David and Collet Stephan are on trial for the 2012 death of their 18-month-old son Ezekial, but they aren’t accused of killing him. The anti-vac couple stand accused of withholding life-saving medical treatment from the toddler after he contracted meningitis.
In testimony heard Wednesday, a naturopathic doctor stated that the Stephans contacted her office with concerns about viral meningitis. The couple was then instructed to “take the child to the ER right away.” Instead, the prosecution alleges, the anti-vac parents chose to obtain an over-the-counter echinacea treatment.
According to the Washington Post, 18-month-old Ezekial Stephan later suffered caridiac arrest due to the effects of meningitis and was dead soon after.
One of the doctors responsible for Ezekial’s care at that time also testified Wednesday, saying that the toddler had likely reached the point of no return before he arrived in her critical care department. The boy died of bacterial meningitis prior to his arrival at the hospital, but he was revived.
If they are found guilty in connection with the meningitis-related death of their son, David and Collet Stephen could face five years in prison for “failing to provide the necessities of life.”
The Lethbridge Herald reports that 18-month-old Ezekial Stephan initially fell ill with meningitis in February 2012. His parents claim that they suspected the illness was croup, and they provided him with nutritional drinks and holistic remedies instead of taking him to a doctor.
Although the Stephans did not take their son to a doctor, they did eventually seek the advice of a registered nurse who had served as Collet’s birth attendant. The nurse suggested that the toddler may have meningitis and told the parents to take him to a doctor, but they chose instead to call the office of naturopathic doctor Tracy Tannis.
According to testimony given at the trial, Tannis claims that she did not talk to Collet Stephan. However, she did provide instructions, which she heard her nurse relay over the phone.
“You need to tell the lady to take the child to emergency right away.”
Collet Stephan and her husband instead chose to treat their child with Blast, which is an echinacea product that is purported to boost the immune system.
Later that day, Ezekial went into cardiac arrest and was finally taken to the hospital. According to testimony heard Wednesday, the boy had stopped breathing by the time his parents met up with emergency services. Barbara Ross, a pediatrician from Calgary Children’s Hospital, testified that the child was dead when the paramedics got to him.
“There was no heartbeat, no blood pressure,” Doctor Ross testified. “He was clinically dead.”
Ezekial was revived at the hospital and kept on life support for about a week, but by that time, damage from the meningitis was irreversible. He was finally taken off life support five days later.
One year later, David and Collet were charged with failing to provide the necessities of life, which carries a potential sentence of five years in prison. The case didn’t go to trial for another three years, but it is expected to wrap up within the next week.
According to the Washington Post, David and Collet may have refused to seek adequate treatment for their son due to anti-vaccination, or anti-medicine, beliefs.
David’s father, Anthony Stephan, defended his family, telling the Calgary Herald, “We don’t always go to the doctor immediately. If it persists we do, absolutely. If there’s any insinuation that they were withholding care from the child, it’s absolutely wrong.”
David Stephan also issued a statement to the Calgary Herald, insisting that his son received adequate treatment despite his death from meningitis.
“Like any other good parents, we attended to the matter and treated him accordingly to standard practices and recommendations like millions of parents do each year.”
Stephan also shifted blame to the paramedics, or Alberta Health Services, rather than himself or his wife for failing to take their son to a doctor when he first came down with meningitis.
“When EMT finally arrived, the ambulance was not equipped with the correct intubation equipment for our son, who could not breathe on his own,” Stephan told the Calgary Herald. “The EMTs who attended have indicated to us that they have been frustrated for some time prior to this tragic event, because they have been after Alberta Health Services to no avail to properly equip their ambulances with the proper intubation equipment for small children, the same equipment needed that tragic night.”
Do you think that David and Collet Stephan should go to jail over the death of their child due to withholding life-saving treatment, or have they already suffered enough?
[Image via Collet Stephan/Facebook]