Today, David and Collet Stephan were convicted of “failing to provide the necessaries of life” to their nineteen month old child, Ezekiel, who passed away in March 2012 due to bacterial meningitis. Here, we’ll talk about Ezekiel’s story then analyze what occurred.
Ezekiel had been sick for about two and a half weeks leading up to his death from meningitis. Meningitis is the swelling of protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. While there are a few forms of meningitis bacterial meningitis is the most dangerous. Ezekiel was found to have bacterial meningitis. Vaccines are able to help protect from both bacterial and viral meningitis, however the parents advised that Ezekiel had never been seen by a medical doctor.
CBC News obtained audio recordings of the interviews with the parents describing the incident.
Collet describes that she gave Ezekiel “natural” anti-inflammatory, “natural” antibiotic, and “natural” antiviral medications in a shake, along with “Total Reload,” which appears to be a post-workout supplement. They also treated Ezekiel with garlic, hot peppers, horseradish, and onions. At one point, Collet had a registered nurse visit the home. The nurse advised that Ezekiel appeared to have meningitis and that the parents should consult a physician. Instead, Collet went online and in her own diagnosis, determined that Ezekiel “had about 95% of those symptoms of a viral meningitis.” The recommendations Collet read online suggested that the parents should “boost” Ezekiel’s immune system by “increasing it a lot.”
Collet later states that she performed two tests she found on WebMD, which Collet said “immediately” indicated that Ezekiel did have meningitis. Despite believing that their child had meningitis, the parents still did not consult with a physician. Instead, because Ezekiel was so stiff, they had to lay his mattress down in the back of the family’s truck so they could go to a lawyer to sign papers. Collet explains this process:
The family also called Naturopath Tracey Pike (who also goes by Tannis) to inquire about a product for viral meningitis, who suggested a product named “Blast” would treat the symptoms. Collet explained that the product is “filled with lots of homeopathics, natural antibiotics and an immune booster.” Dr. Pike herself testified in court that the family was told to take Ezekiel to the emergency room right away, however.
The family continued the homeopathic “medicine” as Ezekiel’s condition worsened on March 13th, 2012. Ezekiel stopped breathing that night. The family made two 911 calls (you can listen to the audio for the first call and second call). Ezekiel made it to the hospital in Lethbridge, where he was intubated then transported via helicopter to a hospital in Calgary. According to the medical report, Ezekiel was determined to be braindead on March 15th, and the decision was made to take Ezekiel off of life support on March 18th, 2012. The report said “It is felt that Ezekiel died after a cardiac arrest secondary to what was likely a hypoxic event because of his overwhelming bacterial meningitis.”
This story is obviously devastating and difficult to read about. No parent should ever have to deal with the loss of their child. However, David and Collet Stephan had opportunities to seek appropriate medical treatment for Ezekiel multiple times and failed to do so in favor of homeopathy and naturopathic “medicine.”
Do we have a formal education? No. Are we educated in it? Absolutely. -David Stephan
This, after Ezekiel’s father himself admitted to not being an expert in naturopathic remedies.
The parents appear to be anti-vaxxers. Ezekiel’s first interaction with a physician, according to the parents’ statements, was three days before he died when he had to be intubated.
Additionally, Ezekiel’s father (David) is vice president of Truehope Nutritional Support Inc, a company created by David’s own father. The company’s website offers various dietary supplements, but their flagship product is EMPowerplus, which is lauded as a one stop cure-all for Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety, Depression, Fatigue, and will “help” Autism.
Homeopathy itself is based on the notion that extremely dilute quantities of medication can treat ailments. In homeopathy, this is explained by something they call “water memory.” The hypothesis is that water remembers the medication it was once a part of, making the minute amount in the homeopathic remedy effective. If true, this would redefine the laws of physics as we know them. However, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that water remembers the substance it was once in. This hypothesis is also debunked simply by reminding the homeopath as to what happens when we visit the restroom.
Multiple times during the audio recordings, Collet says the “medications” the parents gave to their child contained “immune boosters.” This is another pseudoscientific buzzword. You do not want to “boost” your immune system, and even if you did want to, you can’t. If you boost your immune system, you’re going to have some serious problems. There’s a name for that type of thing: an autoimmune disease.
If this comes into question of whether this is a case of negligence or not, of course I would say no, I would say it’s completely the opposite. We’ve gone above and beyond where he has received exceptional care. -David Stephan
Bullshit. Had he received “exceptional care,” he would have seen a doctor before the week that he died. He would have had vaccinations. He would have seen a doctor when he first became ill. He would have seen a doctor after the nurse suggested seeing a doctor. He would have been taken to the ER after the naturopath told the parents to take Ezekiel to the ER. Using WebMD to self-diagnose your child with viral meningitis is hardly “exceptional care.” WebMD is not a replacement for medical advice.
Had he received “exceptional care,” he wouldn’t be dead.
While we have no indication the parents were malicious in their treatment of their child, Ezekiel is clearly a victim of his parents’ medical negligence. Not only are they opposed to evidence based medicine, but the parents failed to seek professional medical assistance from a physician, even when told to do so by other medical professionals. By the time they did, it was too late.
Perhaps Ezekiel’s parents were victims of their own ignorance. Promoters of “alternative” medicine prey on those who are scared, desperate, and may not fully understand their medical concerns. They take advantage of people wanting a simple solution to complex issues. “Alternative” medicine simply is not safe. It is often unregulated by the FDA, meaning there are not strict specifications as to what it contains or treats. Despite this, the unregulated supplement industry takes in close to $37 billion a year in income.
As evidenced by Ezekiel’s story, “natural” remedies can also be deadly. In 2009, an infant died from eczema after being treated with homeopathy. In 2008, a teenager died of a treatable heart condition in favor of “faith healing.” In 2007, a pre-teen child died from cancer after the parents stopped chemotherapy in favor of vitamins.
Any “alternative” medicine that demonstrates effectiveness is simply referred to as “medicine.” The very basis of modern day, evidence-based medicine is using treatments that are known to be effective and carry minimal risk to the patient.
When discussing alternative medicine and why it enrages those opposed to it, some will ask “what’s the harm?”
Well, this. This is the harm.