A Child Dies of Meningitis: When Loving Parents Make Bad Decisions

parenting

As parents, we all want what's best for our children. But when it comes to their health, who gets to decide what that means? Do parents always know best? And what happens when they don't? That's currently the question surrounding a Canadian couple who is mourning their son --  a 19-month-old boy who died from meningitis after they reportedly tried to cure him at home, on their own, without traditional medicine. 

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Accoring to news reports, their toddler, Ezekiel, showed signs of serious illness for over two weeks before his passing, yet instead of taking him to a doctor, David and Collet Stephan reportedly turned to various "natural" remedies. Now they're not only dealing with the death of their son, but they have also been charged with "failing to provide the necessities of life" for their little boy. While this happened in March 2012, a Canadian jury is just hearing the case, bringing it into the public once again.

According to prosecutors, when Ezekiel fell ill, Collet Stephan tried to boost her son's immune system with "naturopathic remedies," including water with maple syrup, olive leaf extract, whey protein, and juice with frozen berries. More "natural" treatments, as their son became "lethargic and stiff," reportedly involved apple cider vinegar, garlic, hot peppers, mashed onion, horseradish root, and ginger root. While all of those might make for a delicious soup, they don't really stand a chance against what turned out to be meningitis -- something that the court details indicate the Stephans suspected to be the issue.

As more details unfold in the ongoing trial, a heartbreaking picture is painted of two parents who clearly loved and tried to help their little boy, but who simply did not get him the medical help he needed.

Given all the circumstances, the court is being fairly lenient in its assessment. The prosecutors told the court that the Stephans loved their son, and they aren't being accused of ignoring or killing him -- but rather they are being charged with not getting him proper treatment in the right amount of time.

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It should be noted that the Stephans have a Facebook page that they update frequently, and have recently posted a response to the latest  articles being written about them. They say that much of what has been written has been "distorted," and they hope the "truth comes out" -- yet, they don't actually refute any of the more wilder accusations against them with much proof.

We have added the ability to accept donations via credit card! Thank you everyone for all of the Love and support that you have blessed our family with. May the truth set us all free!

Posted by Prayers for Ezekiel on Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Stephans also recently linked to what they say is the "most accurate" representation of their story, an article published on Health Impact News, a website dedicated in part to "stories on vaccine safety that are censored in mainstream media." It's clear that they're pleading to the court of public opinion while their case continues to play out in actual court.

How does one even begin to unravel a situation like this? As a parent, I completely understand the idea that you know what's best for your child. But as a logical human, I have to say that at some point, you need to admit to yourself that you don't know what you're doing and at least seek out another opinion.

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Clearly the Stephans have much faith in their methods -- enough so that they would entrust their son's life to them. But that can't be enough. There has to be a middle ground between a parent’s beliefs and the rights of a child. The Stephans could have continued to treat Ezekiel while also going to a medical professional for a second opinion.

The fact that this little boy's death -- and much of his suffering -- could likely have been prevented is heartbreaking.

Here’s my question: As a society, how can we create a system that protects children like Ezekiel, but at the same time isn't misused to target marginalized communities? I think about parents of color who have lost their children due to "neglect" that wouldn't have caused a blink had it occurred within a white family. Yet at the same time, circumstances like this one occur with nobody stepping in to help children like Ezekiel until it is too late.

Listen, I'm as natural crunchy granola as the next gal. I try to buy organic and local when I can; I avoid dyes and chemicals in my food; and I do my best to make sure my son isn't exposed to anything harmful while he gets his daily dose of outdoor vitamin D. That said, I'm also aware that I can't prevent everything with a good diet, lots of fresh air, and exercise. So yes, bring on the medications and vaccines and other necessities to keep my child healthy. Go team!

I can't imagine the pain and guilt these parents must be facing. Not only did they lose Ezekiel, but this court case might also end up costing them the right to parent their other sons as well.

I'm not here to bash their beliefs (although trust me, there is plenty to be said about folks who use maple syrup to treat meningitis). But I am here to question their motives. How could parents who see their child getting sicker by the day refuse to take him in for actual treatment?

I understand fear -- it's a huge motivator, and it seems that the Stephans had bad experiences with the medical community. But what about the fear of losing a child? Is that not motivation enough to step outside your beliefs, and try any and all methods?  

 

Image via iStock.com/zhz_akey

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