Trial Begins For Toddler Who Died Of Meningitis When Anti-Vaccine Parents Used Maple Syrup Mixture To Treat Infection

On Monday a judge heard the details of the case involving two Mormon parents who stand accused of failing to provide the necessaries of life for their 19-month-old son, who died after they tried to use home remedies such as olive leaf extract and maple syrup to treat his meningitis infection instead of giving him medicine.

David Stephan, 32, and his wife, Collet Stephan, 35, have both plead not guilty to the charges that have been brought against them in the death of 19-month-old Ezekiel Stephan.

The case is being tried in Alberta, Canada, and the prosecutor has argued that though Ezekiel’s parents consulted a friend weeks before the toddler’s death and were told that his symptoms were that of meningitis infection they did not seek any form of medical treatment until it was too late. An ambulance was only called to the home after the boy had stopped breathing. The meningitis diagnosis meant that Ezekiel was suffering from an infection of the fluid which surrounds the brain and spinal cord and resulted in severe inflammation, but the Stephans only fed him supplements from their nutritional supplement store through an eye dropper and laid down with him.

The prosecuting attorney played a tape for the jury, in which a police officer recorded his interview with the couple after the hospital the toddler died at called the authorities. In it is outlined the attempts the anti-vaccine parents made to save the life of their toddler, none of the treatments described have any medical approval, but the family had apparently had negative experiences with the medical system and preferred home-made remedies.

Collet Stephans allegedly told the police that after her friend diagnosed Ezekiel’s illness, the family tried to boost his immune system by feeding him homemade mixtures of olive leaf extract, whey protein, maple syrup, and water, as well as juice with frozen berries. After two weeks without proper treatment for his meningitis, the toddler’s limbs became stiff and his body lethargic, and CBC News reported that the anti-vaccine parents switched his home made remedy treatment to a mixture of apple cider vinegar, horseradish root, hot peppers, onion, garlic, and ginger root, but his condition continued to deteriorate.

When Ezekiel Stephan reached the point where he stopped breathing, his parents called an ambulance and the toddler was airlifted to a hospital. The doctors removed him from life support machines after five days. Ezekiel Stephans died in March, 2012, and meningitis was the official cause of his death.

The couple operates their nutritional supplement company, Truehope Nutritional Support Inc., out of their home, and in 2004, Health Canada tried unsuccessfully to stop the company from distributing a supplement they claimed can be used to manage mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, called Empowerplus. The government did go on to issue warnings to the public about the supplement, the same one the parents ended up giving to their toddler. Last year, Truehope tried to sue award-winning mental health writer Natasha Tracy after she tested their Empowerplus product, discovered it was just a mixture of minerals and vitamins, and critically wrote of her experience.

The prosecutor has argued that the love the parents had for their son is not what is on trial, but rather the fact that they should have sought assistance for their son earlier. According to Raw Story, David Stephan argues on social media that the prosecutor is trying to use the courts to get anti-vaccine parents to vaccinate their children instead of using legislature. He also believes that there is no evidence that receiving the vaccine for Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) would have prevented Ezekiel’s death.

The family has also used social media platforms to express feeling that they are being unfairly persecuted and call for respect of their approach to health. The couple are also stating that critics of the anti-vaccine movement are also trying to sabotage attempts to raise money for their defense through online fundraisers.

If they are convicted in the death of their son, the couple could be imprisoned for five years and possibly lose their other children.

[Photo by Stephans Family/Facebook]