UW Professor Sheds Light on Faith Healing Cases

By: Clare Kaley Email
By: Clare Kaley Email
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Dr. Shawn Peters, Professor in the Integrated Liberal Studies Program, at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, has researched hundreds of cases involving the deaths and injury of children whose parents have chosen spiritual healing over conventional medical practice. He published a book called When Prayer Fails one year before Kara's death.

He says the ruling in the Dale and Leilani Neumann case raises moral, ethical, and legal issues.

"We find out about dozens of cases a year of children who die when they've been denied medical treatment on religious grounds.. They're so compelling since the legal issues are complex," Dr. Peters said.

The Neumanns case is so controversial because the State of Wisconsin has laws governing child abuse and neglect; stating parents can't be prosecuted for abuse and neglect if they choose prayer over conventional medical treatment.

"In the case of the Neumanns, they just weren't charged under that statute. They were charged under the second-degree reckless homicide statute and so, those protections that appear to be in the abuse and neglect statute were irrelevant because they were never charged,” Explained Dr. Peters.

Dr. Peters said if the Madeline Kara Neumann had survived her diabetes, the Neumanns may have been protected under the statute.

Dr. Peters says this ruling shows there is protection for religious healing, but the protection is not a broad protection. He says it could be taken up by the united states supreme court but that will only happen if the Neumanns want to continue the appeal process.

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