9 Jun 2011

Oregon parents guilty of criminal mistreatment of baby daughter for relying on faith healing instead of real medical care

The Oregonian - June 7, 2011

Timothy, Rebecca Wyland guilty of criminal mistreatment in faith-healing trial

OREGON CITY – A Clackamas County jury spent one hour deliberating Tuesday before unanimously finding an Oregon City couple guilty of felony criminal mistreatment for treating their infant daughter with faith-healing rather than taking her to a doctor. 

alaynagrowth.jpgA growth covered Alayna's left eye.

Timothy and Rebecca Wyland face up to five years in prison but are likely to receive probation and possibly some time in jail. They will be sentenced June 24.

As the verdict was read, Timothy Wyland slipped his arm around his wife's waist, and the couple stoically faced the judge. The Wylands made no comment after the proceedings. They walked out of the courtroom surrounded by supporters from their church, some of them sobbing.

The couple's daughter, Alayna, was born in December 2009 with a birthmark above her left eye that developed into abnormal growth of blood vessels, known as a hemangioma, that slowly engulfed her left eye and produced a goopy discharge. Despite the growth and accompanying loss of vision, the Wylands did not consult a doctor.

Jurors had the option of convicting the Wylands on the lesser charge of second-degree criminal mistreatment, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

The case is the latest involving members of Oregon City's Followers of Christ Church, which considers medical treatment a rejection religious faith. The Wylands are the third church couple to be prosecuted over the past two years for failing to provide medical treatment to their children.

In two previous cases, the children died. In the Wyland case, 18-month-old Alayna has improved under court-ordered medical care.

The swift and unanimous verdict stunned the Wylands, their attorneys and about 20 church members in attendance. Defense attorneys Mark Cogan and John Neidig quickly left the courthouse and declined comment.

In her closing argument Tuesday, lead prosecutor Christine Landers spent 29 minutes dismantling defense attorneys' efforts to portray the Wylands as victims of overly aggressive child-welfare workers who snatched their daughter and persecuted the couple for their religious beliefs.

Landers called the defense a smokescreen intended to obscure the facts and distract jurors.The couple had six and a half months to seek medical attention for Alayna and they did not, she noted. "They never would have. The reason why ... is because of their faith."

The facts presented at trial were highly unfavorable to the Wylands.

From January to June 2010 the Wylands watched as the growth on their daughter's face ballooned. Instead of taking her to a doctor, the Wylands relied on faith-healing rituals -- prayer, anointing with oil and laying on of hands.

Under Oregon law, a parent or guardian has committed first-degree criminal mistreatment if that person "intentionally or knowingly withholds ... medical attention."

Doctors who examined and treated Alayna after she was taken into state custody said she was on the verge of blindness in her left eye, and could possibly have lost the eye without treatment ordered by the court.

The Wylands testified during a July juvenile court custody hearing that they wouldn't have willingly taken Alayna to a doctor because it would violate their religious beliefs. The Wylands said they put their trust -- and Alayna's fate -- in God's hands.

The jury heard a recording of the hearing.

Instead of directly challenging prosecutors' contention that the Wylands intentionally withheld medical attention in the early months of their daughter's life, defense attorneys Cogan and Neidig focused on the Wylands' actions after the state intervened. They portrayed the Wylands as loving parents who fully cooperated with DHS and court orders once Alayna was in state custody, diligently attending doctor appointments and making sure Alayna received her medication.

Landers called the defense attorneys' attempt to focus on what happened after Alayna was in state custody misleading. "They want to minimize the conduct of their clients," Landers told the jury. "They don't live in some mountain village in Nepal where they've never hear of doctors."

Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote, who has had several faith-healing trials under his watch, released a short statement: "We agree with the jury's verdict and appreciate their service. There is another case pending trial so we will have no further comment."

Foote was referring to another couple from the church whose son was born prematurely and died nine hours later. They are scheduled to go trial in September on charges of second-degree manslaughter. 

This article was found at:


Oregon Senate votes to give equal rights to children of religious parents and end faith healing as a legal defense to murder

Faith healing parents guilty but unrepentant, will appeal jail sentence of 6 months for letting child die

U.S. father who prayed while 11 year old daughter suffered and died convicted of murder

Jury Convicts Mother Who Prayed for Daughter Instead of Treating Her Fatal Diabetes

Ex-friend says Wisconsin mother charged with reckless homicide thought illness was sin

Trials for Parents Who Chose Faith Over Medicine

Judge allows charges in prayer death case

Judge in prayer death case: I'm between 'rock and a hard place'

Prosecutors Defend Charges In Prayer Death Case

Parents seek religious exemption for medical neglect murder of daughter

Parents who prayed as daughter died ask judge to drop charges

Healing or homicide? The use of prayer to treat sick children

A Child's Death And a Crisis for Faith

Judge orders parents to stand trial in prayer death case

Faith-based prosecution is first for state, national group says

Faith, medicine collide, and a young girl dies

Law Sanctifies Child Homicide in Name of Faith

Two Wisconsin bills would repeal religious exemption in 'faith healing' cases, but only one protects children

Wisconsin lawmakers reconsider conflicting laws that fail to protect children from faith-based medical neglect

U.S. courts in medical neglect cases give more lenient sentences to faith-healing parents than to non-believers

Oregon bill targets faith healing parents who rely on spiritual treatment as a defense to homicide charges

A century of vaccine paranoia scares many parents away from protecting their children and communities from deadly diseases

Probation for fundamentalist parents who let baby die without medical care, ordered to protect other children from religious beliefs

Pastor and lawyer claim religious persecution of parents charged for allowing 2 year old to die from pneumonia without medical care

Philadelphia 'faith healing' parents face criminal charges for letting 2 year old die without medical care

Claims of persecution ridiculous in societies where Christians have special privileges to indoctrinate children 

Faith healing parents charged with criminal mistreatment of baby with life-threatening tumor on eye

Is it ever OK to seriously harm your child in the name of religion? If so, which religion? 

Should Parents Who Call God Instead of the Doctor Be Punished?

Faith-healing deaths reported in The Oregonian from Nov. 1998 to Jan. 2009

Parents and church members knew infant was suffering, but had no thought of calling a doctor

Prosecutor asks church members: What would it take to call a doctor for ailing child?

Jury acquits parents of all but 1 misdemeanor charge in daughter's "faith healing" murder

Verdict in 'faith healing' baby manslaughter case a miscarriage of justice

Trial in death of infant raises questions of parental rights, religious freedom

Oregon judge tells church members to stop killing children with faith 'healing', parents jailed 16 months for son's death

Teen died agonizing death from ruptured appendix while parents, relatives and church elders did nothing but pray for 3 days

Fundamentalist parents on trial in 'faith healing' murder case claim it was son's free choice to shun medical care

Faith healing parents guilty of criminally negligent homicide in son's death, but exempt from mandatory sentencing due to religious beliefs

U.S. courts in medical neglect cases give more lenient sentences to faith-healing parents than to non-believers

16-year-old with ties to controversial faith healing church, Followers of Christ, found dead

Exploring legal issues courts must consider in cases involving parents' use of faith healing

Courts face new challenges in faith healing cases 

$3 worth of medicine could have accomplished what prayer alone did not

Provision in U.S. healthcare bill endangers children by including pray and faith healing as legitimate clinical medicine

A Child's Death And a Crisis for Faith

Law Sanctifies Child Homicide in Name of Faith

When Parents Call God Instead of the Doctor

Trust in God - A look at 'faith healing' in America.

Little-known religions complicate faith-healing cases

Child deaths test faith-healing exemption

Christian Science theology opposes both medical treatment and diagnosis and demands denial of symptoms

Expert: Change in prayer law would protect Christian Scientists, not kids


  1. Faith-healing parents face manslaughter trial

    By Jim Hyde Sep 14, 2011

    A jury in Oregon City began hearing evidence Wednesday in the death of a newborn child whose parents belong to a faith-healing church.

    Dale and Shannon Hickman are on trial for second-degree manslaughter. Their son, David, was born prematurely in September 2009 and lived only a few hours.

    The Hickmans' trial is the third time in the past two years that members of the Followers of Christ Church have been prosecuted after the death of a child.

    In his opening statement Wednesday, the prosecutor said the Hickman's are guilty of manslaughter because they failed to act to get medical help for their baby.

    "No call to 911. No call to a doctor. No call to a nurse. No Internet research. Nothing was done," said Deputy District Attorney Mike Reagan.

    The courtroom was occupied mainly by members of the Followers of Christ Church.

    Some of them were called on Sept. 26, 2009, when Shannon Hickman began to have contractions.

    They joined the parents, midwives, family and friends to pray and anoint the child with oil in accord with their faith.

    "You will find that Shannon Hickman had excellent prenatal care," said defense attorney Mark Cogan. "These are women who delivered hundreds of babies."

    The defense said Shannon Hickman had received help and education throughout her pregnancy from midwives, who are members of the church, and who are registered with the state.

    Defense lawyers promised the jury will see video of a small, healthy newborn child.

    But baby David Hickman weakened and died nine hours after birth.

    An autopsy determined the cause of death: pneumonia, complicated by underdeveloped lungs and an infection.

    "It is most probable the premature birth was spurred by the mother's infected fetal membranes," the prosecutor said. "Mother never went to a doctor for an easily treatable condition."

    The defense told the jury that prosecutors treated the members of the Hickmans' church differently. They alleged that county investigators sought to "hijack the body" of David Hickman and have it examined by another doctor before the medical examiner.

    "This is a case of malicious prosecution of innocent people who did not commit a crime," said defense lawyer Mark Cogan.

    The first prosecution witness, a deputy county medical examiner, said he knew of no such attitude toward the church nor attempt to "hijack."

    The prosecution concluded its opening statement saying, "You can fail to act and that is a crime if you cause someone's death. We are not going to prove that they intended David to die. We are going to prove that they failed to be aware of the risk that he would."

    The defense told the jury to keep an open mind as they cross examine the criminal and medical experts the prosecution will bring in the weeks ahead.

    That first opportunity to cross examine investigators will begin with Thursday's testimony.


  2. Jury convicts Dale, Shannon Hickman of manslaughter in faith-healing trial

    By Steve Mayes, The Oregonian September 29, 2011

    A jury today unanimously convicted Dale and Shannon Hickman in the faith-healing death of their infant son.

    Both parents were found guilty of second-degree manslaughter, a Class B felony that requires a sentence of at least six years and three months in prison under Measure 11, Oregon's mandatory sentencing law. However, because of a religious exemption that was eliminated after the Hickmans were indicted, they could face no more than 18 months in prison and a $250,000 fine.

    After the jury left the courtroom, the Hickmans stood and embraced. Shannon Hickman pressed her face against her husband's chest and sobbed.

    The couple, who have two other children, will be sentenced Oct. 31. Prosecutors asked that they be held in jail until sentencing, but Judge Robert Herndon allowed them to remain free until then.

    The Hickmans are members of Oregon City's Followers of Christ church, which has a long history of children dying from treatable conditions because their parents relied on faith healing rather than taking them to doctors. In response to such cases, legislators this year removed religious exemptions from Oregon's criminal statutes.

    As word got out that the jury had reached a verdict, the Clackamas County courtroom filled with about 80 friends and family from the Followers of Christ church. Among those present Carl and Raylene Worthington, another Followers of Christ couple tried in the faith-healing death of a child. Carl Worthington was convicted of criminal mistreatment and sentenced in 2009 to six months in jail. Raylene Worthington was acquitted.

    David Hickman was born on Sept. 26, 2009, and lived less than nine hours.

    His mother, Shannon Hickman, went into labor two months before her due date. Instead of going to a hospital, she and her husband opted to have the baby in her mother's home. At birth, he weighed 3 pounds, 7 ounces.

    The Hickmans testified that David appeared healthy then took a sudden dire turn. Dale Hickman responded by holding his newborn son, praying for him and anointing him with olive oil. The parents said they never considered calling a doctor, and the baby died quickly.

    In closing arguments, defense attorney Mark Cogan maintained it is unfair to fault the Hickmans for failing to call 9-1-1. "What opportunity was there?" he asked. "What benefit would there have been?"

    Prosecutors contended that the Hickmans knew their son was born dangerously premature and that he struggled from the beginning, giving them plenty of time to seek medical assistance. If they had done so, medical experts testified, there was more than a 99 percent change the baby would have survived.

    "There was plenty of time to do something," prosecutor John Wentworth said in closing arguments. "What did Shannon and Dale Hickman do? Nothing," he said. "They didn't even try."

    Dale and Shannon Hickman both testified in their defense.

    When asked why he didn't call 9-1-1 once he realized his infant son was failing, Dale Hickman responded, "Because I was praying."

    Asked the same question, Shannon Hickman said that as a woman in the church, she must defer to her husband. "That's not my decision anyway," she said. "I think it's God's will whatever happens."

    read the rest at:


  3. Mother, spiritual father convicted in faith-healing case but questions remain

    By Jamie Satterfield, Knoxville News Sentinel May 8, 2012

    LOUDON — Ten years after a 15-year-old Loudon County girl died from a rare form of bone cancer, two questions that have dogged the case from the start remain unanswered.

    When, under Tennessee law, can a parent rely on God — not medicine — to heal a sick child? And, what duty of care does a non-parent owe that sick child?

    At a hearing Tuesday in Loudon County Circuit Court, Judge Eugene Eblen ostensibly offered answers by deeming Jacqueline Crank and Ariel Ben Sherman guilty of misdemeanor neglect for the September 2002 death of Jessica Crank. He sentenced them to probation. But he offered no legal analysis and both sides appeared to accept his decision as a mere prelude to the ultimate legal platform in this ongoing debate — the state's appellate courts.

    "We once again want to go to the Tennessee Supreme Court to address these constitutional questions," said Jacqueline Crank's attorney, Gregory P. Isaacs. "She feels and my law firm feels no other parent should have to be placed in this situation. A parent has an absolute constitutional right to rely on faith."

    "I believe everybody understands this is a case with much bigger legal implications," said Sherman's attorney, Donald A. Bosch.

    Even prosecutor Frank Harvey, who technically won Tuesday's hearing, conceded the legal issues raised in the case "need to be decided in the state of Tennessee in a very clear manner."

    The case began when Sherman moved his Universal Life Church flock to a six-bedroom house in Loudon County. There, he lived with Crank, her two children, Jessica and Israel, and a half-dozen other parishioners. Sherman held himself out as the "spiritual father" of Crank's children and was reportedly Crank's lover.

    When Jessica developed a tumor on her shoulder, Sherman advised Crank to rely on prayer. Although she took Jessica to a local clinic at one point, the mother ultimately decided to rely on faith. Authorities intervened but Jessica died anyway.

    Crank and Sherman were charged with felony child neglect, but Bosch and Isaacs successfully argued medical proof showed treatment would not have saved Jessica's life. Harvey then pressed forward with the misdemeanor case, various aspects of which have been appealed with no definitive resolution.

    State law allows a parent to choose faith over medicine provided that parent is heeding the doctrine of a "recognized church or denomination." But the law is silent on what constitutes a "recognized" religion. Isaacs argued Tuesday Crank's belief in the power of prayer is rooted in "genuine" faith.

    Sherman's case turns on how far a duty of care for a child extends. Can a boyfriend be held liable? A baby sitter? A pastor? Bosch noted at Tuesday's hearing that only a parent or legal guardian is allowed under the law to authorize medical treatment for a child.


  4. Rebecca and Timothy Wyland sentenced to 90 days in jail, probation in Oregon City faith healing

    By Steve Mayes, The Oregonian June 24, 2011

    An Oregon City couple who treated their infant daughter with faith healing rather than take her to a doctor were sentenced today in Clackamas County circuit court to 90 days in jail and three years probation.

    Clackamas County Circuit Judge Jeffrey S. Jones also required Timothy and Rebecca Wyland to notify the probation department when spiritual healing methods are used.

    "Your prayers should complement not compete with proper medical care," Judge Jones said.

    Timothy Wyland went into custody immediately and when he is released Rebecca Wyland will start her term. A restitution hearing is set for Aug. 29 to consider whether the Wylands should reimburse the state for court-ordered medical care.

    Jones also required the Wylands to:

    Comply with all medical recommendations of the doctors treating Alayna;
    Notify the probation department of all scheduled medical appointments for Alayna and prove they attended the appointments;
    Inform probation officers of any significant injury suffered by any child in their care.
    The terms would apply to any child born to the couple during the probation period.

    Defense attorneys for the Wylands requested the couple get no jail time out of concern for breaking up the family. But Jones sternly turned down the request blaming the parents for nearly causing their child to go blind in one eye.

    A jury convicted the Wylands of first-degree criminal mistreatment earlier this month. The couple belong to the Followers of Christ, an Oregon City church that practices faith healing and rejects doctors. They are the fourth and fifth members of the church to be convicted in the past two years of crimes involving medical neglect of children.

    First-degree criminal mistreatment is punishable by up to five years in prison. Because the Wylands have no other criminal convictions, Oregon's sentencing guidelines called for a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail.

    During early infancy, the couple's daughter, Alayna Wyland, developed a growth called a hemangioma above her left eye that eventually covered and engulfed the eye, leaving her on the verge of blindness. She has since improved under court-ordered care and remains under state supervision, placed with her parents.

    Alayna arrived at the courthouse with her parents, wearing a polka dot dress. The hemangioma was noticeable above her left eye but greatly reduced in size. Alayna held a couple of small stuffed animal toys as she was held by Rebecca before proceedings began.

    Doctors who testified at the Wylands' trial said Alayna's condition easily could have been controlled with medication. The hemangioma would have posed no threat to the eye if Alayna, now 18 months old, had been taken to a doctor when the growth a splotchy reddish mark above her left eye started its rapid spread.

    The Wylands said they believed the hemangioma, which they called a "strawberry birthmark," would eventually go away. They said they based their conclusion on assurances from other church members and strangers they met at grocery stores and restaurants.

    The Wylands followed their church's proscribed method of treatment: prayer, anointing with oil and the laying on of hands.

    After Alayna was taken into protective custody a year ago, she received extensive, and expensive, medical attention, and her vision improved.

    The girl spent five nights as a patient in Doernbecher Children's Hospital, went through a series of medical tests and was treated by several specialists. The cost of the care was covered by Oregon taxpayers through the Oregon Health Plan.


  5. Idaho rep tackles faith healing after child deaths

    By JOHN MILLER, Associated Press January 16, 2014

    BOISE, Idaho (AP) — After several recent child deaths, an Idaho lawmaker wants to follow Oregon's lead and require parents to seek medical help for kids suffering from potentially fatal conditions — even if their religion frowns on it.

    Since 2009, numerous children of members of the Followers of Christ in Marsing, Idaho, have died of treatable causes, according to their autopsy reports. Many children are buried at a cemetery overlooking the Snake River that is favored by the church.

    The church, with locations in Idaho, California and Oregon, relies on faith healing, not medicine, to help sick members.

    Democratic Rep. John Gannon of Boise says Idaho's existing faith-healing exemptions for injury-to-a-child crimes should be updated. He has support from Linda Martin, an Oregon woman who left the church in Idaho decades ago and has returned this week to champion the changes.

    "These children need a chance to grow up," Martin told The Associated Press Thursday.

    According to an autopsy from June 2012, 15-year-old Arrian Jade Granden died after suffering from food poisoning. After three days of vomiting, her esophagus ruptured.

    Preston John Bowers, who was 22 months old, died in March 2011 of pneumonia, according to his autopsy report. He had been suffering from a fever for days.

    That same month, 14-year-old Rockwell Alexander Sevy died after a two-week illness. "As time went on, he began having more shortness of breath and the rattle in his chest got worse," wrote Canyon County Coroner Vicki Degeus-Morris, concluding pneumonia.

    Pamela Jade Eells, 16, died in November 2011, again of pneumonia, according to the Payette County coroner.

    Pamela Eells' mother, Michelle Eells of New Plymouth, said Thursday she remains a Follower of Christ member. She declined comment.

    The other parents either didn't return phone calls or couldn't be reached for comment.

    In Idaho, someone found guilty of felony injury to a child — causing conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death or permitting a child to be injured — can get a decade behind bars.

    continued below

  6. But the law has this exemption: "Treatment by prayer or spiritual means alone shall not for that reason alone be construed to have violated the duty of care to such child."

    Gannon's proposal would lift that exemption "whenever a child's medical condition may cause death or permanent disability."

    "Medical treatment for physical harm to a child should supersede every other consideration," Gannon said.

    In 2011, Oregon legislators trimmed a faith-healing exemption, expanding a 1999 law that eliminated the defense from some charges, including manslaughter.

    That change came as Followers of Christ members there were prosecuted and convicted following child deaths.

    In Idaho, Gannon wants to introduce his bill in the Legislature, but there's already resistance.

    Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, said she fears the bill tramples on religious freedoms and parental rights.

    "This is about religious beliefs, the belief God is in charge of whether they live, and God is in charge of whether they die," said Perry, whose district is not far from the Followers' Idaho church. "This is about where they go for eternity."

    But Rep. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee where Gannon's bill could be introduced, said he is willing to consider updating faith-healing exemptions.

    "I'm concerned any parent would put their religious beliefs ahead of child welfare," Will said. "It just stuns me."

    On Thursday, Ada County Coroner Erwin Sonnenberg recalled autopsies of numerous Followers' children. In some instances, routine intervention — antibiotics here, an appendectomy there — could have saved them, he said.

    He has also been to Followers' homes and seen them cry over lost children. "These are great people," Sonnenberg said. "They love their children."

    While he favors limits on the faith-healing shield to prevent abuse, Sonnenberg said he isn't convinced somebody with beliefs so powerful they spurn medical care for their children would take heed.

    "At times, you sit back and wonder, 'Is my faith that strong?' " he said. "I understand the faith side of it. But it seems like at least let your kids grow up, when it comes down to it, and decide for themselves."


  7. Faith Healing Exemption Gets Scrutiny In Washington Legislature

    by Austin Jenkins, Northwest News Network | Feb. 7, 2014

    Christian Scientists who treat their sick children with faith healing, instead of medical care, have special protection under Washington law. But that could soon change.

    Lawmakers are considering whether to repeal the Christian Science exemption. This follows the death of a teenager in North Central Washington.

    The teenager died at home of a burst appendix in 2009. He parents were followers of a church that believes in faith healing. They were put on trial. But because they weren’t Christian Scientists they couldn’t use that as their defense. The trial ended in a hung jury.

    “In that case the court was able to really avoid whether it had to instruct the jury specifically because it wasn’t actually a Christian Science church that was involved,” explains Tom McBride, the executive secretary of Washington’s Association of Prosecutors.

    But McBride says that case points out the inequity of referencing a single religion in the law. He now supports a measure that would remove the Christian Science exemption in Washington statute.

    In 2011, Oregon lawmakers made it so parents can no longer claim spiritual treatment as a defense in child neglect cases. A similar measure was introduced in Idaho this year. Both are in response to the deaths of several children associated with a particular church.


  8. When healing turns into killing: religious and philosophical exemptions from parental accountability

    Posted by Jann Bellamy on Science-Based Medicine, March 13, 2014

    Parents have a fundamental right to guide the upbringing of their children protected under the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. This includes the choice of medical care for the child. They also have a First Amendment right to the free exercise of their religious beliefs, including the right to care for their children in accordance with the tenets of their religion. In a better world, these rights would be exercised in a manner that is consistent with a reasoned selection of medical care among choices supported by the best available scientific evidence. If, for example, deeply religious parents choose to forego a treatment that had only a minimal chance of extending their child’s life and terrible side effects in favor of palliative care because they believe that their child would be better off in heaven we could all agree that their choice is constitutionally protected.

    Unfortunately, that is not the case. Religious believers and those whose “philosophy” favors pseudoscience in child medical care (surveys bloviating about the popularity of CAM to the contrary) are in fact a tiny minority of the American population who influence public policy in a manner that far exceeds their actual numbers. This influence allows these special interest groups to cause needless suffering and death among children and their families. As well, their actions siphon off medical and legal resources that could more properly be directed toward the common good when states and medical institutions are put in the position of having to go to court to protect children from their parents. And, by giving parents false choices between a belief in magic and standard medical care, unnecessary complications are introduced into what are already difficult and heart-wrenching decisions by parents who truly want to act in the best interests of their children.

    U.S. Constitutional protection of parental choices

    As with all constitutionally-protected rights, religious freedoms are not absolute. Nor is the parents’ fundamental right (considered a liberty interest under the Due Process clause) to guide his child’s upbringing. But there is no constitutionally protected right to harm a child via the denial of medical treatment. As the U.S. Supreme Court said in Prince v. Massachusetts, decided in 1944 (emphasis added):

    The family itself is not beyond regulation in the public interest, as against a claim of religious liberty. And neither rights of religion nor rights of parenthood are beyond limitation. Acting to guard the general interest in youth’s well being, the state as parens patriae may restrict the parents’ control by requiring school attendance, regulating or prohibiting the child’s labor, and in many other ways. Its authority is not nullified merely because the parent grounds his claim to control the child’s course of conduct on religion or conscience. Thus, he cannot claim freedom from compulsory vaccination for the child more than for himself on religious grounds. The right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death.

    Why, then, do we fairly regularly see media reports about the “rights” of parents to choose faith healing or quack remedies for their children being litigated in the courts? Well, one reason is that these cases make for compelling news stories. There are plenty of run-of-the-mill child abuse and neglect cases circulating through the courts on a daily basis but these generally don’t have the David v. Goliath news value of the loving, God-fearing parents v. reductionist, Pharma-shill medical establishment/nosy, liberty-denying state authorities story.

    continued below

  9. Nobody wants to defend the stereotypical drug-addled welfare mom who won’t take her sick child to the doctor. However, make that Christian Science parents whose child is wasting away from lack of effective medical treatment. Or, the parents who want to use “natural” remedies instead of chemotherapy for their child. Front page news! And plenty of people who’ll stand up for the “right” of these parents to harm their child.

    In a better world, all three of these cases would be treated the same legally. The state could press charges of child abuse and neglect, seek to remove the child from the home and/or put him under a medical guardianship. The state attorney could criminally prosecute. And mitigating circumstances could be taken into account, as they are in all cases where issues such as intent to harm and possibility of future harmful conduct are an issue. The mom might agree to go into drug rehab and take parenting classes. The other parents might agree to rational medical treatment in the future and thereby avoid separation from the child and any criminal proceedings.

    But that is not the case if a state attempts to intervene on behalf of a child whose parents refuse medical treatment on religious grounds. If the parents object to care on the basis that their First Amendment rights are being violated, their chance of succeeding depends on the extent of possible harm to the child with and without medical treatment as well as the likelihood of success with treatment and the treatment’s side effects. In other words, a religious barrier is erected between rational medical judgment and the child, although the deference to parental wishes is not insurmountable. One court ruled that state could not order treatment where the treatment was “risky, extremely invasive, toxic with many side effects, and/or offers a low chance of success.”

    However, the court recognized that it is nevertheless

    well-settled that the state may order medical treatment for a non-life threatening condition, notwithstanding the objection of the parents on religious grounds, if the treatment will, in all likelihood, temporarily or permanently solve a substantial medical problem.

    Courts have refused to defer to the parents’ religious beliefs where the treatment is likely to succeed against an otherwise- fatal disease, even though the treatment can have terrible side effects. This was true of the highly publicized Daniel Hauser case, in which Daniel and his mother temporarily fled the court’s jurisdiction to avoid further chemotherapy. Daniel’s parents wanted to treat him with “natural healing” modalities instead as, they claimed, their religious beliefs dictated. (Although Minnesota, where Daniel lives, has certain statutory protections from state intervention, as discussed below, it is not clear to me they were applicable in this case. The parents did invoke, however, their constitutionally protected parental rights.)

    Fortunately, where the parents claim only a liberty interest protected by the Due Process clause, the parents’ choices are typically given less deference, as was true in the Sarah Hershberger case, although a lot of good that did her. And quackery occasionally scores a total win. In the Matter of Joseph Hofbauer pitted the parents’ fundamental right to select their child’s medical care against science-based medicine. Joseph, age 7, was diagnosed in 1974 with Hodgkin’s disease, which is almost always fatal if left untreated. Joseph’s physician recommended sending him to an oncologist or hematologist for further treatment, which would include radiation and possibly chemotherapy. His parents’ preferred treatment by a physician who instituted a course of nutritional therapy and injections of laetrile.

    This “duly licensed” physician treating Joseph, Dr. Michael Schachter, testified at the subsequent neglect proceedings instituted by the county.

    continued below

  10. Naturally, Joseph’s condition had worsened, as testified to by two physicians conducting independent examinations. Dr. Schachter, on the other hand, thought that Joseph was progressing nicely under his treatment regimen, one that he considered effective and beneficial in cancer cases such as Joseph’s, although he did not rule out conventional therapy “if the boy’s condition appeared to be deteriorating beyond control.” A biologist also testified that a study showed “significant regression” in cancerous tumors in mice treated with laetrile, vitamin A, and proteolytic enzymes. The New York Court of Appeals agreed with the lower courts that it could not be said that the parents failed to give Joseph legally adequate medical care, although regular consultations with another physician were part of that decision.

    Joseph died two years later (of Hodgkin’s disease). I don’t know if it’s the same person, but a Dr. Michael Schachter, who has been practicing since 1974, practices pseudoscientific “integrative” medicine in New York, not far from where Joseph was treated.

    This is not an ideal situation, of course, but reliance solely on the First Amendment or Due Process Clause means that the child’s best interest must be weighed against the parents’ constitutional rights, and though it may require an extended court battle, ill-informed treatment choices that endanger a child rarely win out. Importantly, the Constitution provides no immunity from prosecution for neglect, abuse or the child’s death no matter how fervent the parents’ religious or philosophical belief.

    Statutory medical and philosophical exemptions: immunity from criminal responsibility and more

    However, if the parents live in one of the many states where the legislature has enacted the numerous medical exemption laws shielding parents’ harmful medical choices for their children, the results can be dramatically different. (Harriet Hall recently discussed how these laws negatively impact children’s health and efforts to repeal them.) These exemption laws have no basis in the constitution and go far beyond what would be allowed if denial of medical testing, preventive measures and treatment for children were simply based on constitutionally-protected parental rights.

    CHILD (Children’s Healthcare is a Legal Duty) is a terrific non-profit organization that opposes medical mistreatment of children on religious grounds as well as parents’ use of quackery on their children. CHILD tracks the numerous cases where children are injured or killed by these practices as well as promotes the end of religious exemptions and other laws that might deny children access to proper medical care. (They do a lot more too and you should familiarize yourself with their work. It is a testament to what one small, dedicated organization can do to prevent health care based on prescientific thinking.)

    Their website lists the many ways states protect parents who harm their children. While many people are aware of the vaccine exemption laws and their connection to the contraction of vaccine-preventable disease, the problem actually extends far beyond vaccination. A brief summary of religious and philosophical exemptions from medical testing and preventive care for children include:

    -Prophylactic eye drops (to prevent blindness), Vitamin K, metabolic testing, and hearing tests for newborns

    -Testing children for lead

    -Testing and treatment for TB (includes testing teachers)

    -Vaccination, school physicals, and wearing bicycle helmets

    -Medical examination, testing, treatment, and vaccination during public health emergencies (applies to everyone)

    -Learning about disease in public school

    continued below

  11. In addition, many states provide an exemption from civil and criminal liability for failure to provide medical care. Again, from CHILD:

    -From non-criminal action, such as child neglect sufficient to allow protective custody, in 38 states

    -From felony prosecution in 17 states, including, in some instances, manslaughter and murder

    -From misdemeanor prosecution in 15 states

    As pointed out by both law professor Shirley Darby Howell and CHILD, the enactment of religious exemption laws in a lot of instances was due to a 1974 federal law providing states with funding to establish programs aimed at reducing the incidence of child abuse and neglect. (A pdf of Prof. Howell’s article can be located by searching for her name in Google Scholar.) Unfortunately, the law ensured that child abuse for religious reasons was exempted by stating that parents could not be considered negligent if they did not provide medical treatment due to religious beliefs. That did not, however, preclude the state from stepping in and ordering medical services. Based on the belief that these funds would not be available unless they enacted religion-based medical exemptions, the states complied. In 1983 the law was amended to allow states to abolish their religious exemptions without penalty to their funding. Unfortunately, few states have done so.

    Pediatrician Seth Asser, M.D., and Rita Swan, who founded CHILD, assessed the impact of religiously-motivated child medical mistreatment and reported their findings in a 1998 article published in Pediatrics. Of 172 deaths of children when medical care was withheld on religious grounds, they concluded that 140 of the children would have had at least a 90% likelihood of survival with medical care. Eighteen more had expected survival rates of >50% and all but 3 of the remainder would likely have had some benefit from clinical help. In short, religious exemptions from medical care are deadly.

    One of the ironies of religious exemptions is that the substitution of religiously-dictated practices for medical care is so rare in American religious belief. (In all world religions, actually.) Some religions and their various denominations consider faith an important part of healing but they don’t consider it a substitute for medical care. As best I can tell, Jews and Muslims do not hold the belief that medical care for children should be foregone in favor of faith healing. And among Christians the denominations supporting rejection of medical care are small and widely considered outside the fold by both mainstream and evangelical Christians, such as Christian Scientists and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    Further efforts to further medical neglect of children

    Yet Christians Scientists have had an outsized effect on public policy through their vigorous lobbying, which continues to this day. Again, this is ironic because their votes – unlike, for example, the religious right in certain jurisdictions – are not essential to electing a candidate because there are so few of them. There are presently before the U.S. Congress two bills, HR 1814 and S 862, heavily lobbied by the Christian Science church, the deceptively named Equitable Access to Care and Health (EACH), which exempt everyone with “sincerely held religious beliefs” from the Affordable Health Care Act’s mandate to buy health insurance. Of course, this fits nicely with the intense hatred of Obamacare by Congressional Republicans, who will do anything, no matter who sponsors it, to undermine the law.

    continued below

  12. This bill would obviously interfere with one of the central purposes of Obamacare – ensuring that children get a defined set of preventative services without cost and adequate medical care. Hypocritically, Christian Scientists have successfully lobbied for, and gotten, insurance coverage for their faith healing practitioners.

    The Christian Science church sponsored a “call-in” day on Tuesday, asking members to contact their Representatives and Senators to support the bills. They were successful in the House, although that may have had more to do with procedural shenanigans than the call in. S 862 is still before the Senate.

    There is also a movement afoot among conservative groups ostensibly directed at preventing the adoption by the United States of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which they view as undermining, among other things, parental rights. The group behind this, ParentalRights.org, vehemently opposes restriction or elimination of religious and philosophical exemptions to vaccination and the “right” of parents to choose quackery as a substitute for responsible medical care for their children, and they want those rights enshrined in the constitution with an amendment. (Orac blogged about this over on Respectful Insolence). An amendment, in their view, would make it much harder for the state to intervene in cases where parents are guided by their own religion and philosophical whims instead of rational, evidence-based information, no matter how much these beliefs trespass on the child’s health and welfare.

    Coincidentally, Justina Pelletier has emerged as the perfect poster child for their cause. Justina’s case is a rare instance where the parents’ choice between two seemingly-conventional medical diagnoses and recommended treatment regimens has landed them in the courts. As is often the case, the facts are more complicated than parentsrights.org’s loving parents v. the evil state presentation. (The story is covered by the Boston Globe here and here.) Nevertheless, Justina’s story deflects attention from the fact that the choices in the more typical parents’ rights cases are between totally ineffective methods and conventional medical care.

    The organization firmly denies that it is anti-vaccination, using the sort of weasely language often found in the anti-vaccination crowd.

    We at ParentalRights.org neither endorse nor condemn vaccines. We simply hold that informed parents are in the best position to make medical decisions for their child.

    continued below

  13. Of course, misinformed parents, such as those who believe in propaganda from the National Vaccine (Mis)information Center, are not in the “best position” to make that decision. (The NVIC is listed as an “Allied Organization” and is a source specifically cited by ParentalRights.org in a plea for support sent to another organization.) But if you want to ditch science as the standard for medical care, I suppose all information a parent considers, no matter how misguided or flat-out wrong, is a sufficient excuse to deny children protection against illness and death caused by vaccine-preventable diseases.

    The pro-quackery position is not in evidence at all (that I could find) on their website, yet the organization has issued a call for support (reprinted on another organization’s website) of Colorado Senate Bill 14-032 which would eliminate the restrictions on naturopaths and “alternative medicine” providers (basically anyone who declares, sua sponte, that he or she is an alternative medicine provider, including felons convicted of sex crimes).


    All children deserve rational, science-based medical care. The U.S. Constitution does protect, to a limited extent, the parents’ choices in the child’s medical care. Preferably those choices would never be dictated solely by religion (to the extent it is not in the child’s best interest) or pseudoscience. Fortunately, the well-being of the child is paramount when the two conflict. Most of the harm to children from denial of medical care is done because state laws allow parents to make religious and philosophical decisions endangering the child’s well being. Yet these laws are contrary to the moral sensibilities of the vast majority of Americans, who do provide preventive care for their children, including vaccinations, and adequate medical care when they are sick. Children are being held hostage by a small minority of politically active zealots. All religious and philosophical exemption laws should be repealed. It would be especially useful to this cause if religious leaders who reject religion as a pretext for denial of medical care spoke out against this tyranny of the minority, as the American Academy of Pediatrics has done.


  14. Couple accused in death of daughter, 12, seek to exclude mention of faith healing

    By Kyle Odegard, Albany Democrat-Herald April 18, 2014

    Defense attorneys for Travis and Wenona Rossiter, an Albany couple accused of manslaughter for the death of their 12-year-old daughter in February 2013, are seeking to exclude evidence of religious beliefs or practices during their trial.

    Judge Daniel Murphy made no decision in the matter during Friday’s Circuit Court hearing at the Linn County Courthouse, but said he would do so “as soon as possible.”

    The Rossiters are members of the Church of the First Born, a fundamentalist sect that believes traditional medical treatment is sinful, and instead trust in God to heal them through faith, according to police and court documents.

    The prosecution intends to show that Syble Rossiter, 12, was deprived of life-saving medical care, and her parents instead resorted to faith-healing rites.

    “They knew she was in great peril. ... They didn’t seek out medical care, and the reason they didn’t do it was their religious beliefs,” Prosecutor Keith Stein said. “This is what the case is about, and in truth, this is what happened.”

    Mark Heslinga, defense attorney for Wenona Rossiter, said evidence of religious beliefs would be prejudicial.

    “My client is requesting he be tried for the actions of that day, not for his religious beliefs,” said Tim Felling, Travis Rossiter’s attorney.

    Several other motions were discussed on Friday.

    Murphy ruled in favor of a defense request to exclude information about the death of Wenona Rossiter’s brother at trial.

    Anthony Hays, 7, died of leukemia in 1994, after his parents failed to provide medical care for him.

    In 1996, a Linn County jury convicted his father, Loyd Hays of Brownsville, on charges of criminally negligent homicide. He was sentenced to five years’ probation.

    Hays’ wife, Christina, was acquitted.

    They were the first people in Oregon to be prosecuted for following their religion rather than taking a sick child for medical care.

    Murphy said the two children died of completely separate causes, so he didn’t see the relevance.

    Murphy also ruled against allowing evidence of prior bad acts regarding a lack of medical care for Syble Rossiter.

    “It doesn’t prove they acted recklessly in this case,” he said.

    The couple also will be tried together, rather than separately, although dates have not been set.

    Murphy denied a defense motion to exclude the testimony of a doctor specializing in child diabetes.

    Syble Rossiter died of diabetes complications, according to court paperwork.

    Stein said that Syble Rossiter had such dramatic weight loss in the month before she died that a teacher confronted Wenona Rossiter about the issue.


  15. First Nations girl chooses traditional medicine over chemo

    Makayla Sault faces possible apprehension by Children's Aid, which family and First Nation vow to fight

    By Connie Walker, CBC News May 16, 2014

    Makayla Sault is only 10 years old, but has already had to make life and death decisions.

    She and her parents, Ken and Sonya Sault, have decided to forgo chemotherapy and instead use traditional medicine to fight leukemia.

    “I am writing this letter to tell you that this chemo is killing my body and I cannot take it anymore,” she wrote to her doctors at the McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton.

    Makayla was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in January. Her doctors told her family that she would have a 75 per cent chance of survival if she continued treatment. If not, they warned that her situation could become dire.

    “They basically said she would have 100 per cent relapse and she would die if we discontinued chemotherapy. And that going the route of traditional medicine has zero per cent success rate,” said Sonya Sault.

    Children’s Aid Society investigating

    The hospital has referred Makayla’s case to the Children’s Aid Society, sparking fears that she may be apprehended and forced back into treatment.

    “We just felt so scared that they could actually come in and remove our children from a home where we are loving them and caring for them and we want what’s best for them,” said Sonya Sault.

    The Saults are from the New Credit First Nation near Caledonia, Ont. Their chief and council are supporting the family’s decision.

    “We’re not going to allow any other agency to come in and apprehend our children. We went through that in the '40s and '50s and we’re not going to allow that again,” said Chief Bryan Laforme.

    The Saults said their community has also created a group called the "Makayla defence force," a group of hundreds of community members ready to act if Children's Aid attempts to apprehend her.

    “If someone does try to take Makayla away we are assured 100 per cent that people will be there to stop apprehension," said Sonya Sault. "People know the consequences and they’re willing to stand in and protect her at all costs.… If that’s what it comes down to, they need to be physical. We’re going to do what it takes to make sure that our daughter is protected.”

    continued below

  16. The Childrens Aid Society says it has a good working relationship with the New Credit First Nation and hopes to find a compromise. However, if a child is deemed to be in imminent danger, the society can act to remove a child.

    “Obviously, we try to bring kids into care with the knowledge and consent of the chief and council. But there are situations when we are allowed to do what we need to do to save a child’s life.” said Andrew Koster, executive director of the Children’s Aid Society of Brant.

    Decision made after spiritual encounter

    During the 11 weeks of chemotherapy, Makayla experienced severe side-effects that landed her in the intensive care unit.

    “It's a mother's worst nightmare.… I remember I would just watch her, and listening to her pray, ‘Oh, God. Come and get me, come and take me from here.’ She said, ‘Mom,

    [it’s] not the leukemia but it is the chemo that is going to kill me.'”

    After Makayla said she had a spiritual encounter in her hospital room, she begged her parents not to make her return.

    “I know that what I have can kill me but … Jesus came into my room and told me not to be afraid, so if I live or if I die, I am not afraid.”

    The Saults won’t elaborate on the exact medicine Makayla is using but they feel it is already working.

    “There are people in our community who have been on traditional medicines and are well today and are thriving. We know that our traditional medicines work. We know that our daughter is going to be OK.” says Sonya Sault.

    The Children’s Aid Society is hoping to schedule a meeting with the family next week to discuss a possible compromise.

    In 2008, a Hamilton boy was taken into care after he and his family refused chemotherapy for leukemia.

    Listen to 11 year old Makayla Sault read her letter: http://youtu.be/NrF5wWQ4hIU


  17. Girl, 11, with cancer is free to refuse chemotherapy, Children’s Aid officials rule

    by Katrina Clarke | National Post May 20, 2014

    Ontario Children’s Aid officials have closed their investigation into the family of a girl who is refusing chemotherapy treatment, effectively leaving it up to the 11-year-old to decide her own care.

    “The more we looked at it we realized that this is a warm, loving family,” said Andy Koster, executive director of the Children’s Aid Society of Brant. “We don’t believe that bringing her into care, taking her away from that family — which is her support — and forcing chemotherapy, is going to be in any way emotionally sound for her, or psychologically or even spiritually.”

    The Children’s Aid Society intervened after Makayla Sault, an 11-year-old New Credit First Nation girl, decided to treat her cancer with native medicine rather than chemotherapy.

    Mr. Koster said he met with the girl’s parents and community members on Tuesday. Mr. Koster said the group was “very pleased” to hear the news that the agency was closing its intake file.

    “This is a family that’s been under a lot of stress. It’s a very tragic situation in terms of her illness and we just don’t wish to make it worse,” he said.

    Makayla is suffering from a unique form of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, the most common form of childhood cancer. Under proper treatment, it has a survivability rate as high as 80% for children.

    Eleven-year-old’s choice to treat her cancer with indigenous medicine instead of chemo may be legal, experts say
    Children’s aid steps in after 11-year-old trades chemo for native remedies
    The girl’s disease went into remission after undergoing an initial 11 weeks of chemotherapy at McMaster Children’s Hospital. Treatments were planned to continue but she asked to stop chemotherapy after she experienced severe side effects such as nausea, loss of appetite and weight loss.

    In an email to the National Post, the hospital said health-care professionals have a legal obligation to alert authorities when they believe a child may be at risk.

    Mr. Koster said Makayla’s “voice had to be heard.”

    “Under our Child and Family Services act we have to recognize the traditions and the community of First Nations people who are given rights under the act,” he said.

    Mr. Koster said the agency was given legal advice on the case and that it was not difficult to come to the final decision.

    When asked if he was concerned about backlash from the public regarding the agency’s decision, Mr. Koster said: “We can live with the decision we made.”

    Nahnda Garlow, who has been acting as the Sault family’s spokeswoman, described the family’s reaction to the new to Two Row Times newspaper. “Makayla’s family members embraced one another with happy tears and the youth of the New Credit First Nation came together to sing honour songs for the family.”

    National Post, with files from Tristin Hopper


  18. Jada Johnson, 11, refuses chemotherapy, may be forced back into treatment

    Jada Johnson, 11, has refused chemo to treat leukemia and opted for traditional indigenous medicine

    By Connie Walker, CBC News September 20, 2014

    Jada Johnson’s family is worried their 11-year-old daughter may be apprehended by the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) after refusing chemo and turning to traditional indigenous medicine.

    The family says they initially thought that decision was supported by authorities. However, in a message on Facebook, her mother Wahsontiio (Deneen) Hill said on Friday that McMaster Children's Hospital in Hamilton, Ont. and CAS are going to court to try to force her daughter into protective services and back into chemotherapy.

    In a letter to community members seeking to raise funds the new treatments, Hill said Johnson was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in August. She says she was told that, without chemotherapy, she would have about six months to live.

    "The chemo ravaged her body and spirit. And knowing the side effects of chemo, weighed heavily on my mind," she wrote.

    After 12 days of chemotherapy, Hill says she took her daughter out of the hospital and decided to pursue traditional medicine treatments.

    The family is from the Six Nations First Nation community near Brantford, Ont., which is about 30 kilometres southwest of Hamilton. It's the same community that rallied behind 11-year-old Makayla Sault earlier this year when she received the same diagnosis.

    Sault's refusal of chemotherapy earlier this year made national headlines. In a letter to doctors, she begged them to stop treatment.
    “I am writing this letter to tell you that this chemo is killing my body and I cannot take it anymore,” she wrote.

    Although CAS investigated her case, it did not go to court and did not apprehend or force her back into care.

    "This is a loving family, we felt their choice to use traditional medicines was within their right. We also felt that if Makayla was apprehended, the stress and other effects on that child would be terrible." said Andrew Koster, executive director of the Brant Children's Aid Society, in May. "For a child that is ill, they don’t need that. She needs to be with her family."​​ Koster is also involved in Johnson's case

    Sault has not returned to chemotherapy and remains at home with her family.

    Johnson and her family are currently in the U.S. seeking alternative treatment at the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida. Hill says she is unclear what is happening with the court proceedings.

    CAS and McMaster Children's Hospital declined to be interviewed.



    'Chemo is killing my body:' First Nations girl opts for traditional treatment

    Makayla Sault will not be apprehended by Children's Aid

    Makayla Sault's case raises questions about child welfare law

  19. McMaster Hospital defends court action to treat aboriginal girl

    Hospital president says he's 'disappointed' in Children's Aid Society's slow response

    CBC News October 02, 2014

    Brant County Children's Aid director Andrew Koster says a request to separate an aboriginal girl with cancer from her family so she could resume chemotherapy in Hamilton should never have come before his agency

    Testifying in a court challenge mounted by McMaster Children's Hospital after it learned the agency would not apprehend the child, he said the hospital should have taken the case to the province's Consent and Capacity Board, which assesses a patient's ability to make decisions about his or her treatment.

    He also said the removal of the child would not have been simple or easy.

    Neither the patient nor her family can be identified because of a publication ban in the court case surrounding her. The patient's family removed her from the hospital’s treatment plan in favour of traditional healing methods.

    The First Nations mother involved says chemotherapy — which her daughter received for 10 days — conflicts with her family's beliefs.

    Choosing treatment

    In a letter to CBC News, the mother wrote, “I will not have my daughter treated with poison.… She has to become a healthy mother and a grandmother. I have chosen treatment that will not compromise her well-being and quality of life.”

    The mother said the Children's Aid Society investigated, but decided not to intervene. She also said the courts have no jurisdiction over her and her daughter.

    In Brantford court, this week, McMaster doctors testified they took the issue to the courts after being frustrated by the lack of communication from the Children's Aid Society after the agency was contacted.

    Dr. Vicky Breakey said the doctors did not hear back for days after contacting the society, and thought it had communicated the sense of urgency it felt about the girl's treatment.

    Eventually, hospital doctors and Children's Aid did have a meeting, and Koster said he left that meeting thinking the dispute had been resolved. The next day, McMaster initiated the court action.

    Defends actions

    Koster said that even if Children's Aid had taken the child, it could not force her to take the treatment and would have had to take the step it felt McMaster should have taken initially — bring the case to the Consent and Capacity Board. He said he felt it would have been traumatic to remove the child from her family.

    Outside of the hearing, McMaster officials spoke to CBC News in Hamilton last week and defended the decision to take the issue to court.

    "Obviously our sole focus is to care for this child that has a life-threatening illness and without treatment will die," said Peter Fitzgerald, president of the McMaster Children’s Hospital.

    continued below

  20. Fitzgerald said going to court and to demand the Hamilton-region Children's Aid Society to step in and take custody of the child is a rare circumstance.

    "We are disappointed that CAS has not carried out their duty to protect the child, and that’s why we’re in court to move this forward," Fitzgerald said.

    "This is part of a very long process that we’ve gone through, of course, working with the family, working with the CAS and then finally being in a position where we had to go to court," Fitzgerald said.

    "At the end of the day … we know we can save this child’s life. We can’t give up on this child."

    Fitzgerald noted the hospital frequently works with Children's Aid, but it’s rare for a case to be a "life and death issue."

    Andrea Frolic, the medical ethicist at Hamilton Health Sciences, said that in situations where a substitute decision-maker is believed to be making decisions not in the best interest of a child, health-care providers have a choice whether to refer the case to Children's Aid or Ontario's Consent and Capacity Board.

    Because the Children's Aid Socieity's legislated obligation and area of expertise is in the area of child protection, Frolic said, they are often able to mount a timely response.

    "It’s a reasonable course of action to refer these situations to that agency," she said.

    When asked if it makes a difference that the family is aboriginal, both Frolic and Fitzgerald said that cultural background is considered, but it doesn’t change the course of action for the hospital.

    "We spend time understanding [patients'] wishes and values, understanding their world view, understanding what’s important to them — we do that universally with all of our patients and families regardless of their context or their background," Frolic said.

    "It’s a fairly clear line of accountability here," Fitzgerald said.

    "If we are concerned about the health and welfare of a child, we are legally and morally obligated to contact the CAS."

    Fitzgerald said cases like this are difficult for the hospital to deal with because of the limited amount of information they can share, and it can paint the hospital in a "difficult light."

    But Fitzgerald said the patient always comes first.

    "These decisions are not made lightly," he said.

    "We can’t shy away from this responsibility. We need to do the best we can do for this child."

    The family left McMaster to seek treatment at a centre that focuses on nutrition and naturopathic therapy in Florida.

    The case is similar to another First Nations girl who refused chemotherapy while being treated at McMaster earlier this year. In May, 11-year-old Makayla Sault left treatment at McMaster Children’s Hospital to pursue traditional aboriginal medicine.

    Sault's story made national headlines and after an investigation, Children's Aid decided not to intervene and her case never went to court.


  21. Makayla s Choice

    CBC Radio, White Coat - Black Art October 25, 2014

    Makayla Sault is an 11-year-old First Nations girl who is bright, vivacious and wonderfully reflective. She also happens to have a big health problem - leukemia - and an even bigger problem with the treatment she got for it. Last spring. she wrote a letter to her doctors at McMaster Children's Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario, asking for an end to the chemotherapy treatments which gave her debilitating side effects. Eventually, her parents granted her wish -- and stopped the chemo, opting instead for traditional indigenous medicine and treatment at a holistic clinic in Florida.

    But that wasn't the end end of the story. A few months later, another girl from a neighbouring reserve was diagnosed with the same kind of cancer.Like Makayla, she stopped chemo and chose indigenous and holistic treatments. But this time, in what's being called a precedent-setting case, the hospital has gone to court It is asking a judge to force CAS to intervene and bring the girl, who can't be named because of a publication ban, back into treatment. In medicine, when a family rejects potentially life-saving treatment for a child, child welfare authorities are often called to persuade them to change their mind. In both cases, the local children's aid society decided not to intervene.

    Both cases have made headlines and Connie Walker, a reporter with CBC's Aboriginal Unit lays out the facts for us.

    Then, we visit Six Nations Health Services, an Ontario clinic that provides both western and traditional medicine/ The clinic's director reveals how treaty rights bear on health care decision-making.

    And Dr. Nadine Caron, a surgical oncologist who is also Ojibway talks about First Nations patients who reject her cancer treatments - and the ethical dilemma she faces when that happens. You can hear Dr. Goldman's extended interview with Dr. Caron.

    To listen to this radio podcast and read the links embedded in this article go to:


  22. Opening arguments heard in faith healing couple's manslaughter trial

    By Kyle Odegard, Albany Democrat-Herald November 04, 2014

    Opening arguments were heard in Linn County Circuit Court on Tuesday afternoon in the jury trial of an Albany couple — who believe in faith-healing and shun traditional medical care — that are accused of first-degree and second-degree manslaughter for the death of their daughter.

    Syble Rossiter, 12, a Calapooia Middle School student, died in February 2013 from diabetes complications.

    While the prosecution portrayed Travis and Wenona Rossiter as unwilling to provide adequate medical care for their daughter under any circumstances, defense attorneys said the couple thought their child merely had the flu.

    “No one thought she was in danger of losing her life,” said Tim Felling, counsel for Travis Rossiter.

    “This is a tragedy, not a crime,” he added.

    Mark Heslinga, counsel for Wenona Rossiter, said his client also believed that Syble Rossiter was experiencing weight loss because she was growing taller during puberty.

    “She wasn’t alarmed by the symptoms. That’s not what she would have done if she thought her daughter was near death,” Heslinga said.

    Felling said that in the days before she died, Syble Rossiter was playing with her siblings and friends, as usual.

    Deputy District Attorney Keith Stein said the case boiled down to three buttons on a phone — 9-1-1.

    On the day of her death, Syble Rossiter was extremely thirsty and dehydrated, vomited and urinated out everything she took into her system, got so weak she couldn’t stand, and her parents even bought her adult diapers to wear, Stein said.

    “And yet her parents did not seek medical care,” Stein said.

    He said the child also appeared emaciated and a concerned teacher even talked to Wenona Rossiter about it.

    “The cure was like that,” Stein said, snapping his fingers.

    “This is a situation where she could have been saved quite easily by insulin and rehydration,” he added.

    In interviews with detectives, the parents said that, based on their beliefs, they wouldn’t have done anything different.

    Travis Rossiter told a detective if his daughter had asked to go to a hospital, he would have tried to talk her out of it, Stein said.

    He also told a detective that doctors are for people who don’t believe strongly enough in God, Stein added.

    “This case is not about their religion. It’s about the minimum standard medical care that our laws will tolerate when it comes to our children,” he said.

    The trial is scheduled to continue through Nov. 14.


  23. Jury - Parents Guilty of Manslaughter

    by Rhoda Krause, KEZI 9 ABC News November 10, 2014

    ALBANY, Ore. — After four hours of deliberating Monday evening, a Linn County jury found both Wenona and Travis Rossiter guilty of manslaughter in the first and second degree.

    The couple is accused of recklessly and negligently causing the death of their 12-year-old daughter Syble last year, who died from diabetic ketoacidosis. The state argues the parents should have been aware of the girl’s health problems, and that a reasonable person would have sought medical care. The Rossiters claim they thought their daughter had the flu, which is why they did not bring her to a doctor.

    The state also presented testimony to the jury that indicates the Rossiters belong to the Church of the First Born in Brownsville, a group that believes in faith-healing. Though Travis Rossiter says in his police interview that he believes it is a sin to see a doctor, Wenona Rossiter testified on Monday that the case was not a question of their religion because they were not aware that Syble had type one diabetes. She also told the jury that she once before took her husband to the emergency room.

    The couple will be sentenced on Dec. 19.


  24. 'Doctor' treating First Nations girls says cancer patients can heal themselves

    1 child with leukemia has relapsed and is critically ill

    By Connie Walker & Marnie Luke, CBC News November 13, 2014

    A Florida health resort licensed as a “massage establishment” is treating a young Ontario First Nations girl with leukemia using cold laser therapy, Vitamin C injections and a strict raw food diet, among other therapies.

    The mother of the 11-year-old girl, who cannot be identified because of a publication ban, says the resort’s director, Brian Clement, who goes by the title “Dr.,” told her leukemia is “not difficult to treat.”

    Another First Nations girl, Makayla Sault, was also treated at Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach and is now critically ill after a relapse of her leukemia.

    The resort has declined CBC’s request for an interview with Clement, who is described as a “naturopathic doctor” on the resort’s website.

    But the Florida state health authority has said Clement is not a licensed doctor or naturopath, and inquiries regarding the institutions where he is described in online biographies as having earned degrees have raised questions about their credibility.

    The 11-year-old girl was receiving chemotherapy at McMasterChildren’s Hospital in Hamilton. Doctors gave her a 90 to 95 per cent of survival with chemotherapy.

    But her mother says she wanted to pursue a combination of traditional indigenous medicine and alternative therapies because she believes chemotherapy is “poison.”

    Court ruling coming

    The names of the mother and daughter are protected by a publication ban imposed by an Ontario Superior Court judge who will rule on Friday if the girl is a “child in need of protection.”

    He could rule that the Brant Children’s Aid Society should take her into custody, potentially forcing her back into chemotherapy.

    The family of Makayla Sault, who is the same age, has the same type of leukemia and lives in a nearby First Nation made a similar decision to leave chemotherapy earlier this year.

    Both families travelled to West Palm Beach and paid more than $18,000 each for Clement’s “Life Transformation Program” at the Hippocrates Health Institute (HHI).

    Makayla relapsed after returning from HHI. She was hospitalized last week and is said to be critically ill.

    The other girl has also returned home, but her mother says HHI is continuing to provide care by analyzing blood test results sent by mail.

    Concerns about director’s claims and credentials

    CBC News is looking into the claims and credentials of Clement.

    He’s been giving lectures in and around both girls’ communities in recent months, including one event attended by Makayla’s family this past May.

    In a video obtained by CBC News, Clement says his institute teaches people to “heal themselves” from cancer by eating raw, organic vegetables and having a positive attitude.

    “We've had more people reverse cancer than any institute in the history of health care,” he says.

    “So when McGill fails or Toronto hospital fails, they come to us. Stage four (cancer), and they reverse it.”

    The mother of the girl whose identity is protected says she knew as soon as her daughter was diagnosed that she wanted to seek treatment at Hippocrates, a clinic she was familiar with through a relative, but didn’t have the money to go.

    continued below

  25. After securing financial support from family, she called Clement from the hospital waiting room on the 10th day of her daughter’s chemotherapy.

    'Confident' tone

    “He had the tone of voice where he was so confident,” she says.

    “By him saying, ‘Oh yes no problem we can help her,’ that's the day I stopped the chemo.”

    A list of “Comprehensive Cancer Wellness” treatments on HHI’swebsite includes: Aqua Chi IonicFootbath, BioEnergyField Intervention and The Power of The Mind in Getting Well Program™.”

    An online biography for Clement reads: “A Naturopathic Doctor and a licensed Nutritionist, Dr. Clement is a graduate of the University of Science, Arts, and Technology where he earned his Ph.D. and N.M.D.”

    A different biography, posted on a site run by Clement, says his post-graduate degree came from Lady Malina Memorial Medical College.

    According to the Florida State Health Authority, Hippocrates Health Institute is a licensed massage establishment. It says Brian Clement is not a licensed doctor or naturopath.

    Hippocrates Health Institute did not respond to questions from CBC News seeking clarification about where and when Clement attended university.

    ‘Diploma mills’

    In the May video, Clement told an audience that he went back to school to earn his PhD 15 years ago, despite being at odds with conventional medical teaching.

    “When I went back and got that education I had to actually lie on half the tests because I would have failed … if I applied what I knew from all the work I did decades done before that,” he says.

    Further inquiries about the University of Science, Arts and Technology (USAT) and the Lady Melina Memorial College raise questions about their credibility.

    A list of “Comprehensive Cancer Wellness” treatments on HHI’swebsite includes: Aqua Chi IonicFootbath, BioEnergyField Intervention and The Power of The Mind in Getting Well Program™.”

    An online biography for Clement reads: “A Naturopathic Doctor and a licensed Nutritionist, Dr. Clement is a graduate of the University of Science, Arts, and Technology where he earned his Ph.D. and N.M.D.”

    A different biography, posted on a site run by Clement, says his post-graduate degree came from Lady Malina Memorial Medical College.

    According to the Florida State Health Authority, Hippocrates Health Institute is a licensed massage establishment. It says Brian Clement is not a licensed doctor or naturopath.

    Hippocrates Health Institute did not respond to questions from CBC News seeking clarification about where and when Clement attended university.

    ‘Diploma mills’

    In the May video, Clement told an audience that he went back to school to earn his PhD 15 years ago, despite being at odds with conventional medical teaching.

    “When I went back and got that education I had to actually lie on half the tests because I would have failed … if I applied what I knew from all the work I did decades done before that,” he says.

    Further inquiries about the University of Science, Arts and Technology (USAT) and the Lady Melina Memorial College raise questions about their credibility.


  26. Judge rejects application to take aboriginal girl from family for chemo

    Court dismisses McMaster application, saying family has right to choose aboriginal medicine

    By John Rieti, CBC News November 14, 2014

    An Ontario judge has dismissed an application to take an aboriginal girl from her family for chemotherapy.

    The judge was deciding whether the Children’s Aid Society should intervene in the case of an aboriginal girl whose family removed her from chemotherapy at a Hamilton hospital in favour of traditional medicine. The girl has been undergoing treatment for leukemia in Florida.

    Judge Gethin Edward has presided over the complicated and potentially precedent-setting Brantford, Ont., court case since it began on Sept. 25.

    “I cannot find that J.J. is a child in need of protection when her substitute decision-maker has chosen to exercise her constitutionally protected right to pursue their traditional medicine over the Applicant's stated course of treatment of chemotherapy," Edward said, as he read his ruling aloud.

    Edward, citing the testimony of two McMaster Children’s Hospital doctors, agreed the child wasn't capable of making her own medical decisions. But he found it was the mother’s aboriginal rights — which he called “integral” to the family’s way of life — allow her to choose traditional medicine for her daughter.

    "In applying the foregoing reasons to the Applicant's section 40(4) application, I cannot find that J.J. is a child in need of protection when her substitute decision-maker has chosen to exercise her constitutionally protected right to pursue their traditional medicine over the Applicant's stated course of treatment of chemotherapy."

    "The application is dismissed. This is not an appropriate case to consider cost."

    "I wish to thank all counsel for their efforts in this very difficult case."

    — Judge Gethin Edward

    Hamilton Health Sciences doctors asked for the Children’s Aid Society to separate the girl from her family so she could resume chemotherapy. The girl’s doctors said she has a 90-95 per cent chance of survival on chemotherapy, but that they didn’t know of anyone who had survived Acute Lyphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) without the treatment.

    Neither the girl nor her mother can be identified due to a publication ban.

    The decision was met with applause from many in the courtroom, including members of the girl’s family.

    “It is dismissed. It is dismissed … aboriginal rights are upheld,” said a family friend, in tears, as she called the girl’s mother from inside the courtroom.

    The girl’s mother was expected to make a statement on Saturday.

    Outside the court, Six Nations Chief Ava Hill and New Credit First Nations Chief Bryan Laforme welcomed the ruling, saying it has broader effects across Canada.

    'This is monumental'

    "This not only affects the two young ladies that we were talking about here today in court, but this -- this has broader effects across the country.

    “This is monumental,” said Laforme. “It reaffirms our right to be Indian and to practise our medicines in the traditional way.”

    continued below

  27. Officials from the Brant County Children’s Aid Society also welcomed Edward’s ruling, saying it prevents the “trauma” of taking the girl away from her family while she was being treated.

    Judge Edward reiterated that no one, including the doctors from McMaster Children’s Hospital who have called for legal intervention, has suggested that the girl's mother is negligent.

    Brant County CAS director Andrew Koster testified during the proceedings that the case should never have come before his agency. Officials from Hamilton Health Sciences, however, told court they were disappointed the Children's Aid Society hasn’t acted faster to protect the child.

    Doctors at McMaster Children’s Hospital, where the girl was being treated, said they were confident they had a very good chance to save the girl with chemotherapy.

    Choosing treatment

    "We know we can save this child’s life. We can’t give up on this child," hospital president Peter Fitzgerald told CBC Hamilton.

    Hamilton Health Sciences officials won’t make a comment immediately after Friday’s ruling, a spokeswoman said, but will issue a statement later in the day.

    The girl and her family have not been present in court throughout the proceedings. Neither the patient nor her family can be identified because of a publication ban in the court case.

    The girl’s mother has defended her decision to seek alternative cancer treatment at the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida, a centre that focuses on nutrition and naturopathic therapy.

    In a letter to CBC News, she wrote, "I will not have my daughter treated with poison .… I have chosen treatment that will not compromise her well-being and quality of life."

    Precedent setting

    The family paid the institute $18,000 for the treatment. In a video obtained by CBC News, institute director Brian Clement says his institute teaches people to "heal themselves" from cancer by eating raw, organic vegetables and having a positive attitude.

    "We've had more people reverse cancer than any institute in the history of health care," he says.

    Nicholas Bala, a professor of family law at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., said that regardless of the judge’s decision, this case will be precedent setting.

    "It`s going to set a precedent on the rights of parents and also on the question of which piece of legislation governs, the Child and Family Services Act or legislation governing the health capacity and consent board.”


  28. First Nations children not well served by chemotherapy ruling

    In life-threatening cases, 'our courts should take the child’s best interest as the deciding criterion'

    By Arthur Schafer, OPINION CBC News November 15, 2014

    Family and supporters are celebrating their victory in court. McMaster Children’s Hospital sought a court ruling that would force chemotherapy on an 11-year-old First Nations girl. On Friday, an Ontario judge dismissed their application.

    Some see this as a landmark decision for aboriginal children’s welfare rights. But it’s a victory that was won at a high cost. Without chemotherapy, the hospital says the child will almost certainly die soon; with chemotherapy, her life could be saved.

    Significantly, the judge agreed with McMaster Children’s Hospital doctors that “the child is in need of care and protection”. He understands that the mother’s rejection of chemotherapy in favour of “traditional First Nations medicine” endangers the child’s life. But he nevertheless ruled that the constitutional rights of aboriginal people trump the needs of First Nations children for care and protection.

    Let’s review the basic facts

    The First Nations girl is suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Hospital doctors argue that without chemotherapy the girl will almost certainly die. With chemo she would have a 90 to 95 per cent chance of living a full and healthy life.

    The girl and her family decided to discontinue chemotherapy. Instead, they opted for treatment at the Hippocrates Health Institute [HHI]

    in West Palm Beach, Fla. The mother says it's complimentary to the First Nations medicine her daughter takes daily.

    The institute’s owner, Brian Clement, insists that the girl’s cancer will be reversed by a diet of raw organic vegetables and a positive attitude. “He had a tone of voice where he was so confident”, says the girl’s mother.

    HHI is a licensed massage establishment. The family has paid $18,000 to the institute (as has another First Nations family whose daughter,Makayla, was “cured” of leukemia but is now said to be in critical condition.) Both families have rejected chemotherapy because it is “poison." They both opted, instead, for a combination of indigenous and alternative medicine.

    Who gets to decide?

    If you are a competent adult then you get to decide. If you don’t want an antibiotic for your pneumonia then no physician can force you to take it, not even to save your life. If you say “disconnect me from the breathing machine that is keeping me alive” they are legally (and morally) obliged to disconnect you from life support. It doesn’t matter if the doctors believe that your decision is mistaken, foolish, or utterly misguided. It’s your call.

    continued below

  29. But if you are a child then your parents or guardians get to decide. Parents have the legal obligation and responsibility to make medical decisions on behalf of their minor children. As a society, we respect family integrity. Generally we assume that parents love their child better than anyone else and that they possess privileged knowledge about what’s best for their child.

    That’s the default position. However, it’s obvious that not all parents are loving and equally obvious that even those who are loving can sometimes make decisions that are blatantly unreasonable.

    So if physicians believe that the parents’ decision is either clearly unloving or blatantly unreasonable then the physicians can — and, when life is at stake, usually do — ask the court to intervene. If the court believes, based on the evidence at trial, that the parents have made a decision far outside the bounds of reasonableness then typically a guardian can be appointed as medical decision-maker for the child. This happens not infrequently in Canada when Jehovah’s Witness parents refuse safe and effective treatment for children because of their religion’s opposition to blood transfusions.

    What about the wishes of the child?

    Respect for the autonomy of children is important, especially when, as in cases involving chemotherapy, the proposed treatment is highly aggressive and distressing. These days, even quite young children are encouraged to participate. That’s good medicine as well as good ethics.

    The question that should always be asked is whether this particular child is competent to make the difficult medical decisions on which the child's life may depend. If a child appears to be dominated by the scientifically eccentric beliefs of her parents, then it may be the duty of a judge to rule that the child requires protection.

    If the odds of survival were reversed, if chemo treatment had only a five to 10 per cent (instead of a 90 to 95 per cent) likelihood of saving the child’s life, then it would be reasonable for the family to make its own decision, without interference from doctors or courts. But when the scientific evidence strongly favours treatment then, whatever the family’s culture or religion, courts generally see it as necessary to override family autonomy in favour of child protection.

    Canadian society has an ugly record of riding roughshod over the wishes of First Nations families. We should never forget the shameful legacy of the residential schools. Respect for First Nations cultural values is undeniably important.

    When the crunch comes, however, and the life of a child hangs in the balance, then even if the parents and child favour traditional healing or alternative medicine our courts should take the child’s best interest as the deciding criterion. In this case, that didn’t happen.


  30. Doctors say science doesn't back First Nations girls' treatment


    The late founder of a Florida alternative health clinic that treated two cancer-stricken Canadian aboriginal girls built her program on the notion that wheat grass holds remarkable healing properties, born out partly by a Bible story and the eating habits of dogs and cats.

    Hippocrates Health Institute still extols the virtues of the grass - and at least twice in the past six months its director promoted such theories at a southern Ontario First Nations community.

    Sham-science watchdogs are calling the clinic's treatments essentially useless, but its message seemed to resonate at the Six Nations reserve and a neighbouring Mohawk community.

    Parents of the two 11-yearold girls took their children out of chemotherapy and spent thousands of dollars each to be treated at Hippocrates' lakeside resort in West Palm Beach.

    And on Friday, Ontario Justice Gethin Edward - who happens to be a member of Six Nations, according to the agenda for a conference there last month - endorsed that decision as an exercise of their constitutional right to seek out "traditional" native medicine.

    The families did reportedly turn to aboriginal remedies, as well, but Hippocrates' founder was from Lithuania, and its current director, Brian Clement, describes himself as a "typical American," from New Jersey.

    Regardless, there appears to be little science to back up the treatments the institute offers, from wheat grass to raw-food diets and "infrared saunas," said Joe Schwarcz, director of McGill University's Office for Science and Society, which describes its mission as "separating sense from nonsense."

    "These alternative people tell you about conventional doctors just poisoning you and slashing you, and then they offer a kinder, gentler therapy," said Schwarcz, a professor and chemist.

    "But the problem is the kinder, gentler therapy doesn't have any evidence behind it."

    David Gorski, a surgical oncologist at Wayne State University, was more pointed in a lengthy article about Hippocrates and the Ontario cases on the Science-based Medicine website.

    "Its programs (are) a veritable cornucopia of nearly every quackery on the planet," wrote Dr. Gorski. However, the mother of one of the girls with leukemia, whose identity is subject to a court-ordered publication ban, strongly defended her decision at a Six Nations event Sunday, saying she had been prepared to flee the country if the court ordered her daughter back into chemotherapy.

    And she said the "symphony of treatment" the girl has received since bowing out of chemo is working, a local newspaper reported.

    Makayla Sault, the other young patient, was cancer free when she underwent a blood test last week, despite media reports she had relapsed, said Bryan LaForme, chief of New Credit, a band near the Toronto suburb of Mississauga, Ont.

    "She's at home and doing fine," he said, suggesting that media were spreading "misinformation" about her case.

    The clinic that treated both girls has nevertheless faced controversy before for its disease-treating assertions.

    In the 1980s, when Hippocrates was based in Boston and Clement was already director, founder Ann Wigmore was twice prosecuted by the Massachusetts attorney general, once for claiming her program could reduce diabetics' need for insulin and later for suggesting she could cure AIDS. Both claims were withdrawn, according to the American Cancer Society.


  31. Living on a Prayer. Why Does God Kill So Many Children in Idaho?

    Faith-healing parents believe prayer is the only acceptable treatment in matters of health, even if it means letting their children die. In Idaho, they're immune from prosecution, and the body count is rising

    by Shane Dixon Kavanaugh, Vocativ November 17, 2014

    On Feb. 5, 2013, just weeks before her 13th birthday, Syble Rossiter was at home in Albany, Oregon, gasping for breath and in critical condition. For most of the afternoon, her family had watched as she vomited violently and lost control of her bowels, eventually becoming so weak she could no longer stand. In the hours leading up to her final, fevered breaths, as Syble slowly drifted into unconsciousness and ultimately death, her parents never called a doctor or rushed her to an emergency room. As members of the General Assembly Church of the First Born, a faith-healing Christian sect, they believed that seeking medical help for their daughter would be a sign of spiritual weakness and an affront against God’s will. Instead, Travis and Wenona Rossiter tried to cure her with prayer.

    Inside the Linn County Courthouse this month, the Rossiters and their defense attorneys watched silently as prosecutor Keith Stein presented images of Syble that authorities had taken at the crime scene. Gaunt and pale, the girl’s body was seated upright on her family’s living room couch in a red shirt and a pair of urine-soaked jeans. Her eyes were sunken, and her body looked dehydrated. From the witness stand, Dr. Gary Goby, the county’s medical examiner, told the jury that Syble had died from complications of a chronic and undiagnosed case of Type 1 diabetes, adding that a simple treatment of insulin and fluids could have saved her life.

    Because of their inaction, the prosecutor argued, Travis and Wenona Rossiter were directly responsible for their daughter’s death. “This case is not about their religion,” he told the jurors. “It’s about the minimum standard of medical care that our laws will tolerate when it comes to our children.” The Rossiters’ defense lawyers claimed that the family had thought she only had the flu, but the jury was ultimately unmoved. Last week, the Rossiters were convicted of first- and second-degree manslaughter, which in Oregon carries a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence.

    The verdict is the latest in a string of convictions of faith healers who endanger their children in Oregon, where officials have been empowered by some of the strictest laws in the country since 2011, when the state eliminated the last of its religious-defense statutes. Oregon has successfully prosecuted three similar cases in the last three years, putting mothers and fathers in jail on charges of criminal mistreatment, negligent homicide and manslaughter, and sending a message to other faith-healing families that they must seek medical care for their children.

    Just across the state line in Idaho, however, there are no such deterrents. During the same period of time, at least 12 children have died at the hands of faith-healing parents in the state, yet not a single charge has been filed. In Idaho, authorities do not investigate or prosecute faith-healing deaths, which occur largely without scrutiny from the public or media. Of the dozen documented cases in the last three years—and there are likely many more that have gone unreported—all were members of the Followers of Christ, a faith-healing group with a doctrine nearly identical to the Church of the First Born. The Followers are also active in Oregon, where they gained notoriety in the 1990s after a series of high-profile child deaths.

    The stark contrast over a span of a few highway miles is not lost on Linda Martin, an Idaho native and former member of the Followers of Christ who attended the Rossiters’ trial in Oregon.

    continued below

  32. “When they described the way Syble was found, I immediately knew what had transpired the night she died,” says Martin, who moved to Oregon in 1999 but maintained contact with members of her church. “It was like watching a Followers death scene all over again. I hate that sick feeling of knowing what’s going to come next.”

    To Martin, what’s going on in Idaho “makes Oregon look like a bunch of boy scouts.” Last year, after watching too many children needlessly suffer and die, Martin broke her silence about the unpunished deaths in Idaho, and she has since become one of the few activists devoted to the issue there. Though it would lead to her being shunned by family and friends, she reached out to a reporter who had covered the Followers in Oregon, Dan Tilkin of Portland’s KATU News, and urged him to dig further in Idaho. The investigation led to the Peaceful Valley Cemetery outside of Boise, where Tilkin made the startling discovery that among the 553 marked graves at the cemetery, 144 appeared to be those of children, more than 25 percent.

    Martin says a more extensive review of burial records at Peaceful Valley using the Idaho State Archives, obituaries and interviews with family and next of kin shows that among the 604 people buried at the cemetery, including unmarked graves, 208 are children, which means the figure is closer to 35 percent. Those findings are documented on the Find a Grave website, an online database of cemetery records. While the graves of deceased children in the cemetery date back to 1905, 149 children, more than 70 percent, were buried there in or after 1972, the year that Idaho enacted a law providing a religious defense to manslaughter.

    Autopsy records show that all 11 Followers children buried in Peaceful Valley since 2011 succumbed to medically preventable conditions. There were infants who slowly perished from sepsis, respiratory failure and diabetes, and teens who battled pneumonia for weeks. One 16-year-old, Pamela Eells, drowned in her own fluids after suffering from a bone infection commonly associated with leukemia, according to her coroner’s report. The medical examiner in that case, Dr. Charles Garrison, said he found it inexplicable “to comprehend how anyone can watch a child die and do nothing.”

    Perhaps worst of all was the fate of 15-year-old Arrian Granden, whose family stood by for three days in 2012 as their daughter suffered fits of vomiting and diarrhea. Arrian’s esophagus eventually ruptured from her retching, which was brought on by an easily treatable case of food poisoning. She gradually fell unconscious before going into cardiac arrest. A 205-word case summary from the Canyon County Coroner’s Office is the only official record of her death.
    Nearly every state includes some form of religious exemption from charges against faith-healing parents in its criminal or civil codes. Most of these laws are remnants of a decision by the federal government in the 1970s—granted at the urging of the Christian Science Church, the nation’s largest faith-healing denomination—to withhold funding for child abuse programs in states that did not enact some form of religious immunity for parents who favored spiritual healing over medical care. While the federal government later rescinded its regulation, most states left the laws in place.

    Currently, 32 states, including Idaho, provide a religious defense to felony or misdemeanor crimes specifically against children, including neglect, endangerment and abuse, according to state statutes compiled by Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty (CHILD), a national advocacy group. There are 38 states that provide religious exemptions in their civil codes on child abuse and neglect, which can prevent Child Protective Services from investigating and monitoring cases of religion-based medical neglect and discourage reporting.

    continued below

  33. Of the states that still provide a religious defense to felonies against children, Idaho remains in a league of its own. It is one of only six states that provide a religious exemption to manslaughter, negligent homicide or capital murder (the others being Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Ohio and West Virginia). But of those six, it is the only state where children are known to have died at the hands of faith-healing parents in the last 20 years. Rita Swan, CHILD’s co-founder, describes Idaho as “the worst in the country,” and she attributes the state’s high number of deaths to its overreaching religious exemption laws, which were enacted in 1972.

    Swan and other child advocates argue that Idaho’s laws, and those like them, are in direct contradiction with the Supreme Court’s 1944 decision in Prince v. Massachusetts, which ruled that parental authority cannot jeopardize a child’s welfare, even in cases of religious expression. “The right to practice religion freely,” the court concluded, “does not include liberty to expose…[a] child…to ill health or death.”

    “Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves,” the decision continued. “But it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children.”

    Idaho’s religious exemption law describes prayer as a spiritual “treatment” that can act as a legal substitute for medical care. In other words, it can’t be neglect if the child is receiving treatment, even if that treatment consists exclusively of asking God for a miracle. What’s more absurd, according to Swan, is that the state’s laws inadvertently promote the most extreme behavior among faith-healing parents because of how they’re written: Parents can lose their religious protections the minute they use any other means of care beyond spiritual treatment to help cure a child.

    “If the parent combines prayer with orange juice or a cool bath to bring down a fever,” Swan says, “the parent loses the exemption.”

    Yet, because of the profound chilling effect Idaho’s religious exemption laws have had on the authorities who might enforce them, those claims have never been put to the test. Not a single criminal charge has been filed in cases of religion-based medical neglect in the state since legislators enacted the law four decades ago. Boise police declined to even report two faith-healing parents in 2010 after they refused medical care for their critically injured son, citing the religious exemption statute. The following year, Canyon County Coroner Vicki DeGeus-Morris told reporters that she had stopped doing autopsies on children who belonged to the Followers of Christ altogether.

    Few with power or political will in Idaho have been compelled to stop the growing body count. With the exception of one local television station in Boise, the revelations, which have been coming to light since last year, attracted scant media attention in the state. Idaho’s largest papers didn’t touch the story, nor did the state’s public radio or alternative weeklies.

    Earlier this year, a proposal was introduced in Idaho’s state legislature to amend its religious shield laws, but it never got to the floor. Scott Bedke, the state’s House speaker, prevented the bill from having a hearing. Even the Governor’s Task Force on Children at Risk, a nonpartisan advisory group, declined to support the bill, which became red meat for conservative state legislators who saw it as government intrusion and an assault on religious freedom.

    “This is about religious beliefs, the belief God is in charge of whether they live, and God is in charge of whether they die,” said Republican Rep. Christy Perry. “This is about where they go for eternity.”

    continued below

  34. There is currently no sponsor for a new bill, and the chance of one gaining traction in next year’s legislature is slim. Reached by phone, the original sponsor, Boise Democrat John Gannon, indicates that it’s not exactly on the top of his to-do list. “It’s honestly not something that I’ve thought a lot about lately,” he says.

    Bryan Taylor, the lead prosecutor in Canyon County, where Arrian Granden died, would not respond to multiple requests for comment. He has previously stated that his hands are tied by current law. “If they don’t want to have their children go to a doctor, as long as they haven’t caused the injuries, then we don’t really have a leg to stand on in exploring criminal charges,” he told KBOI 2 News.

    Outside of Oregon and Idaho, there have been 20 documented faith-healing fatalities of minors since 2008 in 10 different states, including Texas, Colorado and Pennsylvania, according to CHILD. But the death count among Followers of Christ puts Idaho well out in front as the deadliest state in the country. That distinction actually once belonged to Oregon, until a highly publicized child death in 1998 ultimately prompted prosecutors and lawmakers to act.

    Oregon, like Idaho, had a religious defense to manslaughter on the books when 11-year-old Bo Phillips died from untreated diabetes that year. His family, who were members of the Followers of Christ, prayed over him and anointed his body with oil instead of taking him to a doctor. It was the first time authorities felt they had a clear case of abuse in a faith-healing child death. But the district attorney for the county, Terry Gustafson, declined to prosecute the boy’s parents because of ambiguities in the state law.

    Gustafson’s decision triggered public outcry across the state. The Oregonian newspaper in Portland, the state’s largest paper, launched an investigative series on faith-healing deaths, which found that of the 78 children buried in one Followers cemetery in Oregon City since 1955, 21 had died from treatable illnesses. Shortly after, ABC’s 20/20 and Diane Sawyer brought national attention to the state’s faith-healing controversy with a prime-time segment on the Followers. By 1999, legislators had eliminated religious protections in cases of manslaughter and criminal mistreatment.

    In 2011, the state eliminated all remaining religious exemptions for denying medical care. Within a few months, Followers of Christ members Timothy and Rebecca Wyland were convicted of criminal mistreatment for allowing a growth the size of a baseball on their infant daughter’s face to go untreated. They were sentenced to 90 days in jail and eventually lost custody of their daughter. While six states have now struck all religious protections for crimes against children, Oregon’s reforms have shown to be the most sweeping in their transformation. With the Rossiters’ conviction, the state has now won every faith-healing child death case it has prosecuted.

    Advocates like Martin believe that without publicity and stiff legal repercussions, children will continue to suffer and die at the hands of faith-healing parents in Idaho. And they are praying that they will find a way to make the issue resonate with lawmakers and the public in the state.

    “If we can change the laws there, we might be able to give some of these kids a chance at growing up,” says Martin. “The torture of these children has got to stop.”


  35. Aboriginal right to refuse chemotherapy for child spurs debate

    Judge's controversial ruling in case of aboriginal girl with leukemia has legal community talking

    CBC News Posted: Nov 29, 2014

    It's a case that has Canadians and the legal community buzzing.

    Earlier this month Ontario Judge Gethin Edward ruled in favour of a First Nations girl and her family, who stopped chemotherapy to treat her acutelymphoblastic leukemia, choosing traditional medicine instead.

    The judge rejected an application from McMaster Children’s Hospital that would have required the Children’s Aid Society to intervene in the case.

    Edward ruled that it was the mother’s aboriginal right — which he called "integral" to the family’s way of life — to allow her to choose traditional medicine for her daughter.

    While many hailed the decision as a victory for aboriginal rights, others call it a failure in the protection of child welfare

    On Friday, experts from University of Ottawa's faculty of law debated the ruling.

    Aboriginal rights vs. rights of the child

    “I've never seen a judge recognize a broad right for a First Nation like the Mohawk Nation to have their medical practices — their traditional ways of life regarding health and healing — protected by the Constitution under Section 35,” said Larry Chartrand, professor at the faculty of law.

    Chartrand specializes in aboriginal governance and health, and while he states that this decision is positive in terms of aboriginal rights, “the unfortunate circumstance is that it revolved around a fact situation where a little girl's life is potentially at stake. So that makes the decision very difficult to appreciate.”

    McMaster doctors said she has a 90 to 95 per cent chance of survival on chemotherapy, but that they didn’t know of anyone who had survived acute lymphoblastic leukemia without the treatment.

    “I understand the mother's decision. I have a 12-year-old son, and I'm not sure I would make that decision myself under the circumstances. But I understand why, because of the impact of colonization, the distrust of the mainstream system, and the need to protect Mohawk culture — sometimes at all costs.”

    Bryan Thomas, a research associate in the faculty of law, raised concerns about the “decision's lack of exploration of the rights of the child in this case.”

    “All that they're asking is whether this falls under the sovereign jurisdiction of aboriginal people, and then asking no more questions. So what I think a lot of people would have liked to see is more robust discussion of what is in the best interests of this child.”

    What constitutes traditional medicine?

    The girl has received alternative treatment from the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida. The family says this is in line with traditional medicine.A CBC investigation has revealed questionable claims and credentials of the institute. And some, including Thomas, question whether that should be considered indigenous healing.

    “Will anything just qualify under this banner of traditional healing, and does the court have a responsibility to explore in greater detail whether there's a tradition of this practice?" said Thomas.

    For Chartrand, what is defined as traditional healing in this case isn’t up for debate.

    “It's a respect for who has the jurisdiction to make that determination. And if it's the Mohawk Nation, then the Mohawk Nation decides that question. It's not a general question we can ask.”

    Both Chartrand and Thomas agree the case is precedent setting and anticipate more cases like this one in Canadian courtrooms.


  36. Should We Be Shocked When Sick Kids Opt Out of Chemotherapy?

    Poor understanding of Ojibwe culture fuels misunderstanding, says law professor

    By Jeremy J. Nuttall, December 1, 2014

    The cases of two cancer-stricken girls who ended potentially life-saving chemotherapy appear shocking to many Canadians because those choices are viewed through a lens of western philosophy, a member of a University of Ottawa panel discussing the case, has argued.

    Earlier this month, a Brantford, Ont. judge ruled that an 11-year-old aboriginal girl with leukemia had a constitutional right to stop chemotherapy and use traditional medicine instead. The girl, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, had been undergoing chemotherapy, but her mother stopped the treatment in September and took her to Florida to receive alternative treatment.

    The case was similar to another aboriginal girl, 11-year-old Makayla Sault, also with leukemia, who last spring chose to end chemotherapy. In that case, the hospital treating her asked child authorities to intervene. They refused, and the hospital did not pursue the matter.

    The court decision was met with indignation and shock by columnists and medical and legal experts.

    But during Friday's panel discussion Darren O'Toole, a member of the University of Ottawa's law faculty and expert on indigenous rights, argued that a lack of understanding of Ojibwe culture has perpetuated anger at the court's decision.

    O'Toole said the decision raises many questions about how western philosophies dominate the healthcare and legal systems. Viewing the case from another cultural perspective may change someone's opinion.

    However, even O'Toole admitted he was surprised at the court's ruling.

    "My first reaction was, 'You're just going to let this little girl die?'" he told The Tyee after the panel.

    "So I understand that emotional reaction. But it's a bit of a knee-jerk reaction."

    O'Toole said he doesn't know if there's a right answer in the case, but the reaction showed how prevalent the fear of death is in western culture and the impact it has over treatment.

    Last May, Makayla released a YouTube video explaining why she wanted to refuse mainstream cancer treatment and instead try traditional medicine.

    In the video, Makayla, whose parents are Christian pastors, says Jesus told her she would be healed. She says she has gained weight and feels better. There were reports this month that said her condition had worsened, but band leaders refuted the claims.

    "God, the creator, has the final say over my life," Sault says in the May video.

    And that aspect of Ojibwe culture is being overlooked by mainstream Canada, according to O'Toole.

    "The way they look at death is very different than western culture, so right away there's room for a total misunderstanding on that basis," he said.

    Based on his experience, he said the Ojibwe culture's view on death is that people are part of a larger picture and death is something to be accepted.

    He also pointed out the paradox of outrage at a decision that could result in the death of the girls, when society appears to have little regard for the safety of aboriginal women as they grow up -- for instance the case of missing aboriginal women across Canada.

    "If she fell into prostitution or something like that would they care, suddenly, about her life anymore?"


  37. Florida spa that treated First Nations girls with cancer faces lawsuits from ex-staff

    Director Brian Clement giving false hope, putting patients at risk, nurse says

    By Marnie Luke and Connie Walker, CBC News December 11, 2014

    A Florida health spa, popular with many Canadians battling cancer and other serious illnesses, is being sued by former staff who allege the company's president is operating "a scam under Florida law" and practising medicine without a licence.

    Brian Clement runs the Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach where the families of two young First Nations girls from Ontario recently spent tens of thousands of dollars on treatments for their daughters' leukemia.

    He and his wife, Anna Maria, a co-director of the institute, are named in at least three separate lawsuits filed recently in Palm Beach County.

    Two are by ex-employees who claim HHI violated Florida's whistleblower act when it fired them, and another is by a physician alleging breach of contract after he documented concerns that what he was being asked to do at HHI could be illegal.

    The allegations in the lawsuits predate the times the two First Nations girls were at the facility.

    Makayla Sault was there in July, and has since suffered a relapse.

    The other girl, who cannot be named because of a court-ordered publication ban, stopped chemotherapy treatment at Hamilton's McMaster Children's Hospital, where she was given a 90-95 per cent chance of survival, to go to the Florida spa in September.

    At Hippocrates, her mother told CBC News, her daughter received treatments including cold laser therapy, IV supplements, massages and raw food consisting largely of sprouts and wheatgrass.

    Popular with Canadians

    Both First Nations girls made headlines recently for halting chemotherapy in favour of traditional indigenous medicine.

    But their parents also opted for some therapies championed by Clement, who twice gave talks in their Six Nations community near Caldeonia, Ontario. He's listed online as having made 17 other appearances in Canadian towns and cities this year alone.

    Canadians represent a significant part of HHI's business, with sources telling CBC that more than a third of the health spa's customers at any given time could come from north of the border.

    Anna Maria Clement is listed as a director of HHI's Canadian operations, which registered as a not-for-profit business in March.

    CBC News has spoken with several HHI employees, past and present, who have been either troubled by what they claim is the increasing emphasis on selling treatments to vulnerable cancer patients, or by medical orders given by the Clements.

    Steven Pugh worked at HHI for over a year as a nurse. He was concerned the Clements were giving false hope to patients.

    "They would use the word cure. 'We're going to cure your illness.'"

    Neither of the Clements is a licensed medical doctor, though both refer to themselves as doctors with clients as well as on the HHI website.

    Brian Clement says he is a doctor of nutrition, but there is some question about his credentials and Florida authorities say he is not licensed as a doctor of naturopathy.

    Pugh says that the Clements routinely interpreted laboratory blood tests, ordered IVs and prescribed supplements.

    continued below

  38. They also placed restrictions on when staff could call an ambulance to take patients for emergency medical care at local hospitals, according to Pugh and other former staff.

    Pugh told CBC News that lives could have been placed at risk because the Clements prescribed treatments to patients.

    "Not only prescribe but actually cancel the physician's orders ... and advise them to take something totally different, or even a different amount of the drug that the physician prescribed."

    Pugh said he refused the Clements' orders to ask permission before calling paramedics if he saw a patient in distress.

    "I'm not going to let you die if I think you need to go to the emergency room. We're not a life-saving facility." he said.

    Civil suits

    Pugh says he brought his concerns to Florida's Department of Health and the Board of Nursing last November, and claims he was fired days later, along with other medical staff who disagreed with the Clements' orders to perform duties outside their scope of practice.

    The Department of Health said it "can neither confirm nor deny" any investigation into the Clements or HHI.

    Court documents allege staff were fired because they "refused to participate in a scam under Florida law by prescribing supplements, etc. by unlicensed persons."

    The legal complaint of the physician who worked at HHI alleges "professional and ethical transgressions in regard to the medical treatment of patients at the facility."

    His civil suit against the facility also notes that he informed the Clements of "...several alleged violations, including but not limited to, unlicensed practice of medicine by non-licensed professionals."

    None of the allegations against Hippocrates Health Institute has been proven in court, and in court documents responding to the employees' lawsuits HHI denies "each and every allegation."

    Clement denies allegations

    Brian Clement turned down requests from CBC News for a formal interview, and refused to answer questions raised in a previous CBC News report about his degrees.

    CBC attempted to get Clement's response to these and other allegations at the Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach recently.

    Clement called the allegations "ridiculous," and accused CBC of being part of a "system of deception."

    In a brief exchange in the parking lot of the institute, he denied obstructing staff from calling ambulances.

    He also maintained that he doesn't treat anyone at HHI, which is licensed by Florida's department of health as a massage establishment, but teaches people to heal themselves.

    The mother of one of the First Nations girls battling leukemia told CBC News earlier that Clement assured her that her daughter's illness is "not a difficult thing to deal with."

    "I didn't say that," Clement insisted, adding "How about the thousands and thousands of people who've come here for 60 years and gotten better?

    "When we educate them they take care of themselves," he said before shouting "You're a liar. Get off the property."

    When CBC's Connie Walker asked for names of people he taught to reverse cancer, Clement put his hand on her face and said, "Get in the car! You can get on the internet. That's where you get most of your information."


  39. Faith healing couple sentenced to 10 years each

    by KYLE ODEGARD, Albany Democrat-Herald December 20, 2014

    An Albany couple who believes in faith healing were sentenced to 10 years in prison on Friday for depriving their daughter of life-saving medical care — which resulted in manslaughter verdicts.

    In delivering the sentence, Linn County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Murphy said he could not consider that Travis and Wenona Rossiter lived law-abiding and exemplary lives, that they had been good parents, and that there was an absence of malice in their actions.

    Defense attorneys said the case showed the flaws of Measure 11, Oregon’s mandatory minimum sentencing law.

    “The judge indicated he didn’t want to apply that sentence. He felt constrained by Measure 11,” said Mark Heslinga, Wenona Rossiter’s counsel.

    Tim Felling, Travis Rossiter’s attorney, said the sentence would be appealed. Heslinga said other matters could be appealed, as well, such as pre-trial rulings.

    In November, a 12-member jury found Travis and Wenona Rossiter guilty of first-degree and second-degree manslaughter at the conclusion of a six-day trial.

    Their daughter, Syble Rossiter, 12, died of diabetes complications in February 2013.

    First-degree manslaughter is a Measure 11 crime that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.

    Murphy said the case didn’t meet the criteria where he could depart from the prescribed sentence, most notably because of the seriousness.

    “Causing the death of a child is about as grave a crime as can be imagined,” he said.

    Heslinga said the couple’s two remaining minor children will be placed in the care of friends and family — which Murphy noted could put them at risk for illness or even death because of religious beliefs.

    The Rossiters are members of the Church of the First Born, a fundamentalist sect that believes traditional medical treatment is sinful, and instead trust in God to heal them through faith, according to police and court documents.

    Both Wenona and Travis Rossiter addressed the court during Friday’s hearing.

    “There isn’t a day that goes on that I don’t miss my daughter. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish I could go back and I wish I could have known and I could have done something,” Wenona Rossiter said.

    “It is hard to me as a mother to think ... I failed her,” Wenona Rossiter added.

    “She was one of the best things in my life,” Travis Rossiter said.

    Both lamented that the prison sentence meant they would lose years with their other children.

    In the trial’s opening arguments, defense attorneys said the couple thought their daughter merely had the flu.

    Prosecutor Keith Stein said during the trial that the Rossiters were unwilling to provide medical care under any circumstances for their daughter.

    As she suffered from untreated diabetes, Syble Rossiter went through severe weight loss and appeared emaciated, Stein said.

    On the day of her death, she was extremely thirsty and dehydrated, vomited and urinated out everything she took into her system, got so weak she couldn’t stand, and her parents even bought adult diapers for her, Stein said.

    Wenona Rossiter’s parents were the first people in Oregon to be prosecuted for following their religion rather than taking a sick chid for medical care.

    Her brother, Anthony Hays, 7, died of leukemia in 1994, after their parents failed to provide medical care for him.

    In 1996, a Linn County jury convicted Loyd Hays of Brownsville on charges of criminally negligent homicide. His wife, Christina Hays, was acquitted.

    The family also was in the Linn County courts in 1981, when they lost a battle to keep an infant girl from getting medical treatment for a condition that causes the skull to swell.

    That girl was the aunt of Wenona Rossiter.



    Makayla Sault, girl who refused chemo for leukemia, dies

    Ontario First Nation girl, 11, dies after abandoning chemo for traditional, alternative treatments

    By Connie Walker, CBC News January 19, 2015

    Makayla Sault, the 11-year-old Ontario First Nation girl who refused chemotherapy to pursue traditional indigenous medicine and other alternative treatments, has died.

    She died Monday after suffering a stroke Sunday.

    "Surrounded by the love and support of her family, her community and her nation … Makayla completed her course. She is now safely in the arms of Jesus," her family said in a statement published by the Two Row Times.

    The girl’s case made national headlines and ignited a debate about the validity of indigenous medicine and the rights of children to choose their own treatment. The Saults are from the New Credit First Nation near Caledonia, Ont.

    Makayla was given a 75 per cent chance of survival when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in March. She underwent 11 weeks of chemotherapy at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton.

    Her mother, Sonya Sault, said Makayla experienced severe side-effects and at one point ended up in intensive care.

    After Makayla said she had a vision of Jesus in the hospital, she wrote a letter to her doctors asking to stop treatment.

    “I am writing this letter to tell you that this chemo is killing my body and I cannot take it anymore.”

    She left chemotherapy treatment while in remission to pursue alternative and traditional indigenous medicine.

    "Makayla was on her way to wellness, bravely fighting toward holistic well-being after the harsh side-effects that 12 weeks of chemotherapy inflicted on her body," the family statement reads. "Chemotherapy did irreversible damage to her heart and major organs. This was the cause of the stroke."

    Although her family claims her death was due to chemotherapy, in September, a McMaster oncologist testified that Makayla had suffered a relapse. The doctor also testified that there are no known cases of survival of ALL without a full course of chemotherapy treatment.

    When Makayla decided against continuing chemotherapy, the hospital referred her case to the Brant Children’s Aid Society. After a brief investigation, it decided Makayla was not a child in need of protection and that it would not apprehend her to return her to treatment.

    continued below

  41. In an interview with CBC News in May, before the Brant Children's Aid Society closed its investigation, the director Andrew Koster said, "For us to take her away, to apprehend and place in a home with strangers, if that's the case, if there aren't any relatives, when she's very, very ill — I can't see how that would be helpful."

    “I think people much more knowledgeable than ourselves need to be involved to look at what types of traditional medicines are being used, how does it fare up to some of the chemo treatments," said Koster.

    In July, Makayla travelled to the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida and took its three-week "life transformation program." A CBC investigation revealed that Hippocrates is licensed as a "massage establishment," and is being sued by former staff who allege the company's president Brian Clement is operating "a scam under Florida law" and practising medicine without a licence.

    Makayla touched everyone she knew, said Peter Fitzgerald, president of McMaster Children's Hospital, in a statement.

    "Her loss is heartbreaking," he said, extending his condolences to her family.

    Her death comes a few months after an Ontario judge ruled in an unprecedented case of another First Nations girl who also refused chemo.

    The girl, whose identity is protected under a publication ban, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia​ in August. Doctors atMcMaster Children’s Hospital gave her a 90 to 95 per cent chance of survival.

    After 10 days of chemotherapy, she and her mother left McMaster to seek treatment at the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida.

    The mother of the 11-year-old girl, who cannot be identified because of a publication ban, says the resort’s director, Clement, told her leukemia is "not difficult to treat."

    Clement, who goes by the title "Dr.," denied telling the mother that.

    In an interview with CBC's Connie Walker, Clement said, "When we educate them they take care of themselves," he said, before shouting, "You're a liar. Get off the property."

    In an interview with CBC News, her mother said, “This was not a frivolous decision I made. Before I took her off chemo, I made sure that I had a comprehensive health-care plan that I was very confident that was going to achieve ridding cancer of her body before I left the hospital. This is not something I think may work, this is something I know will work.”

    The girl's mother said her daughter received cold laser therapy, Vitamin C injections and a strict raw food diet, among other therapies at Hippocrates.

    Judge Gethin Edward rejected the application from the Hamilton hospital that would have seen the Children’s Aid Society intervene in this case.


  42. Makayla Sault case reignites debate over a minor's right to refuse treatment

    When can government agencies intervene on behalf of a sick child?

    CBC News January 21, 2015

    The death of Makayla Sault, the 11-year-old First Nation girl who was given the right to refuse treatment for leukemia, has reignited the debate about when governments should be able to overrule family wishes in life-threatening medical cases.

    Last March, Makayla was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and authorities said she had a 75 per cent chance of survival if she underwent chemotherapy.

    Makayla, whose family is from the New Credit First Nation near Caledonia, Ont., underwent 11 weeks of chemo at McMaster Children's Hospital in Hamilton, but eventually abandoned it while in remission to pursue alternative and traditional indigenous medicine.

    When Makayla decided against continuing chemotherapy, the hospital referred her case to the Brant Children's Aid Society. But, after an investigation, it decided in May that Makayla was not a child in need of protection, that she was part of a loving family and that it would not apprehend her to return her to treatment.

    Late last year, a judge rejected an application from a hospital that would have compelled child-welfare authorities to intervene in the case ofanother Ontario aboriginal girl whose family had also stopped her chemo in favour of traditional medicine. (The girl's name is protected by a publication ban.)

    These related cases highlight some of the issues at play when a government agency or medical authorities consider intervening in situations involving very sick children whose families refuse treatment.

    What are a parent's responsibilities when it comes to caring for a sick child?

    A parent has the primary rights of decision-making for a child up to the age of 16.

    And under the Canadian Criminal Code, it is an offense to fail to provide the necessities of life to a person under your care, custody or control.

    When can authorities step in?

    According to Canadian common law, as well as provincial child-welfare statutes, the state not only has a right but a responsibility to intervene if a child is abused or neglected, or if a parent fails to provide the necessities of life, says Margaret Somerville, director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University.

    In a situation where a family is rejecting medical treatment that would likely save a child's life, Canadian courts have the inherent power to take the decision-making away from the parents and give it to somebody else, she says.

    Somerville says courts sometimes give that power to the health-care professionals looking after the child, but often they give it to child welfare authorities, such as children's aid societies.

    "Rarely these days will the court make the decision itself," says Somerville.

    continued below

  43. She says that in a recent case in Saskatchewan, courts empowered the provincial minister of health and social services to take action.

    Why might someone refuse treatment for their child?

    There have been a number of examples of parents who refused a specific treatment based on cultural, religious or philosophical grounds.

    One example has been Jehovah's Witnesses, who refuse blood transfusions because they believe the Bible forbids them.

    As the Makayla Sault case demonstrates, some in the aboriginal community would prefer to use traditional or alternative healing methods to treat diseases such as cancer.

    Kenn Richard, the executive director of Native Child and Family Services of Toronto, told CBC News earlier that children's aid societies in Ontario are legally required to consider a First Nation child's background and culture.

    He says that special consideration ensures the troubled history of First Nations' children in care is not repeated.​

    Does the child have any say?

    Courts will often take into account the wishes of mature children — who are deemed "competent minors" — who aren't old enough to be allowed to choose for themselves, says Nicholas Bala, a professor of family and children's law at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont.

    But even so, he says the Supreme Court has ruled that the more serious the consequences of rejecting a given treatment, the less weight is given to that minor's views if they could lead to the child's death.

    "We say 12- and 13-year-olds can make decisions about birth control and abortion, but that's different from rejecting [medical] treatment," he says.

    Do courts usually rule in favour of compelling the family to agree to the prescribed treatment?

    Usually, yes, but not always.

    Bala says that generally speaking, the views of parents and their children "are not determinative" of a court's decision.

    For example, in 2006, Manitoba courts empowered a doctor to give a 14-year-old Jehovah's Witness blood transfusions over the objections of the girl and her parents.

    Bala says many legal experts were surprised by the decision in the case of the Ontario aboriginal girl, in which Judge Gethin Edward ruled that the girl's family had a "constitutionally protected right to pursue their traditional medicine."

    Courts generally have a bias "in favour of life," Bala says, but will show leniency in cases where the prescribed treatment is overly severe and may not significantly improve the life expectancy of the child.

    Somerville cites a Quebec case involving a child with cancer whose custodians — her mother and grandmother — had refused consent to give her a very invasive treatment that had only a very small chance of success, about five per cent, it was estimated.

    "Probably, at best, it would have prolonged the child's life," says Somerville. "It wouldn't have cured the child, and there the court said the custodians could refuse the treatment for the child."


  44. TN Supreme Court lets stand conviction in Crank faith-healing case

    WBIR Staff, WBIR . February 13, 2015

    The Tennessee Supreme Court has turned back an appeals bid by an East Tennessee mother convicted of child neglect after she turned to a faith healer and away from modern medicine to treat her cancer-stricken daughter.

    Jacqueline Crank, convicted of the misdemeanor in 2012, argued that a "spiritual treatment" exemption contained within state law was vague. Attorney Gregory P. Isaacs sought to convince the Supreme Court to clarify just how the exemption spared parents from seeking outside help for a child.

    If the law had been more clear in the first place, Isaacs argued, Crank would have known better her rights and obligations in caring for 15-year-old Jessica Crank, who died in 2002. She would have known better if she could be prosecuted for her choices in caring for Jessica, the lawyer reasoned.

    The law recognizes "treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone in accordance with the tenets or practices of a recognized church or religious denomination by a duly accredited practitioner thereof in lieu of medical or surgical treatment."

    Writing for the court, Justice Gary Wade said the law was adequate.

    "We hold that the spiritual treatment exemption is not unconstitutionally vague. Because the exemption may be (omitted) without invalidating the remainder of the child abuse and neglect statute, the defendant's remaining constitutional challenges, even if successful, would not afford her relief," Wade wrote.

    Isaacs, on Crank's behalf, also had argued the state law violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

    Jessica Crank developed Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that often attacks young people.

    Jacqueline Crank took the girl to two medical caregivers, both of whom said she needed professional care.

    Under the guidance of spiritual leader Ariel Ben Sherman, the mother turned to prayer and faith instead of medical care.

    The Department of Children's Services intervened and authorized medical treatment, according to the court. Crank's daughter died in September 2002.

    Jacqueline Crank eventually was convicted of a misdemeanor child neglect count and sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation. The trial court ruled she did not qualify for protection under the "spiritual treatment exemption." The appellate court upheld the trial court ruling.

    Sherman died in December 2012 in South Carolina.


  45. Makayla Sault went to controversial Florida clinic for ‘counselling,’ not medical treatment: mother

    by Richard Warnica | National Post February 27, 2015

    HAMILTON, Ont. — The mother of a cancer-stricken aboriginal girl who died after abandoning chemotherapy said Thursday that her daughter travelled to a controversial Florida clinic for “nutritional counselling,” not medical treatment.

    Makayla Sault, of Ontario’s New Credit First Nation, was diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia in January 2014. At a symposium on First Nations health care in Hamilton on Thursday, her mother said that when Makayla was diagnosed, doctors gave her a 72% chance of surviving if she underwent a full course of chemotherapy. However, after 11 weeks, Makayla pulled out of the treatment, sparking a legal and cultural battle that only ended when the 11-year-old died last month following a stroke.

    At the talk Tuesday, Sonya Sault defended the decisions that preceded her daughter’s death, including the family’s choice to travel last summer to the Hippocrates Institute in Florida. The Florida health department recently fined the head of that scandal-plagued clinic for practising medicine without a licence. But Mrs. Sault said her daughter received no treatment at Hippocrates, describing the trip instead as a “private family vacation.”

    “At Hippocrates we and Makayla received nutritional counselling and she rested in the sun and swam in the ocean,” Mrs. Sault said. “The point of going to Hippocrates was to let her relax and to learn to eat well. This was meant to strengthen her immune system and to help recover from chemotherapy.”

    Mrs. Sault’s speech came after the mother of another First Nations’ girl, also suffering from cancer, addressed the crowd. J.J., who can’t be identified because of a court-ordered publication ban, sat next to her mother throughout the talk.

    Like Makayla, J.J. was diagnosed with leukemia last year. She too quit chemotherapy at Hamilton’s McMaster Children’s Hospital after only a few weeks, opting instead for a regimen that mixes Western and traditional medicine with treatment from Hippocrates.

    continued below

  46. JJs mother has in the past defended the treatment her 11-year-old daughter received at Hippocrates, which reportedly included vitamins and a strict vegan diet. But on Thursday, she read only a brief, vague statement, which she said was “carefully crafted so that I don’t get myself into any trouble.”

    J.J., she said, was “raised in a traditional Mohawk family” that believes in “holistic” health care and “traditional” medicines. “The family and the government of Ontario are continuing to discuss the most respectful ways to provide for J.J’s health care,” she said, after promising to tell her whole story when “the threat of legal action has ended.”

    Mrs. Sault spoke at much greater length, outlining the treatment her daughter received after abandoning the chemotherapy. Makayla, she said, received regular care from her family physician and from an oncologist at McMaster as well as from a “traditional” healer.

    Chemotherapy, she said, “took a horrific toll on Makayla.” She suffered blood infections and became so ill she couldn’t hold down food or liquids “for days or weeks at a time.” Eventually, she said, Makayla became convinced the chemotherapy itself was killing her.

    “She said she wanted to try traditional medicine instead,” Mrs. Sault said. “Her words to us were ‘I don’t care if I’m going to die, I don’t want to die weak and sick in a hospital.'”

    After initially improving, Makayla took a turn for the worse last fall. She died in January after suffering a stroke. Her family, though, blamed her death not on cancer, but on the side effects from the chemotherapy.

    On Thursday, Mrs. Sault said her daughter’s condition deteriorated after she suffered “an adverse reaction to an antibiotic.

    “Her blood pressure skyrocketed. Less than a week after she was taken off the drug, she had a stroke and the next day she passed.”

    At the end of Mrs. Sault’s speech, the audience, perhaps 100-strong packed into a small auditorium, gave her a standing ovation.

    She took no questions.

    National Post, with files from Tom Blackwell


  47. Spiritual healing: Religion and science not always at odds, author discovers

    Reviewed by: Bill Rambo, Winnipeg Free Press April 18, 2015

    Mainstream Christianity teaches people both to pray for the sick and to work to help others. It's sometimes put this way: "Pray as if no one can help and work as if God will do nothing."

    But fringes teach that using science and medicine may indicate a lack of faith. When believers rely exclusively on prayer, in spite of available medical treatments, tragedy can occur.

    Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania, Dr. Paul A. Offit is a professor of vaccinology and pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania.

    Bad Faith is Offit's eighth solo book; he has collaborated on others as well. Titles such as Autism's False Prophets, Breaking the Antibiotic Habit, Do You Believe in Magic?: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine, and Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All give a good idea of his stance on the effectiveness of scientific medical practices when properly used.

    Bad Faith focuses on the collision of religion and science, which can have disastrous results. And while Offit set out to chronicle the dangers of religion, he found himself "largely embracing religious teachings."

    "The hero of this book isn't science, or medicine, or doctors," he insists, "it's religion."
    In spite of occasional "destructive cults," Offit argues convincingly that the teachings of most religions support medical prevention and treatment.

    Bad Faith begins with the heart-wrenching story of Doug and Rita Swan, Christian Scientists whose objections to most modern medicine nearly left Rita dead from an ovarian cyst, and resulted in the death of their son Matthew from a treatable fever.

    The brief history of Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science, and the hidebound insistence of their "practitioners," who pray for the sick to be able to overcome the "unreality" of their symptoms without medical intervention, provides context for the Swan's story.

    Years later, Rita Swan would become a tireless advocate for laws requiring treatment of children, even against the wishes of their parents.

    continued below

  48. Offit obviously agrees with such government intervention. Bad Faith bolsters his position with stories about faith healers who condemn the "faithless," cult leaders who kill their adherents, exorcism instead of treatment of mental illness and the occasional necessity to choose between the life of the mother and the death of both mother and child.

    An account of a year-long outbreak of measles in Philadelphia in the early 1990s, eventually leading to court-ordered treatment, illustrates how refusal of vaccination, coupled with lack of treatment of fever and dehydration, led to an unusual numbers of children's deaths.

    Offit provides some background for obedience to religious authority, discussing the famous Milgram experiment where people were convinced to continue administering what they thought was a painful, dangerous shock to experimental subjects.

    He sometimes overstates or oversimplifies -- connecting, for instance, the deadly effects of a violently physical "exorcism" of an autistic boy by a fringe Protestant preacher to a Roman Catholic conference on exorcism.

    Discussing faith healers, he asserts that Pat Robertson "was considered a viable candidate for president in the mid-1980s." Again, "Like all faith healers, the Peculiar People rejected modern medicine."

    In fact, some people who believe in the efficacy of faith also embrace medical treatment.

    The final chapters, discussing the role of law in parental decisions about their children, reintroduces Rita Swan and her work to save others the fate of her son. Her nobility and commitment are laudable. Still, sometimes laws instituted because of difficult and extreme cases can have unintended consequences.

    The evil of faith gone wrong is hard to fathom. The importance of balance and moderation, even in religious fervour, is the focus of this eye-opening book.

    Bill Rambo teaches at the Laureate Academy in St. Norbert. His father and late grandfather were medical missionaries in Africa and India who used modern medicine to serve the people they prayed for.

    Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 18, 2015 A1


  49. Aboriginal girl now receiving both chemo and traditional medicine

    by KELLY GRANT - HEALTH REPORTER The Globe and Mail April 24 2015

    BRANTFORD, Ont. — A cancer-stricken Ontario First Nations girl whose court case drew national attention last fall is now receiving a mix of aboriginal and conventional health care – including chemotherapy – after her leukemia returned in March and her mother agreed to a blended treatment plan.

    The update on the health of the pre-teen, known as J.J., came during an unusual court proceeding in Brantford on Friday that brought together lawyers for the Ontario Attorney-General’s Office and all the parties to the original case, including the Hamilton hospital that first turned to the courts to try to force the girl back into chemotherapy.

    In order to avoid putting J.J. and her family through a legal appeal, all sides co-operated in asking Justice Gethin Edward to “clarify” his original controversial ruling guarding the family’s constitutional right to choose indigenous healing over modern medicine, despite doctors’ warnings that the girl would almost certainly die without chemotherapy.

    Justice Edward agreed to amend his original decision to make it clear that the interests of the child must be “paramount” in a case like that of 11-year-old J.J., whose identity is protected by a court order.

    “Implicit in this decision is that recognition and implementation of the right to use traditional medicines must remain consistent with the principle that the best interests of the children remain paramount,” the revised decision reads.

    After endorsing the lawyers’ joint submission, Justice Edward took the unconventional step of wading into the courtroom to shake hands with J.J., her mother, and the assembled lawyers, congratulating them on finding a resolution to the child’s legal plight.

    “There was some concern that somehow the traditional Ontario law test of how judges should look at things had placed the aboriginal right to traditional medicine as an absolute, rather than as factor to be seriously considered. That was never anybody’s intention,” Paul Williams, the lawyer for J.J. and her family, told reporters.

    “So what [Justice] Edward did is he said, ‘When you’re looking at a child, the first thing you consider, the first thing everybody considers, is the child’s best interest and the right to use traditional medicine is part of the child’s best interest.’ ”

    Last November, Justice Edward, who is a member of the same Six Nations band as J.J., ruled that the family’s aboriginal rights trumped a Hamilton hospital’s attempts to compel child-welfare authorities to intervene and send J.J. back for chemotherapy.

    The ruling prompted calls for the Ontario government – which was not involved in the original case – to appeal the decision.

    Instead, the provincial Attorney-General’s Office repeatedly asked for the deadline to appeal to be extended while lawyers from all sides worked behind the scenes to reach the compromise finalized Friday.

    J.J.’s saga began in August of 2014, when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer that in her case had an excellent chance of being cured with conventional chemotherapy, according to doctors at McMaster Children’s Hospital.

    continued below

  50. Initially JJs mother agreed to the treatment plan, but 10 days into a 32-day course of chemotherapy she halted her daughter’s treatment and announced that she would take the child to Florida to be cared for at a holistic healing centre called the Hippocrates Health Institute.

    J.J.’s case and that of another girl with a strikingly similar story put a spotlight on Hippocrates and what, exactly, the spa-like centre could offer to vulnerable cancer patients. Florida’s Health Department charged the owners of the clinic with practising medicine without a licence, but it dropped those charges last month, citing a lack of evidence.

    Mr. Williams said Friday that J.J. and her family no longer have any contact with the Florida healing centre.

    The joint submission presented Friday said that after the original ruling, the girl’s family and the Ontario government started working together to provide J.J. with indigenous and non-indigenous treatments.

    “The child’s core health care team initially consisted of a doctor and a traditional Haudenosaunee health care provider. The health care team was further supplemented by [two] additional participants: a senior pediatric oncologist recommended by Ontario, and a Haudenosaunee chief, who is also a practitioner of traditional medicine, invited by the family,” the submission reads.

    “In March, 2015, J.J.’s cancer, which had gone into remission, returned. The family met and concluded that chemotherapy, along with traditional Haudenosaunee medicine, which J.J. had already been receiving, would be the best next step.”

    Mr. Williams declined to comment on J.J.’s prognosis, but she looked well as she watched the proceedings, sporting dangling gold earrings and a full head of dark hair cropped short above her ears.

    The story of the other aboriginal girl who quit chemotherapy ended much more sadly.

    The parents of Makayla Sault, who lived on a small Ontario reserve not far from the much larger Six Nations of the Grand River reserve where J.J. lives, also chose to stop chemotherapy when their daughter was diagnosed with leukemia.

    Six Nations of the Grand River is near Brantford, a city of nearly 100,000 about 100 kilometres southwest of Toronto.

    Makayla travelled to Hippocrates for alternative therapies and a plant-based diet, but died in January. Her parents said in a statement that she died of a stroke brought on by the chemotherapy she underwent before abandoning conventional treatment, something that oncologists have publicly disputed.

    In Makayla’s case, McMaster Children’s Hospital asked the local child-welfare agency, Brant Family and Children’s Services [BFCS], to intervene. The agency refused, saying Makayla’s family was a loving and supportive one and the girl was not in need of protection. The hospital let the matter drop.

    When the same scenario played out with J.J., hospital officials decided to take BFCS to court in a bid to force the girl back into chemotherapy, a move that eventually led to Friday’s revised decision.


  51. First Nations chemo case ruling amended to include child's well-being

    'Clarification' supported by all sides, including family and hospital

    By Jeff Green, CBC News April 24, 2015

    The clarification of a controversial court ruling that allowed the mother of an 11-year-old First Nations girl to pull her out of chemotherapy says the best interests of the child are "paramount," but traditional medicine must be respected.

    It is a "significant qualification" of Ontario court Judge Gethin Edward's November 2014 ruling, according to one legal expert, which means the child's well-being has to be balanced against rights to traditional medicine.

    Nick Bala, a law professor at Queen's University, says the clarification "walks back" the original ruling that put First Nations constitutional rights as the major factor to be considered in the care of the child.

    The clarification, read in a Brantford, Ont. court Friday afternoon, comes with news the child restarted chemotherapy in March when the cancer returned after a period of remission.

    The joint submission from the auditor general of Ontario, as well as counsel for the Six Nations, the child's family and McMaster Children's Hospital, was celebrated as a collaborative conversation rather than a confrontation among the parties involved.

    At the end of the court proceedings, Edward stepped down from the bench to shake the hands of the parties involved, including the family and the girl, who can only be identified as J.J.

    The controversial case began last September when J.J.'s mother pulled her daughter out of chemotherapy, taking her to the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida.

    Child's interests 'paramount'

    Up to that point, McMaster Children's Hospital had been treating her in conjunction with the family's use of traditional medicine. At the time, the mother told CBC News she believed chemotherapy was "poison."

    The hospital tried to get J.J. declared as a child in need of protection after Brant Family and Child Services made it clear they would not step in.

    continued below

  52. Last year the court ruled in favour of allowing the Six Nations mother, dismissing the hospital's case, and said in its decision it was her constitutional right to pursue indigenous medicine.

    "It is this court's conclusion therefore, that [the mother's] decision to pursue traditional medicine for her daughter J.J. is her aboriginal right," reads the original ruling from November. "Further, such a right cannot be qualified as a right only if it is proven to work by employing the Western medical paradigm. To do so would be to leave open the opportunity to perpetually erode aboriginal rights."

    Friday's addition adds in the child's best interests, saying they are "paramount."

    'Significant clarification'

    Bala called it a "significant clarification" that recognized the earlier decision had not referred to the child's rights as being paramount.

    He said this decision makes it more of a balancing act between the child's best interests and aboriginal rights, and that courts "very rarely" clarify decisions.

    "The aboriginal rights are one factor to be considered, but not the only factor," Bala said. "This is a significant qualification of the prior decision."

    Paul Williams, the lawyer for the First Nations family, said the clarification prevented the previous ruling from being interpreted as an "absolute" that only aboriginal rights would be considered.

    "The right to use traditional medicine is part of the child's best interests. That was clarified, it wasn't changed," Williams said. "I think it was a fear of absolutism. I think it was clear that nothing was absolute."

    As for the Hippocrates Health Institute, the Florida health spa that provided therapy to J.J. as well as leukemia patient Makayla Sault, who died in January, Williams said J.J. is no longer being treated there.

    "There's no contact," Williams said.


  53. NOTE see first comment above for first of several related articles.
    Church’s ‘Faith Healing’ Killed This Baby

    Oregon’s Followers of Christ Church doesn’t believe in traditional medical care, and it’s killing their children.

    by Samantha Allen, THE DAILY BEAST October 14, 2015

    “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up,” reads James 5:15.

    It is an instruction that Dale and Shannon Hickman, members of the Oregon-based Followers of Christ Church, took too literally when they decided not to take their premature newborn son David to a hospital, despite the fact that he weighed less than four pounds and was in “obvious distress,” according to doctors who later reviewed the couple’s home video footage.

    The Followers of Christ believe in faith healing and do not seek traditional forms of medical care. That belief did not help David, who died of staphylococcus pneumonia within nine hours of his birth, as the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s office later determined. If the Hickmans had phoned 911 as soon as their son was born, one state doctor estimated that he “would have had a 99 percent chance of survival.” David would be preschool age today.

    These are the conclusions of the Oregon State Supreme Court Judge Virginia Linder, who last week upheld the 2011 conviction of the Hickmans on second-degree manslaughter charges. As Courthouse News reports, the Hickmans will be held in separate state penitentiaries until at least January 2018.

    Judge Linder’s decision (PDF) is a biting judgment against the Hickmans and a de facto warning for the faith-healing church to which they belong, which has a troubling history of avoidable infant deaths.
    When the Hickmans were put on trial for manslaughter, Judge Linder notes, they told the court that they regret nothing about how they handled their premature birth.

    “Both of them testified that, looking back on David’s death, they would not have done anything differently,” Linder wrote in her decision.

    “We do what the Bible tells us, and we put God first and ask for faith,” Shannon Hickman said at the time. “If we don’t have the faith, then we seek medical treatment because it is not there, you know.”

    The Hickmans claimed they did not know that David was unhealthy until minutes before his death, and “did not raise or inject their religious beliefs” into their defense. But the couple did cite their religious beliefs to argue that, given the Oregon Constitution’s protections for freedom of religion, the state would have to prove that they “knowingly” harmed David in order to convict them.

    The court disagreed and allowed the state to try the couple for “criminal negligence” instead.

    “We granted review to consider whether the state must prove that a criminal defendant acted with ‘knowledge’ that an unlawful result would follow when that defendant’s conduct was motivated by a sincerely held religious belief,” Linder wrote in a summary of her judgment on the appeal case, concluding “that it does not.”

    In other words: Adult members of the Followers of Christ Church do not have to believe in medicine but they still have to take their dying children to the hospital. In Oregon, religious freedom has its limits.

    But according to a report (PDF) from the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA), what seems like an obvious case of child neglect might not be so clear-cut in many U.S. jurisdictions.

    As of February 2015, 39 states and the District of Columbia have “laws providing that parents or caretakers who fail to provide medical assistance to a child because of their religious beliefs are not criminally liable for harm to the child.” In addition, federal law does not require parents to provide medical treatments to children that are against their religious beliefs.

    continued below

  54. These laws, as Jerry A. Coyne argued in The New Republic this March, allow faith-healing parents like those found in the Followers of Christ sect to skirt prosecution for child neglect.

    In fact, Oregon only completely removed its own religious exemptions for such cases in 2011 as a direct response to infant deaths among the Followers of Christ. As The Oregonian reported at the time, Democratic representative Carolyn Tomei said, “Our hope is that we’re sending a certain group of people a message that it’s against the law if their child is in grave danger… to not give them medical care.”
    The legislation passed unanimously.

    But striking down this exemption came too late for many children born into the small Pentecostal sect, based primarily in Oregon City and Idaho, and other faith-healing communities.

    A 1998 Time magazine article reported on an Oregonian investigation, which found that 21 minors in a Followers of Christ graveyard “probably would have lived with medical intervention, often as simple as antibiotics.”

    As The Oregonian reports, a 1999 law then removed religious exemptions in some cases, including second-degree manslaughter, but not all of them, due to pushback from Christian Scientists.
    Then, in the late 2000s, another string of high-profile cases brought the issue to the attention of state lawmakers. One of these cases came in 2009 when Timothy and Rebecca Wyland did not take their newborn daughter Alayna to a doctor even as a tumorous growth overtook her left eye, threatening to blind her. Shortly after the 2011 law passed, the couple was found guilty of felony criminal mistreatment.

    Oregon might now be cracking down on faith-healing defenses but parents in other states can continue to let their children go untreated without suffering criminal consequences.

    A 2013 investigation by Portland ABC affiliate KATU found 10 more children buried in a Boise, Idaho cemetery who may have died because of their faith-healing parents, many of them Followers of Christ. Among the gravestones, KATU reporter Dan Tilkin found children who had died of untreated pneumonia, diabetes, and other ailments.

    One 15-year-old girl, Tilkin reported, contracted a case of food poisoning, which eventually caused her esophagus to rupture after the vomiting became severe. She died of cardiac arrest.

    But Idaho state law expressly allows faith-healing defenses by stipulating that a parent “who chooses for his child treatment by prayer or spiritual means alone shall not for that reason alone be construed to have violated the duty of care to such child.”

    Major medical associations in the U.S. argue that such language should be removed from state laws across the country. The American Medical Association (AMA) supports repealing religious exemptions from state child abuse statutes and contends that medical associations should actively “investigate” known problems with spiritual healing.

    In 1998, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) was prompted by cases involving Christian Science healers to weigh in on religious child abuse exemptions. The AAP Committee on Bioethics wrote (PDF) that “the basic moral principles of justice and of protection of children as vulnerable citizens require that all parents and caretakers must be treated equally by the laws and regulations that have been enacted by state and federal governments to protect children.”

    And if the Followers of Christ only believe in doing what the Bible says, a certain Psalm comes to mind with added judicial relevance: “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him… Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.”


  55. Faith healing parents convicted in newborns death lose appeal to top court

    By Lindsey Bever, THE WASHINGTON POST October 15, 2015

    David Hickman was so small when he was born, family members fashioned miniature diapers from a beanie cap and poured breast milk into his mouth with a spoon. He had come into a religious family, one that wanted him to be born at home and trusted only God to take care of him.

    It was Sept. 26, 2009, and David had arrived two months premature, weighing 3 pounds, 7 ounces, according to court documents. Despite his small stature, his parents said, he had a healthy glow and strong cry. But hours later he was dying — the color and muscle tone falling from his face.

    His father “ran into the room where one of his aunts was holding David and anointed David’s head with olive oil and began to pray,” the Oregon Supreme Court wrote last week in an opinion. “He sat in a chair by the bed, held David in his arms, and prayed. … Over the next few minutes, David turned blue, then gray.”

    His parents, Dale and Shannon Hickman, were later found guilty of manslaughter for failing to seek medical attention for their newborn son. The conviction was upheld last week by the Oregon Supreme Court, meaning the couple will continue to serve their six-year prison sentence.

    The case has been in and out of court for years, drawing continued criticism to the Hickman’s faith. The two are longtime members of Oregon City’s Followers of Christ church, a nondenominational congregation born from the Pentecostal movement. The faith group came under fire in the late 1990s when several children died from conditions that medical experts said could have been treated.

    Instead of seeking medical help, members turned to faith.

    “They believe that God heals, which all Christians believe, but they take it a step further, thinking that God always heals,” Jonathan Merritt, an author and religion columnist, told The Washington Post. “Most Christians have not interpreted scripture as a sort of universal promise that faith will always lead to healing. But there are some popular movements in America that still hold those views. Even those movements, however, don’t believe you should withhold medicine; they believe medicine is used as a conduit to healing.”

    “It’s a dangerous belief that has come back to haunt them,” Merritt said of the Hickmans’ faith. “If your religious belief endangers a minor, you should be held accountable for that.”

    Indeed, nine hours after David was born, he was dead. The state medical examiner said the cause of death was staphylococcus pneumonia, a bacterial infection that attacks the lungs.

    continued below

  56. Over the years such deaths moved lawmakers in the state to scrap religious shield laws that protect parents in similar situations, according to Religion News Service.

    In 2011 — two years after David’s death — the Hickmans were convicted of second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to six years and three months in prison, the Oregonian reported.

    Prosecutors had argued that the couple knew their son was dangerously premature, pointing to testimony from medical experts who said that a baby born two months early has more than a 99 percent chance for survival with medical treatment, the Oregonian reported at the time. Without treatment, the baby would have “zero” chance, according to court documents.

    “There was plenty of time to do something,” prosecutor John Wentworth said during closing arguments at the time, according to the Oregonian. “What did Shannon and Dale Hickman do? Nothing. They didn’t even try.”

    Their defense attorney, Mark Cogan, maintained there was no time.

    “What opportunity was there?” he said during the 2011 trial. “What benefit would there have been?”

    The Hickmans said at the time that given the chance, they would not have done anything differently.

    “We do what the Bible tells us, and we put God first and ask for faith,” Shannon Hickman said, according to court documents. “If we don’t have the faith, then we seek medical treatment because it is not there, you know.”

    The Hickmans appealed the case all the way to the Oregon Supreme Court, claiming that the Oregon Constitution’s religious freedom provisions required state to prove that the couple knew their religious practices would cause their son to die. The court last week rejected their plea.

    “That’s exactly what the Oregon Supreme Court held in a decision 20 years ago, so I find it very troubling that the court would be abandoning a recent precedent,” their attorney, Cogan, told The Post. “The Oregon constitution has a very strong freedom of religion clause — much strong than the First Amendment.”

    Still, prosecutor Mike Regan said in 2011 that child abuse, regardless of the reason, is child abuse.

    “These generally are good, decent, law-abiding folks, except in this one narrow area of their lives,” he said, according to the Oregonian. “One [area] where they have told us stubbornly — and arrogantly, if I may — that ‘We are not going to change.

    “The law of civil society demands that they change. It demands that we sent a message to all of them that whether you believe this or not in Oregon, you cannot act upon that belief.”

    Dale Hickman is at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem and Shannon Hickman is at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville.


  57. Child Deaths Bring Urgency to Debate Over Faith Healers

    by NATHAN BROWN TIMES-NEWS January 21, 2016

    BOISE, IDAHO • A bill challenging Idaho’s exemptions for faith healers whose children are injured or die could have a better shot at a hearing this year.

    “If they want to bring it to my committee, I’ll be happy to hear the bill,” said Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls.

    Heider, chairman of Senate Health and Welfare, said he has been researching the issue, including talking to the prosecutor and assistant coroner in Canyon County, where many of the Followers of Christ church live. The church rejects modern medicine in favor of prayer and anointing with oil, and it has gotten negative attention in Idaho and Oregon because of the higher-than-usual number of members’ children who die, sometimes from treatable causes.

    Oregon changed its laws in 1999 and again in 2011 to remove spiritual treatment as a defense in cases where someone dies. But Idaho code contains protection, added in 1972, for “a parent or guardian who chooses for his child treatment by prayer or spiritual means alone.”

    Heider said he visited a Followers of Christ’s church a couple of weeks ago, and that he views the issue as “really not a child-protection issue. This is a freedom of religion issue.” Heider said the church’s members are acting not from malice but from their interpretation of the New Testament.

    “They’re wonderful people,” he said. “And they love their children just like you and I love our children,”

    Boise Democrat John Gannon wrote a bill in 2014 to remove legal protections for parents who choose faith healing over medical treatment in cases where a child is seriously injured or dies, but he couldn’t get a hearing on it. Gannon plans to keep working on it this session, pointing to the report the state Child Fatality Review Team released in April 2015 as evidence that children have died recently because of the exemption.

    The team, which consisted of medical examiners, coroners, law enforcement and health care representatives, studied child deaths throughout Idaho. It found two cases in 2012 where children died in families where the parents did not seek medical help because of religious beliefs — one who died from complications from diabetes, and one who died from a prolonged gastrointestinal illness.

    “I’m thinking we need to take a look at this with this new evidence,” Gannon said.

    The report recommends changing the law to allow state intervention in cases where “the child’s death or severe disability is imminent and would, within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, be prevented by the administration of appropriate medical care.” Its authors stress they would not change the law to mandate routine medical care in cases where the parents object. Gannon agreed that any legislation would have to be “firm but narrow in its application.”

    continued below

  58. Gannon’s bill was assigned to the Judiciary and Rules Committee in 2014, and Heider said it could still go either there or through State Affairs. But, Heider said, it would make the most sense for the bill to go through his committee.

    Erwin Sonnenberg, a review team member who was Ada County coroner for 36 years, said he couldn’t talk about specific cases, but “just from general experience, the ones I know involving faith healing, had they been to a doctor, almost all of them could have been alive.”

    Sonnenberg, who retired about a year ago, did autopsies throughout southwestern Idaho. He saw cases where children died from appendicitis, spinal meningitis, or caught a cold that developed into something more serious, he said. He also saw reoccurring genetic defects that killed multiple children in the same family.

    He estimated there are fewer than two cases a year of children from faith-healing families dying from treatable causes, and he supports changing the law to get rid of the exemption. While the number might not be huge, he said, when children have illnesses “that can be treated fairly easily ... that’s frustrating when you see a kid die from that.”

    Linda Martin, whose family has been in the Followers of Christ church for generations and who has relatives in church leadership, grew up attending their church in Meridian. The church believes in only anointing with oil and prayer, and that using other treatments is a sign of lack of trust in God, she said. If someone dies, they believe, it’s God’s will.

    “They believe that medicine is a temptation from Satan, and to give in and use medicine is giving in to Satan,” she said. “Or, they think that medicine is for people of no faith or little faith.”

    Martin described watching people she knew die from treatable illnesses like pneumonia. She keeps a book at home with more than 150 funeral cards in it including adults who died as well as children. As a child, she said, she remembers knowing that when the elders were called to pray for someone, it would mean their death was imminent.

    “I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve lost — how many cousins,” she said.

    Martin left the church at 16 but stayed in Idaho and stayed in touch with relatives who were still in the church until she moved to Oregon in 1999. She went public with her story in late 2013 and has made trips back to Boise since then to lobby for changes to Idaho’s law — so far without success. She said lawmakers have told her they didn’t want to get involved in a debate on limiting parental rights and religious freedom, and that the Republicans in particular have been resistant.

    “Walking into the state Capitol and … talking to legislators about faith healing is like walking into the Twilight Zone,” she said.


  59. Idaho's Faith Healing Dilemma

    Kids are dying because of faith healing exemptions in Idaho law, so why do lawmakers refuse to do anything about it?

    By Cameron Rasmusson Boise Weekly - March 16, 2016

    Matthew was sick again, and his mother, Rita Swan, was worried.

    The 16-month-old had come down with a dangerous fever three times and, three times, Swan had called her family's Christian Science practitioner as mandated by their religion. Three times, Matthew had recovered from his illness. This, the fourth incident, was worse than any of the others.

    For the Swans, then a devout Christian Science family living in Detroit, Mich., in 1977, it was enough to consider breaking with church doctrine and taking Matthew to a hospital.

    The Swans' practitioner was not pleased when she heard the news.

    "It will be a long, hard road back to Christian Science for you if you do this," she said.
    Swan hesitated. Matthew had, after all, recovered three times already. The teachings of Christian Science, which claim that disease is an illusion best treated by prayer, appeared to be working. Meanwhile, Matthew was only getting worse.

    "I don't think I'm willing to go into too many of the gory details," Swan said. "It was just really, really bad."

    The Swans' practitioner insisted the disease was a problem of sin. Because Matthew was too young to be held accountable for his actions, the blame lay with his parents. There must be some grievance they harbored that explained the illness, the practitioner insisted.

    "She made me write a letter to my father because of a quarrel I had with him years ago," Swan said.

    Finally, the practitioner relented. She said Matthew likely had a broken bone, which is a medical exception in Christian Science doctrine. At the hospital, doctors concluded he suffered from spinal meningitis and needed emergency brain surgery. Surgery was a bridge too far for the Swans' practitioner. Incensed, she told them she would stop praying for Matthew if they went through with the operation. The Swans, however, had made up their minds.

    Following the operation, Matthew was put on a respirator. Swan desperately searched for a Christian Scientist—any Christian Scientist—who would pray for his recovery, but she found no one. Finally, the trauma proved too much for the Swans' tiny son.
    Matthew died a week after surgery.

    From the White House to the Graveyard

    Almost 40 years later, children are still dying from their parents' decisions to withhold medical care. Some adults are opposed to vaccinations and other preventative treatments urged by medical scientists. Others still oppose medical care on religious grounds, an uncomfortable gray area that pits a child's well-being against the free practice of religion.

    While many lawmakers struggle with that ambiguity, the answer couldn't be clearer to Swan. She now heads up Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty, or CHILD.

    The Lexington, Ky.-based nonprofit works to end religion-based child medical neglect across the country. In recent years, members' work has focused specifically on Idaho. On CHILD's Idaho website, idahochildren.org, organization officials don't mince words: "Idaho is the worst state in the nation for letting children die with faith-based medical neglect."

    Idaho is one of a handful of states that allows a complete religious exemption from the obligation to provide a child medical care, even if it results in death. The laws effectively create a religious defense against manslaughter because "criminal injury to a child" cannot be charged in cases of religion-based medical neglect, Swan said.

    "They believe that medicine is a temptation from Satan, and to give in is to give in to that temptation. They also believe to give in is for people of weak faith or no faith. People of the world are seen as tempted."

    continued below

  60. The Idaho Legislature passed its religious exemption laws in a no-fuss 1972 session. The bill was one of several enacted across the nation in quick succession thanks to pressure from Washington, D.C. It stemmed from two powerful Christian Scientist aides within the Nixon Administration, H.R. Haldeman and John D. Ehrlichman, who pushed religious exemptions into the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. In his book, Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine, Dr. Paul Offit details the fallout from their actions:

    "Now, if state officials didn't abide by Haldeman and Ehrlichman's mandate, they couldn't receive money from [CAPTA programs]; within a few years, 49 states (the exception being Nebraska) and the District of Columbia had laws protecting religiously motivated medical neglect."

    According to Swan, Idaho earns its dubious distinction as the worst state for religion-based neglect through a combination of lenient laws and unique religious makeup. Of particular note is Followers of Christ, a brand of Pentecostal Christianity that emphasizes a literal interpretation of scripture and the power of faith healing.

    The Followers resided primarily in Oregon, but factions have sprung up in Idaho over the past 100 years. Swan believes Oregon's elimination of faith healing exemptions in 2011 increased migration by the Followers to the Gem State.

    It is difficult to track child mortality among Followers of Christ because deaths often go unreported, with bodies buried on private property, Swan said. However, CHILD maintains a database of more than 200 child graves in Followers of Christ cemeteries.
    In the largest, Peaceful Valley Cemetery, 204 of the 592 graves belong to minor children. Of the graves dating from 2002 to 2013, 35 percent belong to minor children of stillbirths—that's more than 10 times the number of deaths among minor children and stillbirths statewide.

    The first mention of Followers of Christ in Idaho records is a 1900 Idaho Statesman article referencing members' use of poisonous snakes in religious practices. Several other news articles in the early 1900s describe their propensity for snake handling. At least two articles, dating to 1915 and 1917, detail child deaths from medical neglect.

    Linda Martin doesn't remember witnessing any snake handling growing up in Boise as a Follower of Christ member, although it was spoken of in sermons. Child neglect, on the other hand, ran rampant, she said.

    "They believe that medicine is a temptation from Satan, and to give in is to give in to that temptation," she said. "They also believe to give in is for people of weak faith or no faith. People of the world are seen as tempted."

    "My husband felt very strongly this was not Christian. It just could not be right."

    Just as the Swans were told their sin led to Matthew's illness, Martin also experienced guilt over loved ones' poor health. On her 9th birthday, Martin's aunt went into labor and gave birth to a baby boy. The child died days later of pneumonia complications.

    "I was told it was my fault because I had probably done something wrong," she said.

    According to Martin, Followers of Christ leaders don't usually encourage members to keep their children out of public school or separate themselves from society. However, she said they are extremely secretive about their doctrine. When she was asked what religion she followed in school, Martin said she was Christian Scientist in order to avoid both medical requirements and the need to explain her beliefs.

    "[Church members] told me people outside would try to destroy the church," she said. "I would be taken away from family and never see them again.

    "My big question for years was if you're not hiding anything, if you're not ashamed of anything, why so secretive?" she added.

    continued below

  61. Martin grew to loathe Followers of Christ services. The aggressive sermons and the members' behavior frightened her. She longed to find a means of escape, but as the Swans discovered in 1978, it's no easy thing to lose your religion.
    Following Matthew's death, the Swans resolved to leave the Christian Science church.

    "My husband felt very strongly this was not Christian," Swan said. "It just could not be right."

    When they tried to withdraw their membership, however, church administrators did not make it easy. They told the Swans they were confused. They said there were members of the church who had lost children and went to church the very next day, eventually rising to higher positions. On one occasion, a church member warned them they "would see Matthew again in proportion" to their faith in God.

    In the days that followed, the Swans received several calls from church officials asking them to reconsider their decision. Then came a bombshell. A Christian Science leader told Swan a member in a different church district had a child who also contracted meningitis. In that case, Christian Science treatments had worked, and the boy recovered. He even had the same practitioner as Matthew.

    Swan was shaken. What if they were right? What if Matthew's death really was their fault?

    Unwilling Martyrs

    Pushback to the Idaho exemption has built slowly over the years. CHILD has worked in the state since 1999, encouraging lawmakers to repeal or at least reduce the leniency of faith healing exemptions. Gaining traction has been a long and difficult process.

    Martin, who left the Followers of Christ in 1971 after marrying at age 16, is active in seeking a repeal. The stories of suffering that she and CHILD associates have encountered are shocking in their detail.

    "Arrian Granden vomited so much that her esophagus ruptured," reads a CHILD submission to the Legislature.

    "Micah Taylor Eells died at four days old last year with a bowel obstruction. He was probably screaming and vomiting repeatedly. Pamela Eells gradually drowned as her lungs filled with fluid from pneumonia."

    "It would be more humane to take these kids out and shoot them in the head or slit their throat on an altar than let them die the way they did," Martin said.

    Last year, the Governor's Task Force on Children at Risk released a report identifying two children who died in 2012 from religion-based medical neglect. The task force recommended reshaping the laws to require medical care in cases of imminent death or severe disability, and supports its case by citing the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Prince v. Massachusetts, an influential case on both religious freedom and child welfare.

    "Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves," the ruling states. "But it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full and legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves."

    In February, Rep. John Gannon (D-Boise), introduced a bill to the Idaho Senate Health and Welfare Committee that amended state law along recommended lines. Committee Chairman Lee Heider (R-Twin Falls), said he would allow a hearing on the subject. But on March 4, Heider told the Twin Falls Times-News that Gannon never requested a hearing, and it's too late now.

    continued below

  62. Heider has previously stated his concerns over the impact an amendment or repeal of the law would have on religious liberty.
    However, he failed to reply to multiple phone and email requests for comment over a two-week period.

    "I'm a First Amendment guy," he told the Times-News. "And I believe in the First Amendment, which gives people freedom of religion."

    In the same article, he said it was primarily out-of-state influences that sought to overturn Idaho's faith healing exemptions.

    "It is not Idahoans that are interested in bringing the legislation forward," Heider said.

    Earlier this year, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter asked legislators to form an interim committee to study faith healing exemptions after the session. However, lawmakers haven't announced whether or not they'll follow through on the request.

    It's little consolation for Swan and Martin, who say they've marveled for years at the disinterest in the issue by Idaho lawmakers and the media.

    "The way I look at it is the Idaho Legislature is morally bankrupt," Martin said. "It's horrible."

    On the other hand, child welfare groups have won successes in other states.

    'I Didn't Need to be Afraid'

    After learning about another Christian Science child who had recovered from meningitis, Swan set out to investigate. She eventually learned that the boy, who was 17 as opposed to the 16-month-old Matthew, did indeed contract viral meningitis. Rather than receive the usual treatments, doctors kept him in a dark room for several days and fed him glucose. He eventually recovered and the family gave Christian Science all the credit.

    Swan was floored.

    She made her way to a university library, found a medical textbook and began studying. Written for students, the textbook was barely comprehensible to her. A lifelong Christian Scientist, Swan had almost no knowledge of biology or medical science.

    Finally, she remembered that doctors were insistent on giving Matthew antibiotics, which indicated he had bacterial meningitis.
    The other boy had viral meningitis. Swan learned in her reading that this variation is often much milder, sometimes coming and going without any symptoms. It was then she was convinced that sin didn't kill her son.

    "I didn't need to be afraid we had lost some magical healing system," she said.


  63. Toddler Died After Anti-Vaxx Parents Treated His Meningitis With Maple Syrup Instead of Medicine

    A case of anti-vaccination beliefs taken too far.

    By Travis Gettys / Raw Story March 8, 2016

    Two Mormon parents who own a nutritional supplement company are accused of letting their toddler son die from meningitis because they tried to treat him with home remedies instead of medicine.

    David and Collet Stephan have pleaded not guilty to charges that they failed to provide the necessities of life to their 19-month-old son Ezekiel, reported CBC News.

    Prosecutors in Alberta, Canada, say the couple did not call an ambulance until the boy stopped breathing and instead fed him supplements with an eye dropper and lay down with him.

    Collet Stephan, 35, told police that a friend told the couple their son had meningitis — inflammation caused by an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

    She said they tried to boost the boy’s immune system by feeding him with olive leaf extract, whey protein, water with maple syrup and juice with frozen berries.

    They finally fed the boy, who was becoming stiff and lethargic after two weeks of illness, a mixture of apple cider vinegar, horseradish root, hot peppers, onion, garlic and ginger root.

    The child was airlifted to a hospital after he stopped breathing, and doctors removed him from life support after five days.

    Prosecutors played recordings during the couple’s trial of Collet Stephan describing their attempt to treat the boy.

    The 32-year-old David Stephan and his wife operate Truehope Nutritional Support Inc. from their home in Raymond.

    Health Canada unsuccessfully tried in 2004 to stop the company from distributing its supplement Empowerplus, which the couple claims can manage mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder.

    The government did issue warnings about the supplement — which prosecutors say the couple gave to their dying son.

    Prosecutors told the court the couple loved their son and were not accused of ignoring or killing him, but they said the parents should have sought medical assistance sooner.

    David Stephan has said he believes the government is prosecuting the couple to force parents through the courts — instead of through legislation — to vaccinate their children.

    He argues that no evidence shows Ezekiel’s death would have been prevented if he had been given the vaccine for Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).

    Empowerplus, which is basically a mixture of vitamins and minerals, was developed by Truehope, a company founded by David Stephan’s property manager father, Anthony Stephan, and a salesman friend, David Hardy.

    Critics say the Stephan’s claims about the supplement are not backed by reliable scientific testing.

    Truehope threatened to sue a mental health writer, Natasha Tracy, who wrote critically of her experience buying and taking the supplement.

    David Stephan complains in social media posts that these critics are conspiring to keep them from raising money for their defense though online fundraisers.

    If convicted, the couple faces a possible five-year prison term and the loss of their other children.


  64. Parent of toddler who died of meningitis asked Alberta naturopath for immune system boost

    Lethbridge trial hears the couple first thought the boy had croup

    By Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press Posted: March 09, 2016

    An employee at a southern Alberta naturopathic clinic says the mother of a gravely ill toddler asked for an immune system boost because she feared her son had viral meningitis.

    Lexie Vataman, who fills holistic prescriptions at the Lethbridge Naturopathic Medical Clinc, told a jury Wednesday that she received a call from Collet Stephan in March 2012.

    "She needed something to build up her baby's immune system," said Vataman.

    "She said, 'My baby might have a form of meningitis and we think it might be viral and not bacterial."'

    Vataman said she asked if Stephan had taken her son to a medical doctor. She said Collet replied that a friend who was a nurse was keeping an eye on him and he didn't have a fever.

    Stephan, 35, and her husband David Stephan, 32, have pleaded not guilty to failing to provide the necessities of life to 19-month-old Ezekiel, who died in March 2012.

    Crown prosecutor Clayton Giles alleges David Stephan, who works at a nutritional supplements company called Truehope Nutritional Support out of Raymond, Alta., and his wife Collet didn't do enough to get the boy medical care.

    The trial in Lethbridge has been told that the couple first thought the boy had croup and treated him with natural remedies and homemade smoothies containing hot pepper, ginger root, horseradish and onion.

    Collet Stephan came in within a day or two of the call and spoke briefly to naturopath Tracey Tannis, who asked Vataman to make up a tincture of echinacea.

    Surprised baby could tolerate

    "I told her the tincture was pretty strong and she said, 'That's OK, the baby is used to things like horseradish,"' Vataman said.

    "I was quite surprised that a baby would be able to tolerate that."

    Defence lawyer Shawn Buckley grilled Vataman on her recollection of past events and her need to refer back to her original police statement.

    Vataman acknowledged her memory isn't that good but maintained her testimony was correct.

    Family friend asked to help

    Terrie Meynders, a family friend and registered nurse, testified that Collet Stephan called to ask her to look at Ezekiel.

    "It did not jump out at me that he was that seriously ill," said Meynders. But she did suggest that his illness could be internal, possibly viral meningitis.

    "I think you should take him to see a doctor," Meynders said she told the mother.

    During a recorded interview on March 15, 2012, Collet Stephan told RCMP that Ezekiel's body was too stiff to get him into his car seat. The couple put a mattress in the back of their vehicle to take him to the naturopath.

    David Stephan told an officer during his interview that he and his wife had come up with a "game plan" to give Ezekiel additional natural remedies for meningitis and, if the treatment didn't help, they would take him to a hospital.

    Breathing wasn't normal

    Then his condition grew worse.

    "All of a sudden his breathing wasn't normal," Collett Stephan told RCMP.

    The Stephans called 911 and performed CPR on the toddler as they drove to meet an ambulance from a nearby community. The boy stopped breathing several times.

    "He was blue by the time we met up with the ambulance," Collet Stephan told a Mountie.

    The boy was taken to Lethbridge, then airlifted to Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary. After five days, doctors took him off life support.


  65. Alberta toddlers meningitis death a warning to parents who spurn conventional treatments: ethicist

    by Sharon Kirkey | National Post March 10, 2016

    His body was so rigid and stiff from meningitis, 19-month-old Ezekiel Stephan reportedly could not even sit up in his car seat the day his parents took him, not to a conventional medical doctor, but to a naturopath.

    Now, as the Alberta toddler’s parents stand trial, accused of failing to provide their son with the necessities of life, bioethicists say the case could ultimately serve as a warning to any parent in Canada who spurns potentially life-saving medicine for unproven natural “cures” and home remedies.

    Renowned medical ethicist Arthur Caplan said Ezekiel’s slow and tragic death is an example “of the harm alternative medicine does” and that the child suffered for his parents’ beliefs.

    “I think the parents, sadly, were neglectful of their child, even though I don’t doubt they loved the child,” said Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. “But, when you have a little kid who is sick, seriously sick, and a nurse tells you that it might be meningitis and you continue to pursue interventions that clearly aren’t working, you’ve got to bring that kid into a mainstream health facility.

    “That should be the expectation of any parent in Canada, whatever their beliefs about medicine.”

    The case is also raising troubling questions about whether bystanders should have intervened before Ezekiel died.

    His parents, David, 32, and Collet, 35, have pleaded not guilty in the death of their son, who died in March 2012 after having been ill for several weeks.

    The jury has heard that in the days leading up to their child’s death, the couple, believing Ezekiel had croup, treated him with natural remedies and homemade smoothies containing hot pepper, ginger root, horseradish and onion.

    An employee of a Lethbridge naturopath clinic testified Wednesday that she sold Collet a tincture, after the mother called seeking an immune system boost because she feared her son had viral meningitis.

    A family friend and registered nurse testified that after Collet asked her to look at the boy, she suggested his symptoms could be viral meningitis. “I think you should take him to see a doctor,” the nurse said she told the mother.

    Instead, the couple drove their son into Lethbridge to visit the naturopath. They did not seek conventional medical help until Ezekiel had stopped breathing, the Crown told court. The couple called 911 and performed CPR on the toddler as they drove to meet an ambulance from a nearby community. The child was taken to Lethbridge, and then airlifted to Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary, where he died five days later after being removed from life support.

    The case has roused those opposed to vaccines, who argue the state is trying to go through the back door to force parents to vaccinate their children against such diseases as meningitis.

    The boy’s father says he and his wife did their best by the child and that it is morally wrong to prosecute them.

    continued below

  66. The couple run Truehope Nutritional Support Ltd., which distributes Empower Plus, a vitamin combination the company claims can treat bipolar disorder as well as “the root cause of autism.”

    On a recent posting on the Facebook page, Prayers for Ezekiel, David Stephan said the Crown is seeking to create a legal precedent that would make any parent who chooses not to vaccinate their child criminally liable, should the child then fall sick.

    “If achieved, not only will this be a blow to the rights of Canadians,” the posting reads, “but will likely result in an already overburdened medical system becoming completely bogged down with parents needlessly flooding emergency rooms with mildly sick children out of fear of criminal prosecution.”

    Section 215 of the Criminal Code states every parent, foster parent, guardian or head of a family is under a legal duty to provide necessaries of life for a child under age 16.
    Failure to seek medical attention can be a failure to provide.

    Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta, said the case could create policy tensions for Alberta and other provinces. Caulfield said granting naturopaths self-regulation creates the impression their therapies are grounded in science, when his own research has found the vast majority of services advertised by naturopaths are “largely evidence free.”

    He worries the growing tolerance and embrace of “pseudo-science” is leading to poor health-care decisions that, in the most tragic cases, “facilitate these kinds of really sad situations.”

    University of Calgary bioethicist Juliet Guichon said Ezekiel’s death tragically echoes the case of seven-year-old Ryan Alexander Lovett, who died in March 2013 after contracting a strep infection. Police allege his mother, Tamara Lovett, chose to treat the infection with homeopathic remedies instead of taking him to a doctor, and that decision likely killed him. Lovett is scheduled to go to trial in November on charges of criminal negligence and failing to provide the necessities of life.

    According to police, numerous friends had urged Lovett to take the boy to a doctor.

    Under Alberta — and other provincial — child-welfare laws, the public has a duty to report if they have reason to believe a child is at risk.

    “It’s the second time where bystanders don’t do anything, they’re not punished for anything and now we have a second dead child,” Guichon said. “Nobody is ever prosecuted under this statute, so it creates a culture of, ‘that child is not my business.’

    “If you know a child needs your help, you have to do something,” she said.

    “Other citizens had a duty towards this child,” added Calgary pediatrician Dr. Ian Mitchell. “It takes a great deal of courage to report somebody who you think are nice people and well-meaning, but who you believe are doing the wrong thing.”


  67. Should naturopaths be restricted from treating children after tragic death of Alberta toddler

    by Sharon Kirkey | National Post April 4, 2016

    Before her creeping uneasiness with naturopathic medicine finally drove her from practice, Britt Marie Hermes says she watched colleagues deliver advice that was bad, to dangerously incompetent.

    She witnessed missed diagnoses of cancer. She watched naturopaths routinely advise against childhood vaccinations and treat aggressive illnesses with the same “immune boosting” herb Ezekiel Stephan was given while the Alberta toddler was dying from meningitis.

    Now, as Ezekiel’s parents stand charged in his death, ethicists and health-policy experts say the case is raising troubling questions about whether naturopaths should be restricted from treating children.

    There are provincial bans on indoor tanning beds for minors, as well as bylaws keeping children under 16 out of tattoo parlours “because of possible harm to children,” notes University of Calgary bioethicist and lawyer Juliet Guichon.

    “There’s also the consent aspect — that children aren’t mature enough to say no to these outfits,” Guichon said.

    The same principles could be applied to naturopathy, she suggested. “If (children) are not mature enough yet to say, ‘Mum, I’m not going to that quack, I need to go to a doctor,’ then there could be an argument for a legal restriction to protect children.”

    Nineteen-month-old Ezekiel died in March 2012. His parents, David and Collet Stephan, who operate a nutritional supplements company, have pleaded not guilty to failing to provide their son with the necessities of life.

    Court has heard that, in the days leading up to Ezekiel’s death, the couple, thinking Ezekiel had croup, treated the child with natural remedies and homemade smoothies.

    After a family friend and nurse told the mother he might have meningitis — an infection that causes inflammation of the layer of tissue that covers the brain — Collet purchased an echinacea tincture called “Blast” from a Lethbridge naturopathic clinic. By then the boy was so sick and stiff he couldn’t sit in his car seat.

    The naturopath has testified she was busy with a patient when Collet called ahead of her visit to the clinic, but that she told a staff member to tell the mother to take the boy immediately to hospital. She said she remained by the phone long enough to confirm the message was relayed, and that she was never asked if echinacea would be a good treatment for meningitis.

    Under cross-examination, the jury heard the naturopath never told police she had stayed by the phone while the advice was passed on. A worker in her clinic also told investigators she introduced the naturopath to Collet when she arrived at the clinic, and described her as the mother of “the little one with meningitis.”

    continued below

  68. The trial is scheduled to resume April 11.

    University of Alberta health-policy researcher Tim Caulfield says the tragic death is exposing the sharp and dangerous limits of naturopathic medicine.

    Caulfield, who has long argued that naturopathy operates in the realm of “pseudoscience,” said he’s “sympathetic to the idea of restricting the kinds of services they can provide kids.”

    “We do a lot of things to protect children and, at a minimum, I get very worried when kids are being taken there,” he said.

    Alberta licenses naturopaths, as does Ontario and several other provinces, regulation Guichon said gives the field a “cloak of respectability and professionalism” it may or may not deserve.

    “But the behaviour in Lethbridge suggests that they’re not professional, because a professional would have called the Director of Child Welfare and said, ‘This parent is unwilling or unable to provide the child necessary medical treatment,’ ” Guichon said.

    Caulfield said naturopaths are increasingly positioning themselves as “some kind of substitute for a family physician” offering evidence-based treatments, when much of what they advertise, according to his research, has no foundation in science.

    “They want to have the best of both worlds,” Caulfield said. “But if you’re going to be a science-based practitioner, you shouldn’t be providing homeopathy, you shouldn’t be providing iridology or high-dose intravenous vitamin injections.”

    The College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta said it could not comment on matters involving an ongoing criminal trial.

    Hermes, who practiced as a licensed naturopath in the U.S. for three years before leaving to pursue a career in biomedical research, said she frequently prescribed herbs for infections she was “fairly certain were viruses.

    “In hindsight, I’m really lucky nobody got hurt,” said Hermes, who wrote about Ezekiel’s case in her blog, Naturopathic Diaries.
    When parents are “naturalistic fanatics” it can be nearly impossible to convince them to go to the doctor when their child needs real medicine, she said.

    “My argument is not, and never has been, that medicine is perfect,” Hermes said. “But just because medicine isn’t perfect doesn’t make naturopathy a reasonable alternative.”

    Calgary pediatrician Dr. Ian Mitchell said many people, including parents of young children, have a distrust of conventional medicine “and an almost magical belief that there is some pill or preparation called ‘natural’ that will wipe things away.” 
But he said restricting naturopaths from seeing children would only drive things underground and discourage parents from telling doctors about natural products they might be using that could have “disastrous” interactions with other medicines.

    “We want people to be open with us,” he said, which means not condemning or judging parents.


  69. Alberta fathers fear focus of Crown in toddler meningitis death trial

    'You don't trust conventional medicine very much do you?' asked prosecutor

    By Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press April 13, 2016

    The father of a 19-month-old boy testified Wednesday his son had never been taken to a medical doctor prior to being rushed to hospital where he died of meningitis.

    David Stephan, 32, is charged along with his wife, Collet, 35, with failing to provide the necessaries of life for 19-month-old Ezekiel in 2012.

    Ezekiel, who had been given smoothies with hot peppers and horseradish when he became ill with what his parents thought was the croup, stopped breathing and later died in hospital.

    "You don't trust conventional medicine very much do you?" asked prosecutor Clayton Giles during cross-examination.

    "Why would you say that?" replied Stephan.

    Giles asked if he had taken either Ezekiel, or his older brother Ezra to a medical doctor.

    "Just Ezra. It was a recommendation from Dr. Tannis, the naturopath, that we take him in," Stephan said.

    He said Ezekiel saw the naturopathic doctor "once."

    'Hindsight's 20-20'

    Giles said since a nurse friend of his wife's had suggested Ezekiel might have meningitis it made no sense not to take him in.

    "You still haven't told me why it is you were prepared to risk a potentially fatal disease being the issue without having it checked by someone who could tell you," Giles said.

    "Hindsight's 20-20," replied Stephan. "Had I known that this was going to take place, you've got to know that I would be the first person advocating something else."

    Giles said the Stephans were "working in the dark" and trying to treat something they had no information on.

    Stephan said there was nothing that raised any "alarm bells" and denied he failed to act because it flew in the face of his family's belief in natural medicines.

    "I'm not delusional and no, I don't put on blinders."

    'I felt that it would be one strike'

    Stephan earlier testified he didn't inform doctors at Alberta's Children's Hospital, social workers or the RCMP that Ezekiel had shown signs of improvement and been well enough to go to church and pre-school.

    "You were concerned they were going to take (older son) Ezra away, right?" asked Giles.

    "It was the idea that they might think we were negligent parents if they found out that we didn't put Ezekiel in a car seat. I felt that it would be one strike," Stephan replied.

    "I didn't feel that our lack of communication of that to the doctors or whoever it was would bring them to the opinion that we were neglectful as parents."

    The Crown contends the couple didn't do enough to ensure the child had proper access to medical care before he became seriously ill.

    'Show of force'

    Stephan was also concerned at the heavy police presence when they were preparing to give a statement to the RCMP.

    "Now you're thinking, 'Oh, my goodness. Are they going to arrest us? What's going on here?" he said.

    "If one or two police officers show up, that's one thing, because they come in pairs. But if there's more than that, my assumption is that they are there for a purpose. So am I under fear of being arrested? Absolutely at this point. Do I feel I've done anything wrong? No, I don't, but I felt that somebody else has clearly felt that we've done something wrong to the point that there's this incredible show of force there."

    The Crown has wrapped up its cross-examination of Stephan.


    Read the physician's report: Alberta toddler's final days detailed in exhibit at parents' trial


  70. Alberta mother of toddler who died of meningitis concerned other children would be taken away

    Collet Stephan says it was 'heartwrenching to hear his breathing'

    By Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press April 14, 2016

    A mother accused in her toddler's death from bacterial meningitis says his face "just kept getting bluer and bluer" as she desperately tried to get him to breathe the day he was rushed to hospital.

    "He'd stopped breathing again and so I did the CPR again and I did a couple of chest compressions and he started to breathe. Nothing had come out and shortly after he stopped breathing again," a sobbing Collet Stephan testified in her own defence Thursday.

    "The 911 operator was kind of directing me while doing the CPR with counting and so forth. I remember his face starting to turn blue."

    Stephan, 35, and her husband, David, 32, are on trial accused of failing to provide the necessaries of life for 19-month-old Ezekiel in March 2012.

    Ezekiel was sick for more than two weeks before he died in hospital. Court has heard how his parents gave him natural remedies, including smoothies with hot peppers and horseradish, because they thought he had croup.

    Stephan told jurors that the first day of her son's illness was easily the worst. She said he had a fever and the wheezing and whistling noise was heartwrenching.

    She said her son's condition worsened after her husband noticed Ezekiel's breathing had changed. She put him on her lap and suddenly he stopped breathing.

    "He choked and he stopped breathing for a few seconds. I hit him on the back. He started breathing again," she said as jurors and spectators wiped away tears.

    "Then he just stopped breathing again and I put him on his back and put two breaths into his mouth forcing him to breath and put him on his side. He started coughing and he coughed up a bunch of mucus and phlegm."

    It was at that point they decided to take him to hospital and called an ambulance.

    Ezekiel was airlifted to Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary where his parents were told that there was little brain activity.

    An interview with the RCMP while Ezekiel was on life support caused a great deal of worry, the mother admitted.

    "I feared losing both our children. I was 20 weeks pregnant and having the fear of losing that child as well. It was a roller-coaster of emotions I was constantly going through," she testified.

    "Our son was on life support and we were being told that someone felt we were neglectful. We were now being questioned on our parenting, too."

    Court documents reveal just days before Ezekiel went to hospital his parents were giving him fluids through an eyedropper to keep him hydrated as he would not drink on his own. They also started him on an electrolyte and amino acid supplement, wrote Dr. Jenn D'Mello in an assessment.

    His symptoms worsened.

    "He would not eat or drink, was lethargic and they noticed his body to be very stiff. These symptoms persisted ... and he started being so stiff that his back was arched," D'Mello wrote.

    The assessment indicates Ezekiel's body was so stiff and sore that he couldn't be placed in a car seat.

    Mello wrote on March 15, 2012, that Ezekiel "met criteria for brain death."

    A pathologist determined the boy died "as a result of bacterial meningitis and right pleural empyema (lung infection)."

    D'Mello's report noted Collet Stephan never saw a physician during her pregnancy and did not have any blood tests or ultrasounds before Ezekiel's home birth.


  71. Alberta toddlers final days before meningitis death detailed in physicians report at parents trial

    Court exhibit released to CBC News paints a picture of child's final days

    CBC News April 13, 2016

    In his final days of suffering from bacterial meningitis, 19-month-old Ezekiel Stephan had to be given fluids through an eyedropper and his body was stiff to the point of his back being arched, according to a physician's report newly released by an Alberta court to CBC News.

    The toddler was declared brain dead in March 2012 after an emergency trip to hospital to see a physician for the first time in his life, according to the document, which is included as an exhibit as the trial of his parents continues in Lethbridge.

    David and Collet Stephan stand accused of failing to provide the necessaries of life to their son.

    The document represents an account of the events leading up to Ezekiel's death by Dr. Jenn D'Mello, who prepared the report following an assessment of Ezekiel at the pediatric intensive-care unit of the Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary on March 15, 2012.

    The information in the document comes from Ezekiel's medical chart and an interview with his mother at the time.

    Read the physician's report: Alberta toddler's final days detailed in exhibit at parents' trial


    First signs of trouble

    According to the report, Ezekiel's mother told the doctor the last time he appeared "completely well" was more than two weeks earlier, on Feb. 26, at the family's acreage in Cardston county, south of Lethbridge.

    On Feb. 27, Ezekiel "developed a fever and was whining a lot," the report reads.

    The parents told the physician they initially thought he was simply teething but then, later that day, they noticed he had developed laboured and "whistly/wheezy" breathing.

    The couple phoned a family friend whom they described to the physician as a registered nurse and Ezekiel's birth attendant. Listening to the child's breathing over the phone, the friend suggested it sounded like he had croup.

    "Collet subsequently looked croup up on the internet and saw that it was a viral infection and that the only medical treatment typically offered was a dose of steroids if it was severe," the physician's report reads.

    "As per the internet suggestions, they treated Ezekiel's breathing difficulty with cool air and a humidifier. They also started Ezekiel on some herbal/naturopathic remedies which they believe help fight off viral infections and have given Ezekiel in the past when he has a cold."

    Home remedies

    Those remedies included olive leaf extract, garlic and methylsulfonylmethane, in addition to the "daily herbal/naturopathic supplements" that the parents had been giving Ezekiel, according to the physician's report.

    That daily regime included Omega 3-6-9, whey protein, FermPlus, an unnamed digestive enzyme, and Empowerplus — a controversial supplement sold by a company founded by Ezekiel's grandfather, Anthony Stephan.

    The company, Truehope Nutritional Support, had been locked in a years-long battle with Health Canada over the supplement, which the federal department warned in 2003did not have enough scientific backing to be considered safe and was being sold without a drug identification number.

    Truehope, based in Raymond, Alta., eventually won in a legal decision that allowed for Empowerplus to continue being sold in Canada.

    continued below

  72. David Stephan told the court he is vice president of the company.

    The physician's report stated Collet took Empowerplus daily during her pregnancy and Ezekiel's parents started giving him daily doses of Empowerplus mixed into a smoothie "since approximately 10 or 11 months of age."

    Symptoms continue

    Meanwhile, the child's symptoms, which his parents believed to be croup, continued for another week, although the physician noted "he never really had a cough."

    The boy had minimal appetite and little interest in drinking so Collet and David "used an eye dropper to make sure he was getting enough fluids," the report states.

    Aside from his first day of illness, Ezekiel's fever never returned, and his temperature never measured above 37.8 degrees, according to the report.

    He continued to be lethargic and have occasional bouts of difficult breathing, particularly at night, "but the parents felt he was gradually improving and responding to the cool air, humidifier, and extra herbal remedies."

    By March 5 Ezekiel appeared "much improved" and "well enough to go to a pre-school type program he attends," so Collet stopped the olive leaf extract, garlic and methylsulfonylmethane treatment, "as he seemed to have recovered from his 'croup.'"

    Unusual 'neurological symptom'

    On March 6, however, Ezekiel was "unusually lethargic — more so than he had been during any of the days in the week prior."

    "He laid in bed the entire day and his only response would be to moan unhappily when Collet left the room," the physician's report reads.

    He again would not eat or drink and was restarted on his extra herbal remedies.

    "Collet also described noticing an unusual 'neurological symptom' that day where Ezekiel had repetitive movements of his right arm where he would pull at his diaper or rub his cheek and these movements seemed unusual and involuntary to Collet."

    He seemed "a bit better" the following day and the abnormal movements ceased, but his lethargy continued.

    From March 8-10, Ezekiel seemed to "gradually improve" but on March 11, the symptoms worsened again and his parents "noticed his body to be very stiff."

    Body stiffness worsens

    By March 12, the stiffness was so severe that Ezekiel's "back was arched" and his parents called their family friend again, who came over to examine the boy with a stethoscope.

    "According to Collet, their friend concluded that Ezekiel's symptoms could be from meningitis," the physician's report reads.

    "Collet then looked up meningitis on the internet; specifically she mentioned looking at the WebMD website. She came across the Kernig and Brudzinski's test for meningismus and tried them on Ezekiel. She reports the tests were obviously positive, further indicating to her that Ezekiel was suffering from meningitis."

    Ezekiel's parents then resumed the treatment with olive leaf extract, garlic and methylsulfonylmethane and used the eye-dropper method to ensure he received enough fluids, as "he would not drink on his own," the report reads. They also started giving him Total Reload, an electrolyte and amino-acid supplement.

    Within two hours, "they felt he'd had some improvement and was less lethargic."

    "They called their naturopath in Lethbridge to ask for recommendations for treating viral meningitis and were advised to start him on something called BLAST," the report states.

    continued below

  73. Trip to Lethbridge for BLAST

    The next day, March 13, the family drove to Lethbridge to run some errands which included picking up the BLAST from their naturopath.

    "Ezekiel seemed a bit more alert that morning but he was too stiff to be successfully placed in his car seat so his crib mattress was put in the back of the car and he laid on that for the drive," the report reads.

    "They picked up the BLAST and started Ezekiel on that and then drove back home."

    After a nap at home and more fluids, Ezekiel seemed more alert but still lethargic.

    Abnormal breathing and 911 call

    After another nap, Ezekiel woke up about 8:30 p.m., when Collet noticed he had "abnormal breathing where he seemed to be gasping and struggling" to draw breath, followed by pauses in his breathing that lasted for a few seconds.

    "Collet patted him on the back when his breathing paused and then he resumed breathing but paused again shortly after," the physician's report states.

    "At that point the parents called 911 and Collet gave Ezekiel some rescue breaths. He coughed up a bit of mucous and again his breathing resumed. In discussion with 911 they decided to drive him to the hospital at that point rather than await an ambulance as his breathing had resumed.

    "They again placed him on the mattress in the back of the car and Collet stayed with him while David drove. Within minutes of departing, Ezekiel stopped breathing again. Collet again gave rescue breaths but this time Ezekiel did not resume breathing."

    Collett then gave him about five chest compressions, according to the physician's report, and his breathing resumed briefly but the frequent pauses continued.

    The couple called 911 again and stayed on speaker phone with the operator until an ambulance met their vehicle.

    "While on the phone with 911, the parents gave full CPR for about 10 minutes until EMS arrived," the report states.

    "Ezekiel had no spontaneous return of breathing and Collet reports he was blue by the time EMS arrived."

    Emergency transport and brain death

    The ambulance took Ezekiel to the emergency room at the hospital in Cardston where he was intubated and received about 30 minutes of CPR, multiple doses of epinephrine and atropine, and regained circulation.

    He was then transported to the ER in the Lethbridge along with the Cardston physician, where they were met by a pediatric intensive-care transport team, who took Ezekiel to Calgary via helicopter.

    After arriving at the Alberta Children's Hospital, Ezekiel required "significant cardiopulmonary support," according to the physician's report, and "broad spectrum antibiotics."

    The working diagnosis was bacterial meningitis, although that was not confirmed by a lumbar-puncture test, as Ezekiel was "too unstable to undergo this procedure."

    He did not regain consciousness in hospital and, following a CT scan and a neurological assessment on the morning of March 15, 2012 the physician reported that Ezekiel was "completely unresponsive" and had "met criteria for brain death."

    The trial began March 7. The prosecution rested its case just over two weeks ago. David Stephan started testifying on Monday and the Crown was continuing to cross-examine him Wednesday in Lethbridge.


    Read the physician's report: Alberta toddler's final days detailed in exhibit at parents' trial


  74. David Stephan says he felt shell shocked by sons meningitis death

    David Stephan told Alberta court son Ezekiel seemed to be getting better up to night he stopped breathing

    By Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press April 12, 2016

    A father who used naturopathic remedies to treat his toddler son before he died from bacterial meningitis four years ago was grilled by the Crown at his trial in Lethbridge, Alta., Tuesday.
    The court also released exhibits to CBC News, including the autopsy report and physician report on the child's death, which are embedded at the bottom of this article.

    A redacted report from Child and Family Services was not legible and is not included.

    Weeks of illness

    David Stephan, who is 32, and his wife, Collet, who is 35, are charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life for their nearly 19-month-old son Ezekiel in March 2012.

    David Stephan will remain on the witness stand on Wednesday.

    Court has already heard that the parents gave the boy, who had been sick for about 2½ weeks, natural remedies and homemade smoothies containing hot pepper, ginger root, horseradish and onion.

    He eventually stopped breathing and was rushed to hospital in Calgary where he later died.

    Prosecutor grills father

    Crown prosecutor Clayton Giles suggested Ezekiel had never fully recovered from what his parents thought was croup despite the natural remedies he had received.

    "Would I agree that really at no point in there was he 100 per cent well? Yeah," Stephan agreed.

    He said the natural supplements normally would at least limit the severity of any illness.

    "Typically that would be correct. It wouldn't be like a full cold or a full flu," Stephan said.

    "When he got sick this time he actually got the symptoms of the croup and he had the full symptoms of cold, flu, so it would have been like a normal sickness. The daily regimen is just about an overall sense of well-being. It's not sickness prevention."

    911 call

    The Crown contends the couple didn't do enough to ensure the toddler had proper access to medical care before he became seriously ill.

    Giles asked about a 911 call Stephan made. The father admitted he was panicked and fearful, but told the prosecutor he was absolutely truthful with the emergency operator.

    On the tape, Stephan could be heard telling the operator Ezekiel had been "in and out" of consciousness and sick for a few days.

    'Shell shocked'

    He repeated earlier testimony that Ezekiel had been showing signs of improvement and there was nothing to suggest he was in serious trouble.

    "It appeared to be croup the first week and flu the second week," he said.

    Stephan said he was left feeling "shell-shocked" trying to figure out what happened to his son.

    "He's getting better in the afternoon where he's sleeping well with no signs of illness to all of a sudden he's going into this breathing irregularity that rapidly declines to where he's not breathing," Stephan said. "You're completely caught off guard. You're not properly prepared for this at all."

    In earlier testimony, a pediatrician said Ezekiel had less than a one per cent chance of surviving by the time he was rushed to an Alberta hospital.

    Dr. Shauna Burkholder, who works at Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary, said medical staff at a smaller hospital near their home was able to revive the boy but it's likely he was already brain dead at that point.


  75. Meningitis trial hears former chief medical examiner dispute toddler's cause of death

    Dr. Anny Sauvageau argues Ezekiel Stephan had viral, not bacterial, meningitis

    CBC News April 19, 2016

    Alberta's former chief medical officer took the stand for the defence in the trial of two parents accused of not providing the necessaries of life in the death of their toddler, saying she does not believe he actually died from bacterial meningitis.

    Dr. Anny Sauvageau presented an 18-page report that outlines her disagreements with the cause-of-death findings of Dr. Bamidele Adeagbo, which said Ezekiel Stephan died of bacterial meningitis.

    Sauvageau said she believes the toddler in fact died of viral meningitis, rather than the bacterial form, but acknowledged that neither she nor Adeagbo are microbiologists.

    The former chief medical examiner also suggested Ezekiel might have lived had the first ambulance to Cardston been better equipped to treat a child his age with breathing difficulties. She called it a "medical or paramedical misadventure."

    Sauvageau is suing Alberta Justice for wrongful dismissal. She alleges her position was not renewed after she stood up to political pressure to change a contract for transporting bodies for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Alberta. Her allegations have not been proven in court.

    Given her civil action against the province, Crown counsel questioned whether the doctor could be relied on for impartial testimony. It was also noted that she is being paid $500 per hour by the defence.

    Sauvageau said her lawsuit is not relevant and promised to be neutral.

    The trial has already heard from a naturopath who said that Ezekiel's parents, Collet and David, thought their son had viral meningitis and asked for an immune booster to treat the illness.

    Source of analysis

    Sauvageau's analysis of Ezekiel's condition comes from reading Adeagbo's report and listening to the 911 call made by Ezekiel's parents after the boy had stopped breathing.

    During the call Ezekiel started breathing again and David put the phone to the toddler's mouth.

    "I can hear the breathing of the baby that is not a normal breathing ... as an expert on asphyxia. .. [it was] an obstructed phenomenon," said Sauvageau.

    Adeagbo sat in the front row of the Lethbridge courtroom, which was packed with supporters of the Stephans, taking notes. He will have a chance to present a rebuttal to the jury in the coming days.

    The Crown is expected to cross examine Sauvageau on Wednesday.


  76. Toddler Ezekiel Stephans death from meningitis absolutely shocking: grandfather who saw him a day earlier

    TrueHope founder Anthony Stephan says grandson seemed 'normal' a day before tragedy struck

    By Bryan Labby, CBC News April 21, 2016

    The founder of a controversial nutritional supplements company has testified for the first time at his son and daughter-in-law's trial in Lethbridge, Alta., saying grandson Ezekiel Stephan seemed lethargic but otherwise fine one day before the toddler was declared brain dead.

    David and Collet Stephan used naturopathic remedies to treat their son Ezekiel before he died from bacterial meningitis in March 2012, only calling 911 when he stopped breathing.

    They are being tried on charges of failing to provide the necessaries of life. David is vice-president of Truehope Nutritional Support Inc., a company based in Raymond, Alta., founded by his father, Anthony Stephan.

    Anthony Stephan testified for the defence Thursday. He told court that on the day back in March 2012, his grandson played shy and strange but showed no signs of a fever, runny nose or cough.

    "In the 10 minutes I was with him, I did not see pus in his eyes, I did not see mucus on his nose or anything like that. I noticed that his body movements were normal, but that he had a lack of energy," Stephan, 63, told the four-man, eight-woman jury.

    He said the family was shocked to hear Ezekiel's condition had taken a tragic turn the next day, March 13.

    "It was a really tragic issue. It was just shocking, absolutely shocking. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy," Stephan told the court.

    The toddler had been sick for at least two weeks while David Stephan, 32, and Collet Stephan, 35, treated him with various home remedies — water with maple syrup, juice with frozen berries and finally a mixture of apple cider vinegar, horseradish root, hot peppers, mashed onion, garlic and ginger root.

    The court has heard that the Stephans did not seek medical help until the toddler stopped breathing, when he was rushed to hospitals in Cardston and Lethbridge before being airlifted to Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary.

    Five days later, doctors took him off life support machines.

    When the trial began on March 7, the Crown told court the couple loved their son and are not accused of ignoring or killing him. But they should have sought medical help sooner, the Crown argues.

    Contradictory testimony over reason for visit

    On Thursday, Anthony Stephan contradicted his own testimony at one point. He originally told the jury trial that he was summoned to his son's house because of concerns about Ezekiel's health.

    "He wanted me to visit with the child and to give him a blessing," Stephan testified.

    continued below

  77. But Stephan later said he was called to the house for a different reason. He testified that after spending about 10 minutes with Ezekiel, he and David went into another room to discuss business.

    "I think we went back to discussing the business issues, went back to discussing business: that's what I'd come out there for."

    Stephan's testimony was constantly interrupted by two lawyers representing the Crown.

    They objected to Stephan's comments surrounding Ezekiel's condition and what the boy may have been feeling or suffering from.

    Stephan offered several apologies to the court for straying off course during his testimony.

    TrueHope won legal fight with Health Canada

    Stephan told the court he is with Synergy Group of Canada, a company affiliated with TrueHope, the company he founded.

    Health Canada launched an unsuccessful court case in 2004 to try to stop the distribution of the company's supplement EMPowerplus — a product the company claims can manage mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder — and also issued warnings about it.

    In 2006, the company was found not guilty of distributing EMPowerplus without a drug identification number.

    Earlier Thursday, court heard from another defence witness — someone who saw the boy at church just days before he died.

    "He was running around," said Doral Lyybart, the volunteer fire chief in the tiny village of Glenwood, fewer than 10 kilometres from the Stephan family home.

    Lyybart told court he was shocked to hear the boy died.

    "I said to my wife, 'What the heck, he was just at church on Sunday…. I know he was very active, I remember seeing him. He was not being carried around in his mom and dad's arms, he was running around, still fairly active."

    However, Lyybart told court he couldn't remember precisely whether it was two days before Ezekiel was taken to hospital or the previous Sunday, which would have been nine days before he was airlifted to Calgary.

    Defence closes case

    The prosecution rested its case several weeks ago.

    After Anthony Stephan's testimony, the defence closed its case.

    The jury was dismissed until Friday at 11 a.m., when the defence is expected to give its final arguments.


  78. Meningitis death jury asked to decide if Stephans strayed from being reasonable and prudent parents

    Defence lawyer asks in closing whether earlier medical aid could have helped save Ezekiel Stephan's life

    The Canadian Press April 22, 2016

    The lawyer for a couple charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life to their toddler son before he died has told an Alberta jury it has to decide whether the prosecution has proven all elements of its case.

    "David and Collet Stephan are depending on you," defence lawyer Shawn Buckley said Friday in his final argument in a Lethbridge courtroom, as the Stephans sat very closely together and listened intently.

    Buckley reminded the jury the prosecution has to "prove every element of the offence" and the Stephans are "presumed to be innocent."

    David Stephan, 32, and Collet Stephan, 35, were charged after their nearly 19-month-old son Ezekiel died after contracting bacterial meningitis in March 2012.

    The couple at first believed that Ezekiel, who had been sick for weeks, had croup and the flu. They had treated him with smoothies containing ingredients such as hot peppers, garlic, onions and horseradish. They didn't seek medical attention until he stopped breathing, when they called 911.

    Ezekiel was taken to a hospital in Cardston, then later transferred to Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary with little brain activity and was taken off life-support a couple of days later.

    Buckley said the jury has to decide whether the Stephans' actions were a "marked departure of what a reasonable and prudent parent would do" and whether it was "objectively foreseeable that failing to seek medical attention would endanger Ezekiel's life."

    "Did they seek medical attention and did they seek it soon enough?" he asked.

    "There's the issue if seeking medical attention could, not would, have made a difference in Ezekiel's survival."

    A pathologist testified the toddler died of bacterial meningitis and a lung infection.

    Buckley said not one witness called by either the prosecution or the defence who had seen Ezekiel prior to the 911 call thought he was in need of medical attention, because there was a lack of symptoms.

    In fact, a friend of the Stephans, who is a registered nurse,testified she told the mother that he might have viral meningitis and advised the boy be taken to a doctor. That testimony was disputed by Collet Stephan.

    continued below

  79. Defence lawyer cites paramedic misadventure theory

    Buckley also pointed to the testimony of Alberta's former chief medical officer, who disputed the cause of death.

    Dr. Anny Sauvageau said she believed the toddler died of viral meningitis and that he might have lived had the ambulance to Cardston been better equipped to treat a child his age with breathing difficulties.

    "Ezekiel did not have an airway for a full eight minutes and 11 seconds," said Buckley.

    Buckley said Sauvageau described Ezekiel's death in part as a result of the "paramedic misadventure."

    Court documents already entered in the trial say just days before Ezekiel was rushed to hospital his family was giving him fluids through an eyedropper because he wouldn't eat or drink.

    The jury has also heard that Collet Stephan researched treatments for viral meningitis online and the next day picked up an echinacea mixture from a naturopath in Lethbridge. Court was told Ezekiel was too stiff to sit in his car seat and had to lie on a mattress as they drove to the naturopath's office the day before he stopped breathing.

    In his closing arguments, Buckley told the jury the couple didn't know the severity of their son's illness in the weeks leading up to his death but the second they thought there was a problem, they engaged the medical system.

    Buckley said if the couple should be perceived as "strange nutbars" who would never see a medical practitioner, he asked the jury to consider then, why they wouldn't bring the child to someone they're more comfortable with like a naturopath or homeopath.

    He told the jury the Stephans were "obviously very attentive parents."

    The prosecution is to deliver its final argument on Saturday and the case is expected to go to the jury early next week.

    The maximum penalty for failing to provide the necessaries of life is five years in prison.

    With files from CBC's Kate Adach


  80. Ezekiel Stephans meningitis death trial - Crown slams parents in closing arguments

    Prosecutor says 'reasonably prudent' parents would take child to hospital before he stopped breathing

    The Canadian Press April 23, 2016

    The Crown in the trial of an Alberta couple charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life to their toddler son says the case isn't about a lack of love — it's about failure to provide medical help when he needed it.

    "This trial is not about murder. It is not about manslaughter. It is not about any offence concerning death. The Crown does not need to prove the accused contributed in any way or had a hand in a death," prosecutor Lisa Weich said Saturday in her final submission to the eight woman-four man jury.

    "They didn't fail to love him. That's not what this is about. They failed in their duty to provide medical attention. A reasonably prudent parent would have recognized, would have foreseen that Ezekiel was at risk of danger."

    David Stephan, 32, and Collet Stephan, 35, were charged after their 19-month-old son Ezekiel died of bacterial meningitis in March 2012.

    The couple didn't seek medical attention until he stopped breathing, and had treated him with things such as hot peppers, garlic, onions and horseradish.

    'Run, not walk'

    On the evening of March 13, 2012, Ezekiel suddenly stopped breathing. He was rushed to hospital and eventually ended up in Calgary, where doctors detected very little brain activity. Ezekiel died a couple of days later.

    The Crown says Ezekiel had been sick for more than two weeks and wasn't fully recovered.

    "A reasonably prudent parent wouldn't, as David said, wait and see if he got worse," said Weich.

    "Failing to take him to a doctor was a marked departure from what a reasonably prudent parent would have done ... it's far below the minimum standard of care for children that society expects. They should not have walked to the hospital — they should have run."

    A friend of the Stephans, who is a registered nurse, testified she told the mother that he might have viral meningitis and advised the boy be taken to a doctor.

    Online research

    Court documents entered in the trial show that just days before Ezekiel was rushed to hospital. his family was giving him fluids through an eyedropper because he wouldn't eat or drink.

    The jury has also heard that Collet Stephan researched treatments for viral meningitis online and the next day picked up an Echinacea mixture from a naturopath in Lethbridge, Alta.

    Court was told Ezekiel was too stiff to sit in his car seat and had to lie on a mattress as they drove to the naturopath's office the day before he stopped breathing.

    5 seconds

    Weich recounted David Stephan's description of Ezekiel's change in breathing the night he went to hospital. She said it was a six count followed by about five seconds where he seemed to be holding his breath.

    Weich was silent for five seconds before continuing her submission.

    "That's five seconds. Imagine your kid not breathing for five seconds," she continued. "What do the accused do? The accused wait until Ezekiel stops breathing."

    The charge to the jury is scheduled for Monday afternoon.


  81. Toddlers meningitis death trial decision in hands of jury

    David and Collet Stephan accused of failing to provide the necessaries of life to their son

    CBC News April 25, 2016

    The guilt or innocence of a couple charged in the bacterial meningitis death of their toddler son in Alberta four years ago is now in the hands of the jury.

    David Stephan, 32, and Collet Stephan, 36, are charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life to 19-month-old Ezekiel in 2012.

    Alberta Justice Rodney Jerke delivered his charge to the jury this afternoon at the conclusion of the six-week trial after closing arguments wrapped up on the weekend.

    David stroked his wife's hair as she cried softly listening to the judge in a courtroom packed with nearly five dozen supporters of the couple.

    The couple believed that Ezekiel was suffering from croup.

    As a result, they treated him with remedies that included smoothies containing hot peppers, garlic, onions and horseradish over a period of more than two weeks before he stopped breathing and was rushed to hospital.

    Ezekiel was taken to the Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary where doctors detected little brain activity and he died a couple of days later.

    Tense in court as judge charges jury

    It was tense in court on Monday as Jerke told the jury they would have to find that each parent was under a legal duty to provide for their son, that they failed to do so and that failure endangered the toddler's life.

    The Crown says the Stephans didn't do enough to ensure Ezekiel received the medical treatment that he required and had been warned the boy likely had meningitis.

    A friend of the Stephans, who is a registered nurse, testified she told the mother that he might have viral meningitis and advised the boy be taken to a doctor.

    Court documents entered in the trial say just days before Ezekiel was rushed to hospital his family was giving him fluids through an eyedropper because he wouldn't eat or drink.

    The jury has also heard that Collet Stephan researched treatments for viral meningitis online and the next day picked up an echinacea mixture from a naturopath in Lethbridge.

    Court was told Ezekiel was too stiff to sit in his car seat and had to lie on a mattress as they drove to the naturopath's office the day before he stopped breathing.

    In her final submission, prosecutor Lisa Weich told the jury that this isn't a case of murder or manslaughter but rather failure to provide the little boy with the help he needed.

    "Clearly they do not want to be held responsible for the decisions that they made while watching Ezekiel. What parent would?," she said.

    Not a question of love, Crown says

    "No one wants to think that they had any part and that they had any responsibility in acting inappropriately when it comes to taking care of their child."

    Weich said there's no question that the Stephans loved their son but they failed him by not getting him the help he needed.

    Defence lawyer Shawn Buckley said the jury must decide if the Stephans' actions were a "marked departure of what a reasonable and prudent parent would do."

    "Did they seek medical attention and did they seek it soon enough?" he asked in his closing arguments.

    The jury — made of eight women and four men — will have to come up with two verdicts for each parent and will have to find their actions were a marked departure from the conduct of a reasonable person.

    The maximum penalty for failing to provide the necessaries of life is five years in prison.


  82. Parents on trial in meningitis death of toddler defended use of natural remedies in police interview

    'Has it worked for us in every single scenario in the past before? Yes,' David Stephan says

    By John Gibson, CBC News April 25, 2016

    Audio recordings obtained by CBC News of police interviews with two Alberta parents accused of allowing their toddler to die from meningitis reveal how strongly the couple believed in the power of natural remedies over conventional medicine, even after the boy was flown to a Calgary hospital in grave condition.

    David Stephan, 32, and his wife, Collet Stephan, 36, are accused of failing to provide the necessaries of life for their nearly 19-month-old son Ezekiel, who died in March 2012. The charges were laid almost a year later.

    Just after 1 a.m. on March 15, 2012, as the toddler lay unconscious at the Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary, RCMP Cpl. Ryan Bulford conducted separate lengthy interviews with the Stephans, asking both to describe in detail the events leading up to that point.

    A jury is now deliberating after a six-week trial in Lethbridge, Alta., about 210 kilometres southeast of Calgary.

    With that eight-woman, four-man jury sequestered, CBC News is now allowed to publish the audio of those interviews, which were exhibits at the trial.

    Asked by the officer whether he considered himself an expert in naturopathic remedies, Stephan said no.

    "Do we have a formal education? No. Are we educated in it? Absolutely," he said. "Has it worked for us in every single scenario in the past before this? Yes."

    Ezekiel was regularly given vitamin and mineral supplements, said his father, who is a vice-president of Truehope Nutritional Support Inc., a natural remedies company founded by his father, Anthony Stephan.

    "And then when he was sick there, we were giving him, above and beyond that, the olive root extract, which is an antifungal, antiviral, it's a very powerful one," he told Bulford.

    The toddler's mother told the officer that Ezekiel, who had been unwell for about 2½ weeks with what she thought was croup, became more lethargic on Sunday, March 11.

    Nurse suspects toddler has meningitis

    The next day she invited Terrie Meynders, who had been her birth attendant — and who is a registered nurse — to the acreage in Cardston County, in the southwestern corner of Alberta, where the Stephans lived with Ezekiel and their other son Ezra, who was four.

    Collet Stephan was also 20 weeks pregnant with their third child at the time.

    "To her experience, she said he does look like he's showing signs of meningitis," she told Bulford.

    In her testimony on March 8, Meynders said she told Ezekiel's mother she should consult a physician.

    Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, and can be caused by a fungus, a virus, or by bacteria, which is the more dangerous variety of the disease.

    Acute bacterial meningitis must be treated immediately with intravenous antibiotics and corticosteroids, according to the Mayo Clinic website.

    Alberta Health recommends parents have their children vaccinated with meningococcal conjugate at four months and 12 months of age to protect against meningitis. On April 14, David Stephan testified that his son had never been taken to a medical doctor.

    Couple turned to natural remedies

    "So I went online and researched meningitis … and it looked like he had about 95 per cent of those, the symptoms of a viral meningitis," Ezekiel's mother told the officer.

    "And the recommendations on the medical websites, as well as the natural websites, was boosting the immune system."

    Ezekiel's father told the officer his wife concluded the toddler likely had viral meningitis — not fungal or the more serious bacterial variants — because the boy had already been unwell for several days.

    "Bacterial, you have a very short window to work with. And so she ruled that out," he said.

    continued below

  83. Under cross-examination by Crown counsel on April 15,Collet Stephan told court her traumatized condition might have led her to exaggerate in her description of the toddler's symptoms in the day leading up to his death.

    In his interview with Bulford, Ezekiel's father said he and his wife agreed they needed to get the boy back on a regimen of natural antivirals.

    "And so let's get back on top of it, let's get nutrition into him, and let's also get this stuff in there that's going to wipe it out," he said.

    "When it comes to the natural stuff, we were doing our due diligence, making sure that we were covering it from every angle that we could."

    The father told Bulford he believed taking Ezekiel to a physician sooner would not have helped.

    "She found out Monday afternoon that it was meningitis, not a whole lot they can do for that until they can discover what [type] it is, and to discover what it is, they have to do a spinal tap," he said.

    "I don't think anyone would have caught that unless he was under 24-hour supervision of a doctor."

    The mother told the officer she immediately started giving Ezekiel natural antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, along with a product called Total Reload, "which is filled with electrolytes, vitamins … and amino acids that are already a broke-down form of protein," she said.

    "And so we started getting that into him immediately and he started to improve very quickly."

    Total Reload is one of several natural supplement products sold by Truehope Nutritional Support Inc.

    Truehope fought a long legal battle with Health Canada over whether it was selling Empowerplus — a product the company claims successfully manages mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder — without a drug identification number. In 2006 an Alberta judge ruled against Ottawa's attempt to block its sale.

    On March 13, Ezekiel's mother performed a medical test on him called Brudzinski's sign of meningitis — where a patient's severe neck stiffness causes their hips and knees to flex when the neck is flexed — which she had learned from the website, WebMD.

    The test seemed to be another indication he had meningitis, she told the officer.

    Later that day, with Ezekiel so stiff he had to be placed on a mattress in the family truck instead of a baby seat, the Stephans drove to Lethbridge, where they needed to have some papers signed by a lawyer.

    Naturopathic doctor recommends immune booster

    They also visited the office of naturopath Tracey Tannis (Pike) to pick up a product she had recommended called Blast, "that's filled with lots of homeopathics, natural antibiotics and an immune booster," the mother said to Bulford.

    In her testimony on March 17, Tannis confirmed her secretary had taken a call from a woman who said a nurse suspected her toddler had meningitis. Tannis told court that she instructed her secretary to tell the woman to take the child to a hospital immediately.

    Ezekiel's condition seemed to improve as they drove back to Raymond, his father told Bulford.

    "I actually fell asleep beside him and I woke up to him, you know, playing with my lip," he said.

    Ezekiel seemed to be doing fine at that point, the father said.

    The toddler's mother told Bulford they gave Ezekiel more fluids, plus a mixture of electrolytes and the Truehope product Empowerplus as soon as they got home.

    "It had obviously a profound effect on him, and he was doing great, he ended up going right to sleep and it was a completely relaxed sleep, he was no longer arching his back," the father told the officer.

    Collet Stephan told Bulford she was confident enough that Ezekiel was getting better that she let her husband convince her to go to her church event that evening.

    The father told the officer he gave Ezekiel more fluids when he woke up a few times during his nap.

    He said he noticed the boy was still having trouble breathing and ...

  84. decided letting him sleep more would help.

    "He'll rest it off, and he's just struggling while he's awake or something," he said.

    The toddler's condition had worsened again by the time his mother came home.

    "And I came into the room and all of a sudden his breathing wasn't normal, he was definitely struggling for more breath, it was hard for him to breathe," she said.

    Ezekiel stops breathing

    As David Stephan called his father for help, Ezekiel stopped breathing.

    The mother performed CPR, which got the boy breathing again, but just briefly.

    "So I turned him on his side and he started coughing up a bunch of phlegm, mucus … and when that happened [David] got on the phone immediately to 911 to tell them that our son wasn't breathing," she said.

    "As my husband was on the phone with 911, he was going to get an ambulance to come," she said.

    At that point, Ezekiel started breathing again, both parents told the officer in their separate interviews.

    "And so I was still on the phone with 911, and I said, 'OK, he's breathing again, OK, what we're going to do is we're just going to pack him up in our car,'" the father said.

    "And we're going to drive him to the hospital, and that way we get him to the hospital in a shorter time than having the ambulance come from the hospital and pick him up," he said.

    But about two minutes into the drive, Ezekiel again stopped breathing, his mother told the officer.

    Her husband called 911 again to arrange to meet an ambulance.

    'He was blue'

    "So that was about 10 minutes before we met up with the ambulance and he was blue by the time we met up with the ambulance and so then they took him from there," she said.

    According to a physician's report prepared after his death, Ezekiel was rushed to the hospital in Cardston, where he was intubated and given epinephrine and atropine until he regained circulation.

    He was then taken to the emergency room in Lethbridge, along with the Cardston doctor, where they were met by a pediatric intensive-care transport team that took Ezekiel to Calgary in a helicopter, says the report by Dr. Jenn D'Mello.

    Ezekiel's father told the officer he and his wife felt certain their actions up to that night had been prudent.

    "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," he said.

    "We figured we would hit it hard right now — this is Monday afternoon … if he continues to get worse, we're taking him to the hospital, obviously. And so, that was the game plan."

    "With how severe his symptoms were, which they were not severe, we would have never guessed … otherwise we wouldn't be here today. I mean nobody would wish this upon themselves, or anybody else, watching their kid die."

    At the Alberta Children's Hospital, Ezekiel was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and neurological dysfunction, according to the official death report by Dr. Jonathan Gamble.

    He was put on antibiotics and kept cool for 36 hours "in the hopes of having an optimal neurological outcome," says Gamble's report.

    However, over the next two days, Ezekiel showed no signs of neurological function. He was initially declared brain dead by doctors on March 15.

    "March 18, 2012, on discussion with the parents, a final medical assessment was done of Ezekiel determining that there was still no neurological function and life-sustaining therapies were discontinued," the death report says.

    "It is felt that Ezekiel died after a cardiac arrest secondary to what was likely a hypoxic event because of his overwhelming bacterial meningitis."

    listen to audio files embedded in this article at:


  85. Faith in natural remedies like a religion say experts watching Lethbridge trial

    Case against David and Collet Stephan shines light on issue of when parents have duty to get medical help

    By Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press April 26, 2016

    Experts say it's faith in all things natural combined with a distrust of science and possibly authority that leads some to bypass the medical system — even to the point where they put themselves or their children at risk.

    "It's like a religion to them," says Tim Caulfield, research director of the University of Alberta's Health Law and Science Policy Group. He has written the books The Cure for Everything! Untangling the Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness and Happiness and Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?

    "Studies have shown that some people are more likely to believe these kinds of things. 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."

    A trial in Lethbridge, Alta, has shone a light upon the reliance on natural medicine and the question of when medical attention should be sought for a sick child.

    David and Collet Stephan are charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life after treating their 19-month-old sick son, Ezekiel, with smoothies containing hot peppers, onions and horseradish.

    Court heard how the boy swung between illness and recovery for days in March 2012 before a family friend and nurse suggested the child could be suffering from viral meningitis and should see a doctor.

    The mother opted to visit a naturopath instead. By that time, the toddler was so stiff he couldn't sit in his car seat. Later that day, Ezekiel stopped breathing and was rushed to hospital. The medical examiner ruled he died of bacterial meningitis.

    University of Calgary bioethicist Juliet Guichon says it's not uncommon for parents to discount medical advice.

    Element of irrationality

    "There's an element of irrationality in the rejection of physician advice. If physicians are telling people things they don't want to hear, then it's hard for the patient and the family to accept what they're being told," Guichon says. "I wonder if it's a distrust of people in authority generally."

    continued below

  86. The Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors says naturopathic medicine aims to stimulate the body's own healing power to fight underlying causes of disease. Its members are required to identify when health issues are beyond their "scope of practice" and to refer patients to physicians or other health-care professionals.

    Beverly Huang, president of the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta, says there are about 250 registered naturopathic doctors in the province. Their goal is to try to prevent disease.

    "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," Huang said.

    "Our mandate is to ensure doctors are practising safely and competently in our province."

    Caulfield is concerned a growing portion of the public is embracing pseudo-science or what he calls "quackademics."

    Websites promise natural cures for everything from attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder to mental illness to cancer. They urge people not to underestimate the powers of Mother Nature.

    Caulfield says individuals can not only find information that backs their own personal beliefs online, but entire cyber communities that agree with them.

    "When you start insulting and say there's no evidence to support homeopathy, there's no evidence to support these kind of whole remedies — you're not just insulting the practice — you're insulting the individual. It becomes part of their belief system."

    Caulfield says it isn't easy to get people to change.

    "When people are faith-based, which so many of these practitioners really are and so many people that use this, they can't change their mind, because then they're losing part of their identity package.

    "They're losing part of who they are."

    Caulfield wants a national dialogue about what he calls pseudo-science.

    "It's almost like there's this strange, pseudo-science correctiveness … that stops us from talking honestly about what these guys provide."


  87. Alberta parents convicted in toddler's meningitis death

    David and Collet Stephan failed to provide Ezekiel with the necessaries of life, jury finds

    CBC News April 26, 2016

    A packed Lethbridge, Alta., courtroom erupted with emotion on Tuesday afternoon, after two parents accused of letting their son die from bacterial meningitis were found guilty.

    David Stephan, 32, and Collet Stephan, 36, were charged a year after their nearly 19-month-old son Ezekiel died in March 2012, under Section 215 of the Criminal Code which deals with "failing to provide the necessaries of life."

    There was a gasp in the courtroom as the decision from the four-man, eight-woman jury came down. People in the courtroom's gallery started to cry and Collet Stephan broke out sobbing uncontrollably while her husband and others rubbed her back.

    The Stephans will not be held in custody at this time, but will have to return to court on June 13 when the date for sentencing will be set.

    The maximum penalty for failing to provide the necessaries of life is five years in prison.

    Shannon Prithipaul, the past president of the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association, thinks it would be unlikely for the couple to receive "something close to the maximum."

    "It's not like they were not feeding their child or they were purposely withholding medication that they knew would assist the child but didn't," she said.

    The Crown asked that the Stephans be forced to surrender their passports while free, but the judge refused the request.

    'Sometimes love just isn't enough'

    Lisa Weich, the prosecutor, said this case was "incredibly sad."

    "What we hope that the public and the community takes away from this particular trial and the verdict in this trial is that all parents are held to a minimum standard of care that all children should expect at all times," she said.

    Weich pointed out the case did not centre on the connection between the parents and Ezekiel.

    "They definitely, definitely loved their son, but as stated in our closing argument and even in our opening arguments, unfortunately, sometimes love just isn't enough," she said. "Parents still have to follow the standard of care that is set by the criminal law."

    Natural treatments

    The couple — who lived on an acreage in Cardston County, in the southwestern corner of Alberta at the time — testified they believed Ezekiel had croup or flu.

    They treated him for 2½ weeks with remedies that included hot peppers, garlic, onions and horseradish and a product from a naturopathic doctor aimed at boosting his immune system.

    He eventually stopped breathing, prompting the couple to call 911.

    Ezekiel was rushed to the hospital in Cardston before being taken to the emergency room in Lethbridge and later flown to Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary.

    He was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and neurological dysfunction, according to the official death report by Dr. Jonathan Gamble.

    Ezekiel was declared brain dead on March 18 and he was taken off life-support.

    He eventually stopped breathing, prompting the couple to call 911.

    Ezekiel was rushed to the hospital in Cardston before being taken to the emergency room in Lethbridge and later flown to Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary.

    He was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and neurological dysfunction, according to the official death report by Dr. Jonathan Gamble.

    Ezekiel was declared brain dead on March 18 and he was taken off life-support.


  88. David Stephan warns conviction in son's meningitis death sets 'dangerous precedent' in letter to jury

    Letter said he deeply loves the jurors and appreciates their time — but they were wrong

    By Chris Purdy, The Canadian Press April 27, 2016

    A father found guilty of not providing his ailing toddler with medical care says he worries that others will be arrested if they don't "fall in line with parenting as seen fit by the government."
    David Stephan wrote a "dear jury" letter on his Facebook page Wednesday, one day after he and his wife were convicted of failing to provide the necessaries of life to their son, Ezekiel, who died of meningitis.

    The letter said he deeply loves the jurors and appreciates their time — but they were wrong.

    "I only wish that you could've seen how you 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," Stephan wrote Wednesday.

    'May heaven help us all'

    "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!"

    Stephan and his wife, Collet, were convicted by a jury in the death of their nearly 19-month-old son in March 2012.

    The jury heard that the couple thought the boy had croup or flu and treated him for 2 ½ weeks with remedies that included hot peppers, garlic, onions and horseradish, even though a family friend who was a nurse told them she thought Ezekiel had meningitis.

    Court also heard that Collet Stephan drove the little boy from their rural home to a naturopathic clinic in Lethbridge, Alta., to pick up an echinacea mixture, although he was too stiff to sit in his car seat and had to lie on a mattress in the vehicle.

    The Crown argued during the trial that the couple loved their son but still had to follow a legal standard of care. The defence argued they were responsible parents who simply didn't realize how sick their son was.

    Considering appeal

    David Stephan confirmed in an interview with The Canadian Press that he wrote the Facebook letter because he and his wife are disappointed with the court process.

    "It was just definitely heartwrenching to see the direction that it went," he said. "There's the Crown's version of our story, then there's our story of us who actually lived it."

    He said they are considering an appeal.

    "Not so much for ourselves, 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."

    Sentencing date to be set in June

    The maximum penalty for failing to provide the necessaries of life is five years in prison. A sentencing date is to be set in June.

    After Ezekiel died, the Stephans moved from Glenwood, Alta. to Nelson, B.C., and returned there after the verdict with their three other boys: eight-year-old Ezra, three-year-old Ephraim and one-year-old Enoch.

    Stephan said he and his wife are worried about going to prison because of their children. He said his mother died when he was 10, and he doesn't want his children to be without a mother or father.

    "It is a heartwrenching thought and I don't see how this is doing the public any good."

    A spokeswoman for Alberta Justice says the department could not immediately comment on Stephan's comments.


  89. Naturopath in toddlers meningitis death trial to be investigated by industry body

    Complaint signed by 43 doctors calls Tracey Tannis's actions into question

    CBC News April 27, 2016

    The College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta is investigating one of its members in relation to the death of 19-month-old Ezekiel Stephan from bacterial meningitis.

    Ezekiel's parents, David, 32, and Collet, 36, were found guilty Tuesday of not providing the necessaries of life to the toddler.

    A letter to the CNDA, signed by 43 physicians and surgeons, raised a number of concerns with the conduct of Tracey Tannis, a naturopath consulted by the Stephans and who testified at their trial.

    Kristen Tanaka, the college's complaints director, responded in a letter dated March 29 and obtained by CBC News. ​

    "I have determined that your complaint will be investigated pursuant to section 55(2)(d) of the Health Professions Act," she wrote.

    Tanaka said there will be an investigation and then a decision will be made to either dismiss the complaint or to refer the matter to a tribunal.

    Naturopathy is a regulated health profession in Alberta, but the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta — the body that regulates it — was not established until about five months after Ezekiel died in August 2012.

    Standard of care not met, doctors say

    "By any objective measure of a health-care professional licensed to care for children Dr. Tannis did not meet the standard of care," reads the original complaint letter, dated March 28.

    "According to what has been given as evidence in the Stephan trial, Dr. Tannis did not physically examine Ezekiel, who was so stiff from meningeal inflammation that he could not sit in his car seat when his parents took him to the Lethbridge Naturopathic Medical Clinic."

    The doctors raise concerns that Tannis said she did not communicate with Collet, "yet two other people have given statements that Dr. Tannis did, in fact, discuss viral meningitis with Collet, and gave her echinacea anyway."

    The death report on Ezekiel determined he had bacterial meningitis, not the less serious viral variety of the disease.

    continued below

  90. The letter questions whether Tannis is aware bacterial meningitis is fatal if not treated with antibiotics and can cause brain damage without prompt treatment.

    "The degree of responsibility that Dr. Tannis bears for the tragic outcome Ezekiel Stephan suffered is a matter for the CNDA to explore and publicly address," reads the letter.

    The doctors also express concern about the lack of contact between Tannis and Ezekiel.

    "Albertans should also expect that any regulated health professional using the designation 'Dr.' would not recommend a treatment for a child without first physically examining them in order to arrive at a diagnosis," they wrote.

    The letter concludes with one additional recommendation for the college: to examine whether it is appropriate for naturopaths to sell treatments out of their own clinics, and if so, to ensure they are responsible for the effectiveness of the treatment.

    Beverly Huang, president of the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta, says her members are regulated just as stringently as dentists, optometrists and physicians under the Health Professions Act.

    "There's always going to be critics of any profession. I think what people here in Alberta need to understand and to be reassured is that there are regulations in place and there is a regulatory body in place," she said.

    "It's the same regulatory standards, it's the same documentation, the same processes, by which every other regulated health profession is bound by here in this province."

    The CNDA also put out a statement saying complaints and investigations are confidential and will not be made public unless it's determined a hearing is warranted.

    Tannis has not responded to calls from CBC News.

    David and Collet Stephan will be back in court on June 13 in order to determine a timeline for sentencing.

    Read the complaint letter from the physicians and the response from the CNDA:


  91. David Stephan's 'Dear Jury' letter could haunt him at sentencing, law experts say

    Facebook post blasting the 'deception, drama and trickery' of the Crown could be cited as aggravating feature

    By Robson Fletcher, CBC News April 29, 2016

    Law experts say the "Dear Jury" letter David Stephan posted to Facebook after being convicted in the death of his son Ezekiel may come back to haunt him when he faces the court to be sentenced.

    On Tuesday, a jury found David and his wife, Collet Stephan, guilty of failing to provide the necessaries of life to their toddler Ezekiel, who died from meningitis.

    The next day, David posted a stinging rebuke of the way the case was handled, addressed directly to jurors.

    The online message blasted what David described as the "deception, drama and trickery" of the Crown, which he said has led to "a dangerous precedent being set in Canada."

    Criminal defence lawyer Adriano Iovinelli said publicly lashing out at the justice system can be risky for someone awaiting sentencing after a criminal conviction.

    "This individual is still before the courts and is criticizing both the Crown prosecutor and essentially the trial process itself, and that never bodes well for someone who is appearing before the courts for sentencing," he said.

    Peter Sankoff, who teaches in the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta, said the Facebook post goes beyond "just expressing dismay with the verdict" and could have some impact on the sentence the judge ultimately hands down.

    "It's sort of impugning the repute of both the Crown and the system," Sankoff said of Stephan's letter to jurors.

    "So it's definitely possible the Crown would try to tender it in sentencing and to suggest that it's an aggravating feature that should be considered."

    David and Collet Stephan are due back in court in June, when a sentencing date is to be set.

    The maximum penalty for failing to provide the necessaries of life is five years in prison.


  92. Crown seeks up to 4½ years prison time for parents of toddler in meningitis death

    Mother Collet Stephan breaks down in tears during testimony

    CBC News June 23, 2016

    David and Collet Stephan effectively abused their son Ezekiel, endangering his life, and should serve up to 4½ years in prison, the Crown prosecutor said in a Lethbridge, Alta., courtroom Thursday at a sentencing hearing.

    The Alberta couple were found guilty in April of failing to provide the necessaries of life for their toddler, who died of bacterial meningitis four years ago.

    Prosecutor Lisa Weich said the parents should have provided medical assistance and that not doing so was "effectively abuse."

    Calling the parents' behaviour "arrogant and selfish," the Crown is seeking three to 4½ years behind bars.

    The Crown interrupted part of Collet Stephan's testimony earlier on Thursday in the Lethbridge Court of Queen's Bench when she claimed the boy's autopsy report had been falsified.

    Her lawyer, Shawn Buckley, said he had no idea she had planned to make such a statement.

    The sentencing hearing resumed shortly afterward, and Collet Stephan, 36, broke down in tears at other points during her testimony.

    The defence is expected to call a total of five witnesses, but revealed that the woman's husband, David Stephan, 32, won't be one of them.

    The Stephans were convicted by a jury in April in the case involving 19-month-old Ezekiel, who died in March 2012.

    The boy had been sick for almost two weeks and, despite advice that the boy needed medical attention, the Stephans chose to treat him with herbal and natural remedies.

    Justice Rod Jerke allowed a five-minute interview to be aired in court of David Stephan talking to producers of an anti-vaccination film.

    Defence lawyer Shawn Buckley was clearly upset with the decision, tossing papers on the table in front of him.

    continued below

  93. Most horrible thing that ever happened

    An emotional Collet Stephan testified that after four years of "could've, would've, should've," she would do anything to have her son alive again.

    "If I could turn back time and do something different ... I definitely would," she told the court.

    Collet said her son's death was the "most horrible thing that ever happened" in her life.

    She said she has suffered depression, anxiety, panic attacks and nightmares about SWAT team members coming to their house in the middle of the night to take away their other three children.

    Collet further testified that people in the tiny community of Glenwood shunned them after the couple were charged.

    She said people were rude and made snarky comments, and when she would wave to say hi, many would look away.

    Parents' failure 'contributed significantly'

    Earlier this month, the judge released the finding of facts in the case that he will use to consider the couple's fate.

    "The failure of Mr. Stephan and Mrs. Stephan … contributed significantly to the risk to Ezekiel's life," he wrote.

    Court heard the couple thought the boy had croup or flu, so they treated him with hot peppers, garlic, onions and horseradish, even though a family friend who was a nurse told them she thought Ezekiel had meningitis.

    The trial also heard the little boy was too stiff to sit in his car seat and had to lie on a mattress when Collet Stephan drove him from their rural home to a naturopathic clinic in Lethbridge to pick up an echinacea mixture.

    The Stephans never called for medical assistance until Ezekiel stopped breathing. He later died in a Calgary hospital.

    Jerke wrote he was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that a prudent and ordinary person without medical training would have foreseen "that medical attention was required to maintain Ezekiel's life."

    "Mr. and Mrs. Stephan did not provide Ezekiel with medical attention. This was a failure of their legal duty to provide necessaries of life. It was a marked departure from the required standard of care," he said. "It is morally blameworthy conduct."

    However, Jerke also noted in his findings there's no doubt the Stephans were "caring and attentive parents and had no intention of harming Ezekiel."

    The Stephans now live in British Columbia, but have remained free since their conviction.

    The maximum sentence for failing to provide the necessaries of life is five years in prison.


  94. David Stephan gets jail time, Collet Stephan gets house arrest in son's meningitis death

    Judge held father more accountable, saying he demonstrated a lack of remorse

    By David Bell, CBC News June 24, 2016

    A father has been sentenced to four months in jail and his wife to three months of house arrest after being found guilty of failing to provide the necessaries of life for their 19-month-old son, who died from bacterial meningitis.

    David Stephan, 33, and his wife Collet, 36, were convicted by a Lethbridge jury in April after their trial was told they used naturopathic remedies rather than seeking medical treatment for the boy, Ezekiel.

    Justice Rodney Jerke said the Stephans were caring parents and neither intended to put the boy's life at risk.

    But at the same time the judge noted the Stephans made a conscious decision not to see a doctor for well over a day​ before he was rushed to hospital.

    "Any reasonable and prudent person would have taken action," he said, as Collet sobbed quietly.

    The prosecution had asked for a sentence in the range of three to 4½ years in prison, while the defence had argued for a suspended or conditional sentence with no time behind bars.

    Jerke said the Crown's request was "far too harsh."

    However, he said Collet was "wilfully blind" to the fact her conduct would put Ezekiel's life at risk of death.

    Before handing down the differing sentences for the couple, the judge pointed out that Collet did research and called a nurse about her son's illness.

    By contrast, he said, David simply got more nutritional supplements and, instead of calling of 911, called his father.

    The judge said David has deflected responsibility and demonstrated a complete lack of remorse for his actions, focusing more on how the situation affected him as opposed to his son.

    "[David] loved his son, but to this day refuses to accept his actions played any role in Ezekiel's death," he said.

    "David's moral culpability is greater than Collet's."

    Conditions include community service

    As part of the sentencing — which took about 90 minutes — the judge ordered the Stephans' three other children to see a medical doctor at least once a year and a public health nurse every three months.

    Both parents will have to complete 240 hours of community service.

    There are exceptions to Collet's house arrest to allow for church and medical appointments.

    She was also ordered to post an unedited copy of the sentencing decision to websites and social media accounts she is personally affiliated with.

    Outside court after the sentencing, the Crown said it was clear the judge considered submissions carefully.

    Prosecutor Lisa Weich said the case was, in part, about providing a voice for Ezekiel.

    continued below

  95. Nobody could speak for him. He couldn't even speak for himself, Weich said.

    "He will not be able to experience any of the highs and lows that people encounter as they grow into adults."

    David Stephan's brother-in-law Eric Sveinson said he's thankful the sentences weren't longer.

    "He could have been a lot more harsh, and I am so grateful," Sveinson said.

    "I think he was lenient in that regard."

    Sveinson said he hopes the family can get past the trauma and move forward.

    Couple's supporters filled courtroom

    Stephans' supporters packed the courtroom for the sentencing, many wearing white in solidarity and some sobbing.

    A protester stormed into the courtroom during the sentencing and yelled, "The stewardship of children is the parents' responsibility," but three guards grabbed him and escorted him out.

    David addressed the family's supporters before entering.

    "Reach into your heart, think deeper about it. Don't accept at face value people that speak words that want you to be hateful to others. I love you for the people that you are," David said.

    "I even love those who have hated us."

    Family business

    David Stephan's family helped start a nutritional supplements company.

    Court heard the couple thought the boy had croup or flu, so they treated him with hot peppers, garlic, onions and horseradish — even though a family friend who was a nurse told them she thought Ezekiel had meningitis.

    The trial also heard the little boy was too stiff to sit in his car seat and had to lie on a mattress when Collet Stephan drove him from their rural home to a naturopathic clinic in Lethbridge to pick up an echinacea mixture.

    The Stephans never called for medical assistance until Ezekiel stopped breathing. He was rushed to a local hospital but died after being transported to a Calgary hospital.

    Small group of protesters

    Before court on Friday, a smaller group demonstrated in support of science and mainstream medicine. One man held a sign saying, "Science not Fear, Love not Negligence."

    The judge received tearful pleas from both of the Stephans when he asked them if they had anything they would like to say to the court as the sentencing hearing concluded Thursday evening.

    David Stephan said it is important for his other children to have a father "who'll help raise them up."

    "Looking back at it, had I known that it could possibly end up in this situation I would not have put my child at risk," he told court Thursday in the pre-sentence statements.

    "There is nothing I wouldn't give up to bring him back."

    Collet Stephan said her only purpose in life is to be a mother.

    "My children are everything to me and I'm everything to my children," she said, sobbing. "I am incredibly sorry I did not take him to the hospital. I just loved him so much."


  96. Murder and child abuse charges coming for parents whose baby died


    A judge OK'd murder charges for the parents of a newborn baby who died because they did not seek medical care on religious grounds.

    Judge James Jamo Thursday gave Ingham County prosecutors permission to file new charges of murder and child abuse against both Joshua and Rachel Piland. The couple, whose daughter Abigail died three days after birth, previously faced manslaughter charges.

    “The defendants could have, from the outset, been charged with open murder and child abuse,” said Ingham County Assistant Prosecutor Bill Crino. Prosecutors used their discretion to file the manslaughter charge, Crino said, but “significant factual changes” have come up through medical reports and other information.

    Joshua and Rachel Piland were first charged with involuntary manslaughter after their newborn baby, Abigail, died of conditions related to jaundice when they refused medical treatment, citing their religious beliefs. The Pilands were arrested and charged in connection with Abigail’s death in 2017.

    Joshua and Rachel Piland will each now be charged with murder and child abuse in the first degree, which both carry a maximum sentence of life in prison. The manslaughter charges carried a maximum sentence of 15 years.

    Abigail was born under care of a midwife at the couple's Lansing home on Feb. 6, 2017. On a visit the next day, the midwife told them the baby had jaundice and should be taken to a doctor or hospital as the condition could be life threatening.

    The Pilands kept the baby at home, where she died on Feb. 9. The couple then called upon friends and fellow church members to pray for the infant's resurrection.

    Lansing Police said they found the dead baby being prayed over when they arrived at the home after a relative notified police of the death.

    In court on Thursday, Crino said trial rules allow prosecutors to amend charges before or during trial, and the defendants have been aware since earlier this year the criminal complaint could be amended.

    "The defendants have had four and a half months to adequately prepare for this hearing," Crino said.

    Jacob Sartz, Rachel Piland's defense attorney, said the intention to amend the charges is "prosecutorial vindictiveness."

    Sartz said there has not been a sudden change in circumstances in the case, but prosecutors decided midstream to change course.

    "It is certainly unfair surprise," Sartz said.

    Through court filings, prosecutors have accused Rachel Piland of being "the worst mother" and called her religious beliefs "supernatural," Sartz said. Sartz said he is concerned a potential jury pool could be contaminated by those comments.

    Crino said prosecutors have the power to dismiss the manslaughter charges and reopen the case with charges or murder and child abuse. Crino said if there was any vindictive intent, prosecutors would not be following due process.

    Once the new charges are filed, the Pilands' case will be sent back to district court for review, according to court documents.