Ezekiel Stephan, 19 months old, died four years ago this past March. His parents David and Collet, loving parents by most accounts, currently on trial in Lethbridge for failing to provide the necessities of life after they refused to take their young son to hospital to treat his meningitis; relying instead on unproven herbal remedies, half-baked naturopathic theories and a naive belief they knew better how to treat their son’s viral condition than the doctors who could have saved his life.
It’s not surprising on one level. There are plenty of parents out there like David and Collet. Perhaps even less surprising in this case because David worked for a business specializing in alternative health systems at the time his son grew so ill.
This is the same type of parent who refuses to get vaccinations for his or her children, who would far rather rely on, for lack of a better term, “faith healing” over science, and who believes in a “natural” way; generally typified, as in this instance, by quack remedies, unproven theories and a dangerous recklessness with the health of their children and the wider public.
There is no winner or loser in this type of case. We all lose. David and Collet, whether found guilty or not, are going to have to spend the rest of their lives knowing they killed their son because they allowed a belief system to override their common sense. Our local communities also lose because we are forced to put to trial a personable, young couple with three other young children to drive home a point to others like them.
There are many Davids and Collets out there; let’s hope this case puts a dent in their unwarranted certainty so no other boys like Ezekiel will have to suffer and die because their parents want to prove some obscure point about living in a more “natural” way.
Herbal remedies have their place in a total health regime, but they do not cure viral diseases or bacterial infections once those things have taken hold of a body. In those cases there is only one place to go: To a family doctor.
Little Ezekiel was suffering for more than two weeks as meningitis wracked his body to the point he was too stiff to bend or move. Two weeks. There is no justification for allowing a young child to suffer that long, no matter the intentions or beliefs of his parents. A child is not a laboratory experiment.