Vegetarian Mom Charged With Manslaughter After Baby Dies of Malnutrition

flowerA 5-month-old baby tragically passed away from rickets after his parents were insistent on adhering to a strict diet as part of their religion. The newborn, Ndingeko Kunene, died on June 14, 2012, and his parents, British citizens originally from Zimbabwe, were arrested and charged with manslaughter and cruelty to a child between Jan 1, 2012 and June 15, 2012. At a hearing Monday, both Nkosiyapha and Virginia Kunene denied cruelty, but admitted manslaughter. If convicted, they could face jail time.

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The couple is believed to belong to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, whose members follow a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, which allows milk and eggs, but not animal flesh. Acute rickets, which is what poor Ndingeko died from, causes the bones to soften because of a deficiency of vitamin D, phosphorus, or calcium. It was a pervasive disease during the Victorian era, but has seen a small resurgence in Britain due to unnutritious diets and a lack of exposure to sufficient sunshine. Apparently, in the case of Ndingeko, both of his parents were warned that the child seemed ill. The prosecutor said, "This is clearly a tragic case. Because of the diet [Virginia Kunene] adhered to, the child became unwell. There may have been insufficient support about the health of the child but there were warnings from the family. There came a time when it was obvious her son required medical assistance and there was a real possibility of death."

There's no doubt in my mind that both Nkosiyapha and Virginia Kunene are heartbroken over the death of their infant -- especially, if it was something that they could have been stopped. There seem to be some missing pieces to this story, though, as I'm not 100% sure how a 5-month-old could pass away from an insufficient diet due to the mother being a vegetarian. The most disturbing part of this tragedy is the fact that Ndingeko appeared to be unwell, and nobody took him to the doctor. This could have been preventable.

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My heart breaks for this little boy, as well as his parents, as no mother or father should ever have to endure this in their lifetime. But if their newborn son did die because of something his parents were doing, and they were aware of, I think some sort of punishment is in order. As parents, our most important job on this planet is to protect our babies. RIP Ndingeko.

Do you think Ndingeko's death could have been prevented? Do you tihnk his parents should be punished?


Image via Richard Taylor/Flickr



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Rando... Randomlady

his death sounds completely preventable. The diet allows eggs and dairy which has sufficient vitamin D and calcium as well as protein. there is more to this story than his mother being a vegetarian, especially if they did't take the child to the doctor upon noticing he was ill.

merma... mermaid13dragon

Something isn't adding up here. First of all, a FIVE MONTHS old isn't even eating solids normally.. So it's breastmilk or formula, are they blaming her breastmilk for being poor quality? 

Yes, they should have taken him to the doctor, but I feel there's more to the story than told here on the Stir.

Knitt... KnittyTina

I agree with Mermaid, a five month old is mostly on milk (breast or formula) and maybe starting on some solids, but the solids aren't the bulk of the diet yet. Maybe the child was born with a genetic disorder?  The article needs to mention what the child WAS consuming.  Was it just water? 

Lynette Lynette

This doesn't make any sense.  There is more to this story.

amazz... amazzonia

the world is full of vegeterian nursing mothers! this story has many many holes! and before writing an article, you should know the whole story!

Mommy... Mommy1438

Yeah, not making sense. Rickets? From lack of vitamin D??? Most babies save up so many vitamins during womb time that it would take longer than that to wear down their supply. I think he must've been poisoned or something. Wth?????

CMsMommy CMsMommy

Ummm,i am a vegetarian and my son was thriving with only BM. Something is missing here. Her diet couldnt have been responsible. May be they did something else which they are hiding.

Blues... Blueshark77

Yes, they deserved to be punished if their child starved to death. Plenty of vegetarians feed their children without problem, so I'm curious as to what really happened.

nonmember avatar Shawna

This is bull in a vegetarian by choice with a Octo-lavo diet and my daughter is 3 and just fine

nonmember avatar Nyorker

Maybe they need to look into having a second autopsy. This doesn't seem to be accurate. Milk and vegetables at 5 months should be an adequate food for this lil boy. I would like to know if there were any underlying health issues that caused such a deficiency to his system. How could the parents not tell their son was getting that sick. My daughter at 1 year old got sick. I brought her to the ER and they said it was the flu. The next night I knew something more was going on and brought her to a different hospital. They did X-rays and I found she had pneumonia in both lungs. Parents need to be vigilant when it comes to their child's health. A baby that is dying from that kind of disease had to show symptoms. At least I would think so, may he rest in peace, a life list way to early.

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