‘Willfully Blind’ Parents Who Let Their Toddler Son Die Of Meningitis Are Sentenced

An Alberta, Canada, judge has sentenced the parents of a toddler who died because his parents refused to provide him with proper medical care, instead choosing to rely on natural remedies, CTV News is reporting.

David Stephan, 33, was sentenced to four months in jail while his wife, Collet Stephan, 36, was sentenced to three months of house arrest, for their roles in the death of their toddler son, Ezekiel, who died in March, 2012.

Ezekiel first started showing signs of illness in March, 2012. His parents declined to take him to a doctor, instead choosing to treat him with “homeopathic” remedies, including at least one treatment of hot peppers, garlic, onions and horseradish. The toddler didn’t respond to the treatment, and his condition worsened.

A friend of the parents, who worked as a nurse, told the Stephan’s that she believed Ezekiel had meningitis, and urged them to get proper medical care for the boy. They refused.

Ezekiel continued to worsen. He refused to eat, was lethargic, and was so stiff (muscle stiffness is a sure sign of meningitis) that he couldn’t be properly placed in his car seat. At one point Ezekiel lied on a mattress in the family car as the parents drove him to get treatment — that is, an echinacea treatment at a naturopathic clinic.

Only when Ezekiel stopped breathing – on March 13, 2012 – did his parents finally take him to the emergency room. By then, it was too late. He died three days later.

At this point it bears noting that bacterial meningitis, while much more severe than its viral cousin, can usually be treated successfully with antibiotics, according to WebMD.

“Bacterial meningitis is an extremely serious illness that requires immediate medical care. If not treated quickly, it can lead to death within hours — or lead to permanent damage to the brain and other parts of the body.”

In handing down the parents’ sentences, Justice Rodney Jerke took into consideration the Stephan’s behavior after their April conviction. Following their conviction, Ezekiel’s parents — his father, David, in particular — painted their family as victims of overzealous prosecution by Canada’s courts at the expense of parental rights.

In a Facebook post written the day after he was convicted for his role in his son’s death, David Stephan wrote a note, entitled “Dear Jury,” in which he expressed his fears that the Canadian government was singling out parents who “don’t fall in line with parenting as seen fit by the government” for arrest.

“The flood gates have now been opened and my main concern is no longer for Collet and I, but rather for Canadian’s [sic] as a whole. May Heaven help us all!”

Stephan also gave an interview with producers of the controversial film Vaxxed, a much-criticized documentary which alleges that vaccines cause autism (a belief wholly disputed by the scientific and medical community), wherein he claimed that his case was a “parental rights issue.”

Justice Jerke, in a scathing decision, admitted that David Stephan’s post-conviction behavior played a role in his sentence.

“You have affected many people… your conduct has left an unerasable and chilling impact on all of us. This case was about whether parents, who failed to take a sick boy to a doctor, should be held criminally responsible. The trial was not about vaccination. This is far beyond a child who simply has the sniffles.”

Both David Stephan and Collette Stephan will have to serve two years of probation following their sentences.

Do you think the sentences given to the parents whose son died of meningitis were harsh enough or too harsh?

[Image via Shutterstock/Oksana Kuzmina]