In Florida, two vegan parents are facing charges of manslaughter after their allegedly-malnourished toddler died, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The child was allegedly only allowed to eat a handful of fruits and vegetables.
Sheila and Ryan O’Leary allegedly admitted to investigators that their family only eats certain raw fruits and vegetables, including mangoes, rambutans, bananas and avocados. Their toddler was allegedly kept on the same diet, supplemented with breast milk.
On September 27, Sheila nursed the 18-month-old “briefly” but then became worried when the toddler’s breathing became shallow. However, rather than call for help, the couple instead allegedly went to sleep. Hours later, paramedics were at the home, where the baby was pronounced dead. He or she allegedly weighed only 17 pounds, “significantly” underweight for his or her age.
It appears as if no criminal charges were filed at the time. However, a few weeks later, the medical examiner’s office released its findings into the baby’s death. He or she had died of malnutrition and complications, including dehydration, microsteatosis of liver, and swollen hands, feet and lower legs.
The parents turned themselves in.
As it turns out, there was considerably more to the family than what met the eye. It turns out that the baby had been born at home and had never seen a doctor.
Further, there were other children in the home, and the parents allegedly told authorities that the children were being home-schooled. However, there were no records of the older children ever having been enrolled in a Florida-approved home-school program.
The older children were taken from the home and placed into foster care. They, too, were allegedly malnourished, weighing below the third percentile for their age group and showing blackened and decaying teeth.
The parents were booked into jail on charges of felony manslaughter and child neglect. Their next court hearing is scheduled for December 9.
The mother’s attorney, John Musca, says that this is simply a tragic case of a child who got sick, despite his or her parents’ best efforts.
“[The toddler had been] struggling with illness for the past six months, making it difficult for him to eat. The mother said that the little boy began to recuperate, but then started teething, causing him to have new struggles with eating,” Musca said.
According to Parents, raising a vegan baby is possible, but it requires great care and attention. What’s more, the parents must absolutely first discuss with their pediatrician whether or not a vegan diet is appropriate for their baby.