mr. Schivao’s bigamy. Do you deny that he was shacking up with another woman during his wife’s ordeal and that he fathered two children by that woman?

    “This is what we mean when we say religion corrupts independent thought.”

    Apparently religion is not the only thing that can corrupt independent thought based on your recent behavior.

  136. @Todd W “You mentioned that people are sent to death row based on a single witness testimony. Please provide a citation for even one case that supports this claim. It is my understanding that physical evidence is typically required, and a “beyond a reasonable doubt” conclusion reached, which is impossible based solely on a single testimony. One testimony might provide something that swings the overall balance toward a guilt verdict, but by itself it is not much.”

    Consider the case of Gary Graham who was executed in Texas on June 22nd, 2000. Only a single eyewitness fingered him for the murder of Bobby Lambert. There was no other forensic evidence linking him to the crime.

    http://www.crimelynx.com/nostop.html

  137. @ Tom Marking

    > An autopsy conducted on woman who died as the result of being deprived of
    > food and water for 13 days is of limited utility.

    I don’t know that this is true; I’ll readily admit I’m not a Medical Examiner. However, there is analysis of the autopsy report by doctors that state that the autopsy shows she was in a nonrecoverable vegetative state. If you’re challenging that statement, you need to establish your bona fides for doing so.

    > As you are probably aware, signing an affidavit is the equivalent of
    > sworn testimony in most jurisdictions.

    Certainly.

    > Thus, if Iyer was lying in her affidavit she opened herself up to a possible
    > perjury prosecution.

    Of course.

    > I think you have to tell us what her motive for lying would be.

    On the contrary; given the fact that her testimony contradicts the medical testimony (again, that I’ve read, you may have other references to cite) done by the actual brain experts, I think the burden is instead upon you to explain why an RN is more capable of providing an analysis of a patient’s state than several doctors… especially when there are multiple possible explanations for the RN’s testimony other than outright lying.

    > BTW, in many murder cases defendants are sent to death row on the
    > testimony of a single witness. Thus, your assertion that a single witness
    > account without confirmation is not credible is completely absurd.

    Your pardon, I was not clear. I’m not talking about whether or not a legal case can be made against Michael Schiavo. I’m talking about whether or not your argument is going to sway someone who is weighing all the evidence in question outside of the legal context. Quite simply, I don’t find a single eyewitness account to be a credible basis for counterclaim against a volume of contradictory evidence, and you’re not going to convince me without lots more. Inside of the legal context… well, more on that later.

    > LOL. She misinterpreted guttural sounds for “Help me” and did so hundreds
    > of times. Yeah, right.

    She can misinterpret a sound ten times and remember it as a hundred. And I can think of several thousand guttural combinations that sound like “help me”; certainly it is likely that someone hearing them in a context where they expect to *hear* the phrase “help me”. If you don’t believe this is not only possible but probable, hang out with new parents. They interpret baby babble as words well before an infant is actually using words.

    > An autopsy conducted in 2005 after Terri was starved to death and
    > dehydrated for 13 days cannot have any bearing on the possible
    > effectiveness of treatment back in 1996.

    Again, I’m not an ME. However, if you’re claiming that starvation and dehydration will reduce the size and composition of your brain significantly, you’re going to have to back that up somehow.

    > Please provide the reference for that.

    http://www.northcountrygazette.org/articles/062506SchiavoNurse.html

    From that, I quote:

    HEMMER: So you heard those words, “mommy” and “pain” and “help me?”

    IYER: Correct.

    HEMMER: Why was there no videotape taken of that speaking opportunity?

    IYER: That was back in ’95 and ’96. There’s four hours of videotape that the judge has put a gag order on.

    HEMMER: But you’ve seen it, you say, and that was not entered into court, that’s your claim?

    IYER: Correct.

    > Well, what you don’t address is that Michael Schiavo was in effect a
    > bigamist living in a common-law marriage with another woman. This is
    > not even in dispute by Mr. Schiavo himself. Thus, he has a basic conflict
    > of interest. Any claim he asserts concerning a supposed conversation
    > with Terri cannot be taken at face value because he has a motive for lying.

    Even if Michael Schiavo was not involved with another woman, his claims cannot be taken at face value any more than the parents’ claims can be taken at face value. There is certainly a large volume of doubt that anyone in this sort of situation can be relaying the complete truth; it stands to reason that both sides suffer from confirmation bias. That said, if Michael Schiavo’s testimony as to Terri’s wishes was accepted without challenge, she would have ceased receiving food and water permanently in 1998. While you can certainly argue that his testimony was of dubious validity, one can also argue that the parental testimony was of dubious validity, and the court decided between 1998 and 2005 that Michael’s claim was of less dubiousness. If you accept the framework of the Florida law (http://bressler.com/news/publications/BA&R%20Health%20Care%20Proxy.pdf) regarding health care proxies, then it’s quite simple… barring an advanced directive, the right of health care proxy (as far as determining life sustaining treatment) falls to a judicially appointed guardian, not the parents, and not the spouse. If you’re ruled to be in a persistent vegetative state and the judicially appointed guardian chooses to pull the plug, that’s it for you. Your rights are spelled out, right there.

    > Ah yes, the appeal to personal preference. You wouldn’t want such and such
    > to happen to you. Therefore it is reasonable to think that Terri wouldn’t
    > want it either, unless there was documentation to the contrary.

    That’s not an appeal to personal preference, it’s my own stance. If I happened to be assigned by a court to make a health care proxy decision in Terri’s case, that’s what I would have decided, based upon the evidence that I’ve seen. That is to say, it’s certainly reasonable to judge that both the parents and the husband have dubious validity as to Terri’s wishes, and they both certainly have vested personal interests in Terri’s state (regardless of Terri’s actual wishes). I would choose that particular path because of the medical testimony; IMO, regardless of the cause or when precisely she was no longer capable of higher cognition, she was no longer capable of higher cognition in 2005.

    > And I suppose now you will tell us that if you were in a similar state as
    > Terri, you would prefer to be slowly starved and dehydrated to death
    > over a long period of 13 days. After all, it’s the only humane thing to do.

    If I’m no longer capable of cognition, I don’t think my preferences matter a damn. I’m gonzo; I’m either passed on to the afterlife or (if there isn’t such a thing) I’m no longer a person (my personal belief in an afterlife being irrelevant here) … in either case what happens to the carcass is of no direct import to me. That said, I personally would wish that should I get into such a state I’d be allowed to die, so that the people who are left behind can actually get some closure and the resources that are being used to keep me alive can be redirected at someone who could benefit from the care. The most humane thing to do in such a case is probably to simply stop the heart, but such an option isn’t currently available legally. So yes, given the current options available, I would rather my wife choose to pull the feeding tube than keep what remains of my body running.

    Of course, I wouldn’t want my wife to *have* to make this decision (since it’s obviously an emotionally traumatizing event, one should spare one’s loved ones from having to make this call), so I’ve already made that clear.

  138. ZenNihilism

    As far as the question of whether the Neumann’s were aware of the seriousness of their daughter’s condition, it is interesting to note that while executing a search warrant of the Neumanns’ home, police confiscated (among a boatload of religious paraphernalia) medication and medical books. (http://www.religionnewsblog.com/20993/faith-healing-4) Now, the credibility of these books may very well be nil, but it leads to the consideration that they were not as ignorant as some apologists may argue.

    But that may be completely beside the point. As said in a previous post, when someone is suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis, you know something is wrong. The point where any sensible parent would take their child to see a doctor would have been reached long before her condition turned critical.

    Where I think the biggest problem is going to enter into this case is whether the Neumanns actually believed that what they were doing was sufficient help to their daughter. If they really, truly thought that their prayers were just as good, if not better than insulin shots, can they still be charged with neglect, or would they be able to get off on something like an insanity plea? (<- actual legal question. anybody?)

    It has been brought up that we don't know what Kara's wishes would have been had she been in any position to make them known. Two reasons this is a moot point. First, she was 11 years old. For seven more years, it is her parent's responsibility to make the choice that is best for her. Unfortunately, they failed this one quite spectacularly. Secondly, even if she did favor faith healing over western medicine, all that proves is that her parents had succeeded in indoctrinating her to their faith. I suppose in a way you *could* say that the parents are victims as well, but victims turned victimizers, in the sense that victims of domestic abuse often perpetuate the cycle.

  139. @Todd W “worked to solidify in her mind a mistaken memory of Terri’s functional level. And, as with the rest, there is also the possibility that she was lying.”

    @Pat “On the contrary; given the fact that her testimony contradicts the medical testimony (again, that I’ve read, you may have other references to cite) done by the actual brain experts”

    O.K. guys, so you won’t take the word of a lowly RN. You apparently require the word of a doctor. Well, how about this testimony from a neurologist who examined Terri Schiavo on September 3rd and 4th, 2002. Interesting how Dr. Hammesfahr’s testimony backs up and confirms what Carla Iyer was saying, now isn’t it?

    http://libertytothecaptives.net/hammesfahr_dr._report.html

    Complete report of Dr. William Hammesfahr, a world-reknowned neurologist
    September 12, 2002

    Re: Terri Schiavo

    I was asked to examine Terri Schiavo per the request of the Second District Court of Appeal. They requested that current information about her present medical condition be obtained. They also requested that an evaluation be performed to ascertain treatment options.

    .
    .
    .
    Medical examination and evaluations were performed on Ms Schiavo on September 3 and 4 with videographers present. Medical reviews of the charts provided were carried out, from which the above history is obtained.

    On September 3, I spent from approximately 11AM until 4PM with Ms. Schiavo, returning the next day to also observe Dr. Maxfield and complete my portion of the exam (which duplicated that of Dr. Maxfield, so I observed without myself specifically repeating that part of the exam that same day).

    The exam was videotaped at my request.

    The exam started with the setting up of the video camera by the videographers, with Mr. Michael Schiavo present. I then came into the room and introduced myself to Ms. Schiavo. The patient was looking at the ceiling in a chair. She had a wide-eyed look to her. She appeared to be aware of my presence with slight facial changes and tone changes in her body, She did not look at me, or turn to look in the direction of my voice, continuing instead to look directly forward. Her mother then entered the room, coming toward her and speaking her name. THE DAUGHTER IMMEDIATELY SHOWED AWARENESS OF THE PRESENCE OF HER MOTHER, LOOKING FOR HER, THEN FINDING HER VISUALLY WHEN THE MOTHER WAS APPROXIMATELY 8 INCCHES FROM HER FACE. SHE THEN SMILED AND MADE SOUNDS. Her father also entered the room with further apparent recognition by the daughter.

    The first part of this exam included observing her interactions with her mother and her father. Here SHE CLEARLY WAS AWARE OF THEM AND ATTEMPTED TO INTERACT WITH THEM: THE SOUNDS, FACIAL EXPRESSIONS, AND SEARCHING OUT AND TRACKING THEM. There are several previous reports by medical personnel and others of her responding to live piano music. Accordingly, I asked the mother to bring a tape of piano music. Two separate pieces were listened to. The first she appeared aware of the sound, but would not sing or interact significantly. The second she did interact making sounds with the music. SHE STOPPED MAKING THESE SOUNDS, WHEN THE MUSIC STOPPED.

    During this time, she would move her head and track her head and eyes to the sound of music, or her mother’s voice. I started my exam first on her right side, introducing myself and then examined her contracted right arm, the goal being to get a blood pressure, as neurological abilities are very sensitive to blood pressure. SHE LOOKED AT ME AND WOULD TRACK ME WITH VOLUNTARY FACIAL AND UPPER TORSO MOVEMENTS. I later moved to the left arm and attempted to release contractures there. In order to get significant relaxation of the arm to a degree necessary to obtain a blood pressure, I worked for approximately 35 minutes to release the contractures enough to get arm extension to approximately 140 degrees. During this time, the patient would track the mother or the father, depending on who was interacting with her. Interestingly, she appeared to respond to her mother or father by tone of voice. At one time, after working on her arm for approximately 20 minutes, and no further extension of the elbow was to be had, the father walked up and started speaking reassuringly to his daughter. The elbow immediately extended approximately another 20 degrees. This was during a time period that I had been talking with Ms. Schiavo, and the music was also running. Yet with neither the addition of the music nor my voice did the elbow extend. WITH THE FATHER COMING TO HIS DAUGHTER AND SPEAKING, SHE IMMEDIATELY EXTENDED THE ARM FURTHER. At other times, he ould speak more sharply to her, and she would immediately tighten, and appear to lose her spot of visual focusing, and her expressions would change. At times during and immediately after this part of the exam, she would also appear to voluntarily move her right upper extremity.

    .
    .
    .
    The general facial exam was significant for acne, probably due to a chronic stress induced steroid responses. No bruits were identified. Cranial nerves were intact, and THE PATIENT WAS ABLE TO SWALLOW and handle all secretions.
    .
    .
    .
    Alertness: The patient was alert throughout essentially the entire exam.

    Responsiveness:

    The patient would immediately respond to sound, tone of voice and to touch and pain. With respect to responding to those around her, she had limited responsiveness to me personally until approximately 45 minutes into the exam. SHE STARTED TO LOOK AT ME, against her traditional right gaze preference, about the same time that we started getting significant relaxation in her contracted left arm (the arm that had been contracted for several years.) She appeared to identify the sound of my voice, with the relaxation of the arm. From that point, she would generally look toward the sound of my voice when heard, attempt to find me visually, then track the sound of my voice in its movements, or track me if I was within approximately one foot of her eyes. Prior to that time, she did not track me, or try to locate me visually. When playing music, SHE HAD A CLEAR PREFERENCE TO THE SPECIFIC SOUND TRACK PLAYED, and would listen to piano music, but change levels of listening depending on the track played. Her attention to the music would not wander during the track she preferred. She would pick out her mother’s voice or her father’s voice separate from the music or other voices or sounds in the room, and re-fix her gaze to those people. She would tend not to blink when watching those people. She ignored her husband’s loud foot-tapping that went on for approximately five minutes at one point. SHE ALSO IGNORED HIS VOICE AND DID NOT TRY TO SEEK HIM OUT VISUALLY when he would at times interject comments during the exam or immediately afterwards.
    .
    .
    .
    Following Commands: At various times during the exam, I asked her to close her eyes, or open her eyes widely, look towards her mother, or look towards me. At times, SHE APPEARED TO PROPERLY FOLLOW THESE COMMANDS. Interestingly, some of the commands, such as close your eyes, open your eyes, etc. she tended to do several minutes after I gave her the command to do so. She had a delay in her processing of the action. However, when praised for the action, she would then continue to do the action repetitively for up to approximately 5 minutes. As we had moved on to other areas of the exam, at times she was continuing to do the previous command, then at inappropriate times since the focus of the exam had changed. During different portions of the exam, I would ask her to squeeze my hand on command, or, in the lower extremities, to pick up her right lower leg to command.
    .
    .
    .
    COMA PATIENTS CANNOT DIRECT THEIR GAZE TO SPECIFIC THINGS AND MAINTAIN THEIR GAZE ON THOSE THINGS REGARDLESS OF HEAD MOTION OR MOTION OF THE OBJECT. SHE CAN DO THESE THINGS. She appears to see things best at approximately the.8-12 inch area. She was best able to track large reflective objects like aluminum balloons or sparkling lights (for which a focal length limitation is not an issue.)
    .
    .
    .
    Sensory Exam: The patient was tested to light touch, pressure, and sharp touch and pain in all four extremities and on her face. The pain portion in the extremities was conducted by pinching the nail beds of her hands and feet. SHE CLEARLY FEELS PAIN AS THE VIDEOTAPES SHOWS.
    .
    .
    .
    Impression:

    The patient is not in coma.

    She is alert and responsive to her environment. She responds to specific people best.

    She tries to please others by doing activities for which she gets verbal praise.

    She responds negatively to poor tone of voice.

    She responds to music.

    She differentiates sounds from voices.

    She differentiates specific people’s voices from others.

    She differentiates music from stray sound.

    She attempts to verbalize.

    She has voluntary control over multiple extremities

    She can swallow.

    She is partially blind

    She is probably aphasic and has a degree of receptive aphasia.

    She can feel pain.
    .
    .
    .
    Communication: She can communicate. She needs a Speech Therapist, Speech Pathologist, and a communications expert to evaluate how to best communicate with her and to allow her to communicate and for others to communicate with her. Also, a treatment plan for how to develop better communication needs to be done.
    .
    .
    .
    Interestingly, I have seen this pattern of mixed brain (cerebral) and spinal cord findings in a patient once before, a patient who was asphyxiated.
    .
    .
    .
    William M. Hammesfahr, M.D.”

  140. http://www.lifenews.com/bio748.html

    Terri Schiavo Can Still be Rehabilitated, Nobel Prize-Nominated Doctor March 7, 2005

    Clearwater, FL (LifeNews.com) — Despite the contention of Terri Schiavo’s estranged husband Michael and courts that have allowed him to starve her to death, a doctor nominated for the Nobel Prize says he believes medical therapies are still available that could help Terri party recover from her disabled state.

    Dr. William Hammesfahr is an internationally recognized expert on cases of brain-injured patients. He has been identified in helping patients with chronic brain injuries from many causes actually leave long term disability, and return to work.

    Terri Schiavo’s injury, hypoxic encephalopathy, is a type of stroke that he treats every day with success.

    “We, and others I know, have treated many patients worse than Terri and have seen them regain independence and dignity,” Hammesfahr said.

    “There are many approaches that would help Terri Schiavo,” Dr. Hammesfahr explained. “I know, because I had the opportunity to personally examine her, her medical records, and her X-rays.”

    “It is time to help Terri, instead of just warehousing her,” he added. “She would have benefited from treatment years ago, but it is not too late to start now.”

    This isn’t the first time Hammesfahr has discussed Terri’s plight.

    Last year, he explained that, after examining Terri, he believed that she could eventually eat and drink on her own. He also said he believes Terri would be able to talk and have good use of one arm and one hand should be given proper rehabilitative treatment.

    Hammesfahr also said he thought Terri would eventually be able to transfer herself from a wheelchair to a bed.

    “The patient is not in a coma,” concluded Hammesfahr said after observing Terri. “She responds to specific people best. She tries to please others by doing activities for which she gets verbal praise.”

    He says Terri’s eyes clearly fixate on her family and she tries to follow the simple commands her parents give her.
    “She looks at you, she can follow commands,” Hammesfahr said.

    Dr. Hammesfahr was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology in 1999.

  141. @Pat “the autopsy shows she was in a nonrecoverable vegetative state.”

    Dr. William Hammesfahr, who examined Terri in person, concluded just the opposite – that she was NOT in a nonrecoverable vegetative state. I think a live examination by a world-renowned expert in brain injury carries more weight than an autopsy report. BTW, the autopsy report which is at:

    http://www.michaelschiavo.org/docs/autopsy.pdf

    does not contain the word “vegetative” anywhere in it. I’m not sure where you are getting that information from.

    “she was no longer capable of higher cognition in 2005.”

    Again, that is disputed by a neurologist who examined her in 2002.

    “While you can certainly argue that his testimony was of dubious validity”

    I would say it Michael’s testimony was more than dubious. It was a flat-out lie. Here is yet another affidavit from a former girlfiend of Michael Schiavo:

    http://www.michaelschiavo.org/docs/trudy.pdf

    “…KRT asked me if Schiavo ever confided in me regarding Terri’s case. I told her that Michael confided in me all the time about Terri. I did say, “I will tell you one thing: Michael never knew what Terri wanted. He never knew.” He would say to me all the time, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do with her. I just don’t know.” I told KRT that if he said anything different he was a liar and that he said to me many times that he had no idea what her wishes were…”

  142. Todd W.

    @Tom Marking

    Unfortunately, I’m not very well versed in neurological medicine, so much of Dr. Hammesfahr’s statement I cannot adequately evaluate. However, reading his descriptions and comparing them to this definition of Persistent Vegetative State from Wikipedia, what he describes does match that of PVS:

    Most PVS patients are unresponsive to external stimuli and their conditions are associated with different levels of consciousness. Some level of consciousness means a person can still respond, in varying degrees, to stimulation. A person in a coma, however, cannot. In addition, PVS patients often open their eyes, whereas patients in a coma subsist with their eyes closed (Emmett, 1989).

    PVS patients’ eyes might be in a relatively fixed position, or track moving objects, or move in a disconjugate (i.e. completely unsynchronized) manner. They may experience sleep-wake cycles, or be in a state of chronic wakefulness. They may exhibit some behaviors that can be construed as arising from partial consciousness, such as grinding their teeth, swallowing, smiling, shedding tears, grunting, moaning, or screaming without any apparent external stimulus.

    Individuals in PVS are seldom on any life-sustaining equipment other than a feeding tube because the brainstem, the center of vegetative functions (such as heart rate and rhythm, respiration, gastrointestinal activity), is relatively intact (Emmett, 1989).

    Also, a correction that I discovered in searching for more information on Dr. Hammesfahr. He was apparently not nominated for a Nobel Prize. There are several google results on this.

    Regarding his statement that he could treat Terri, I discovered an entry on Quackwatch.org, unrelated to this particular case, that questions some of his treatment techniques.

    Ultimately, is statement has not made the issue much clearer for me. Quite beside which, it does nothing to address the problems in Ms. Iyer’s testimony. The weaknesses I mentioned still exist and have not been mitigated by anything in Dr. Hammesfahr’s statement.

    Tom, please keep in mind that I am addressing only what you are presenting and am not offering opinion or judgment of Mr. Schiavo. There is a good bit of stuff that I’ve seen suggesting he’s a bit of a jerk, to be mild, but as far as the legal case goes, I do not know enough about the case or the evidence, let alone the specific legal minutiae involved, to come to a sound conclusion.

    At any rate, your persistence on discussing the Schiavo case is off-topic, having no bearing on Phil’s post. Ethics issues aside, once again, please note that the overall legal issues are different. You raised a valid question regarding the ethics of “legal” vs. “illegal” death and attitudes toward them, but the conversation has since veered way off course.

  143. I noticed your blog site when browsing for some thing distinct on Bing or google about topics related to movies, but I had the possibility to go through this article and I found it really interesting certainly.

  144. Christopher Robert

    Faith healing≠stupidity. I am a Christian and I do believe that God wants us to seek medical treatment in the event that we are physically ill. Whether we believe in the power of God to work through the medicine or not, the power of the medicine itself is something that all of us can and should agree on.

  145. Louis

    “I shot him yes, but i prayed it missed.”

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