Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Thursday, February 20, 2014

With Extreme Prejudice

"The details are extreme, thus the extreme charge of first-degree murder."
"Once we were inside the home, it was extreme and we did seek peer support and provide counselling opportunities for all of the first responders who were in that house and saw the boy in the condition that he was in."
"The boy suffered long-term neglect to the point that he was unable to seek medical attention on his own."
Staff Sergeant Grant Miller, Calgary, Alberta
Parents face murder charges
Parents of a 15-year-old Calgary boy are facing first-degree murder charges after tests concluded he died from complications due to untreated diabetes. CBC News

It is always a stunning diagnosis. To hear from a physician that a child has Juvenile diabetes, and must, for the rest of his life, take insulin by injection, test repeatedly throughout the day to determine blood sugar levels to enable appropriate insulin injection responses, and to prevent hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia; extremes of low- and high-blood sugar. That despite all the care in the world, the child may face a shorter life-span than a counterpart spared such a diagnosis.

The future is fraught with the inevitability of other complications arising from Type One (Juvenile diabetes) diabetes; increased risk of stroke, heart attack, blindness, neuropathy, limb loss. It does not describe the life-trajectory that any parent would wish for their child. That child, and the child's parents must learn how to inject insulin, where, when and in correct amounts with a view to stabilizing blood sugar.

Because the Islets of Langerhans in the pancreas no longer produce insulin; something has gone awry, attacking the immune system to destroy their function. Without insulin the body cannot process glucose; looking for energy from somewhere, the body begins to use its own stored fat deposits and the body begins to deteriorate. There are symptoms; extreme thirst, frequent urination, appetite loss or gain, and weight loss.

When those symptoms appear it means that the disease has progressed to the point where immediate attention is required and an endocrinologist is brought into the picture. A Calgary couple has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of their emaciated 15-year-old son. Their names initially withheld to protect the identities of their other seven children. An autopsy identified death by bacterial sepsis, a complication of neglect - and starvation due to his diabetes left unchecked.

Often it is the child, particularly teens, who refuse to accept their new status. And it becomes a struggle to have them understand and accept that a new regimen, with an important protocol will henceforth inform their lives. Despite which, once they have their disease under control, they will be capable of doing anything they wish; there are no obstacles to achieving success in most endeavours for people with controlled diabetes.

All the family's children were home-schooled. Aside from the teen with diabetes all the other children were well treated, they were well-adjusted children, respectful and happy. The teen had been diagnosed as a toddler of two. This time it was the parents who refused to accept the validity of the diagnosis. The boy was, as a result, hospitalized frequently in an effort to balance his needs due to sporadic treatment at home.

He was taken by child welfare authorities in British Columbia where the parents lived at the time, but a judge ordered his return to his family. And then they moved to Alberta and there was no way that his welfare could be tracked. According to the police, it seemed that there were instances when child welfare authorities could and should have stepped into the picture. "It most definitely could have been stopped before", said Sgt. Miller.

The family refused to attend diabetes support clinics. The child was admitted to B.C. Children's Hospital in a state of extreme malnourishment in October of 2003.  Before moving to Alberta, the provincial court judge who ruled the boy be returned home, despite evidence of irregular care and extended neglect, believed the social worker assigned to the case was biased against the family.

"The worker in this case failed to make any reasonable effort to live up to this duty and instead made every effort to deprive A.R. (as the boy has been called in court records) of his family." Now his family has deprived A.R. of his life.

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