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

Friday, April 29, 2016

Regret There Is None

"They definitely, definitely loved their son but as stated in our closing arguments, unfortunately sometimes love just isn't enough."
"Parents still have to follow a standard of care as set by criminal law."
Crown prosecutor Lisa Welch, Lethbridge courthouse, Alberta

"It's like a religion to them [naturopathy]. Studies have shown that some people are more likely to believe these kinds of things [all things natural trump science]."
"They're more likely to believe in the supernatural. They're more likely to be religious and they're more likely to buy the entire package of complementary and alternative practices."
Tim Caulfield, Health Law and Science Policy Group, University of Alberta

"Our doctors are required to understand their limitations of their practice and as such, when the situation arises where a naturopathic doctor recognizes the patient care is beyond their scope of practice, or beyond their limitations, that they would refer to an appropriate health-care provider."
Beverly Huang, president, College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta
David and Collet Stephan leave the courthouse on Tuesday, April 26, 2016, in Lethbridge, Alta. The Stephans were on trial, charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life to their son Ezekiel in 2012.
David and Collet Stephan leave the courthouse on Tuesday, April 26, 2016, in Lethbridge, Alta. The Stephans were on trial, charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life to their son Ezekiel in 2012. (David Rossiter/Canadian Press)

The science-nature dichotomy pits that part of a population believing in natural healing remedies against people who place their faith in medical science. This polarization comes to the fore from time to time when those who have trust in the potency of natural and/or traditional medications derived from plant sources without the interference of modern pharmacological strains held by science to be superior and specifically formulated to respond to particular medical conditions adhere to their beliefs and in so doing bypass medical science to the detriment of a patient, usually a child, who succumbs to a dire illness that would have responded positively to medical treatment.

And such was the case with David Stephan and his wife Collet, found guilty of failing to provide the necessities of life for their 19-month old child Ezekiel, who died in 2012 of meningitis, a condition which they treated with a 'potent' echinacea formulation obtained from a naturopathic clinic. The child's father is employed at a company called Truehope Nutritional Support, in Raymond, Alberta. In 2004 Health Canada had attempted to launch a court case to stop the distribution of the company's supplement Empowerplus.

The company had laid claims that its product could empower people using it to manage mental illnesses like bipolar disorder. Health Canada issued warnings to the public about the product. But in 2006 the company was found not guilty in court, of distributing Empowerplus without a drug identification number. The trial in Lethbridge against David and Collet Stephan heard evidence that the parents of the toddler Ezekiel had attempted to treat his illness with Empowerplus.

The child was so ill that days before he was finally rushed to hospital his parents had been giving him fluids through an eye-dropper because he was so debilitated and incapable of responding that he would not or could not eat or drink. Collet Stephan, the jury heard, had researched treatments for viral meningitis online before she obtained an echinacea mixture from the Lethbridge naturopath, Tracey Tannis.

"I will be ... gathering information about Dr. Tannis's involvement in this matter", Kristen Tanaka, the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta's complaints director advised, responding to a complaint by Dr. Michelle Cohen, a Brighton, Ontario family physician who collected signatures of doctors from across Canada, protesting against the health practise of naturopathy that placed Ezekiel Stephan's life at risk. Dr. Tannis testified in court that she had instructed the child's mother to take him directly to hospital.

Ezekiel Stephan died in March 2012. An autopsy shows he had meningitis. (Stephan family)

Found guilty of the charges laid against them, the parents of little Ezekiel will now face jail time. At the present time both are out on bail. And they remain convinced they did nothing wrong, that they are the victims of a vengeful medical community and an oblivious society that misplaces its trust in conventional medical science. Ezekiel was their  youngest child, they have other, older children upon whom they can practise naturopathy when they too become ill.
"I only wish that you could've seen how you [the jury] were being played by the Crown's deception, drama and trickery that not only led to our key witnesses being muzzled, but has also now led to a dangerous precedent being set in Canada."
"The floodgates have now been opened and if we do not fall in line with parenting as seen fit by the government, we all stand in risk of criminal prosecution."
"May heaven help us all!"
"It was just definitely heart wrenching to see the direction that it [the trial] went. There's the Crown's version of our story, then there's our story of us who actually lived it."
"Not so much for ourselves [considering appealing the verdict], but for the fact this sets a tremendous precedent for the Canadian populace. It would have been easier for us just to take a plea bargain a long time ago and just basically keep living our lives, but we didn't want this precedent being set. That's why we proceeded forward in the first place."
"I don't know yet whether we're going to throw in the towel."
David Stephen, father of Ezekiel Stephan

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