16 Sep 2008

Religious sect at centre of malnourishment case denies medical ban

National Post - Canada
September 15, 2008

by Melissa Leong | National Post

The religious sect at the centre of a case in which a mother was arrested for removing her baby from a hospital does not prohibit members from seeking medical treatment, a local leader said yesterday.
The 22-year-old woman who is accused of refusing treatment for her malnourished baby won release yesterday.
Family members said the woman, who cannot be identified because her 11-pound, nine-month-old son is now in the care of Children’s Aid Society, grew up in a Methodist Christian home. Last year, she began meeting with members of the Moorish Science Temple of America, which has about 30 followers in the Toronto area.
The movement was founded in 1913 in Newark, N.J., by Timothy Drew, who took the spiritual name “Prophet Noble Drew Ali.”
Its followers believe that African-Americans were descended from the Moors or northwestern African Muslim people, and say it is a “way of life” rather than a religion. They prefer homeopathic treatments to traditional medicine, but are willing to “compromise.”
“We’re not refusing [the mother] going to the hospital and getting the medical attention that Sick Kids thinks this child should get. The child needs an IV to survive? Give the child an IV,” said Grand Sheik Kudjo Adwo Sut Tekh El, 33.
The mother, who is a vegan, sought advice from a naturopath about how to deal with her baby’s severe eczema and his apparent food allergies.
Friends say the quiet but attentive mother would put socks on her tiny son’s hands to keep him from scratching his blistered and bleeding face.
The naturopath told her to visit a doctor for a diagnosis so he could prescribe treatment, the grand sheik said.
At the Hospital for Sick Children, the mother became frightened when medical staff told her that they were going to call Children’s Aid after examining her son, he said. “[The hospital staff] doesn’t have the authority to say that she was being negligent. That is CAS’s job,” he said.
Police put out an alert on Wednesday after the mother left. She returned to the hospital on Sunday with the child’s 36-year-old father and a 24-year-old friend but would only agree to blood tests, police said.
All three were charged with obstructing justice after officers said they had to wrest the baby from the mother’s arms. Police are investigating the reasons for the baby’s “severe malnutrition” and further charges could be laid, Detective Mike Leone said. He said the child seemed more “like a newborn.”
The child’s father said shortly before his arrest on Sunday that his son was “fine, his eyes are fine. He’s a tad bit underweight. He stands up, he turns over, he’s OK.” The father appeared briefly in court yesterday at College Park and was remanded until tomorrow. As he was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs, he turned to the gallery and yelled: “It’s illegal. What they’re doing is forcing me to stay in here. They’re trying to break apart my family.”
The mother and her friend were both released on $2,500 bail. The mother, who also has a two-year-old son, is required to stay away from the Hospital for Sick Children and have no contact with the other accused.
With files from Global News
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