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The Supreme Court of Canada grants a new trial to the parents who let Ezekiel Stephan die

David and Collet Stephan were convicted in 2016 for failure to provide the necessities of life for their son Ezekiel Stephan, who died of bacterial meningitis after his parents treated him with natural remedies, supplements, and naturopathy. Unfortunately, as a result of their appeal, the Canadian Supreme Court has granted them a new trial. Predictably, they are claiming vindication. The verdict is nothing of the sort. The Stephans got off on a technicality, but this ruling will serve as propaganda for quacks for years to come.

If there’s one thing that really animates me and angers me, it’s the unnecessary death of a child due to quackery I’ve long held the view that competent adults should be free to choose whatever treatment they want for serious diseases, although I do add the caveat that they have to understand when they are choosing quackery that there is no evidence that it works and often there is evidence that it doesn’t work. Another caveat is that the freedom of adults to choose ineffective treatments (or no treatment at all) does not mean that quacks should have free rein to make any claims they want regarding their snake oil. After all, selling something that doesn’t work by claiming that it does is fraud, and consumers deserve some measure of protection against fraud. When it comes to children, however, someone has to look out for their best interests, and when parents fail to do that when their child has a life-threatening disease, someone must step in and look after the interests of the child. Usually that “someone” is the state. Finally, when the parents’ choice of quackery over effective medicine leads to the death of a trial, there must be some penalty for the medical neglect, and any other children in the family must be protected. This brings me to the tragic death of Ezekiel Stephan due to the choice by his parents David and Collet Stephan to treat his meningitis with quackery instead of medicine.

Ezekiel Stephan was a 19-month-old toddler from Alberta, Canada who developed bacterial meningitis and died six years ago. The boy died because his parents were into “natural medicine.” Instead of taking him to a real doctor, they treated him with garlic, onion, horseradish, and supplements made by his father’s company (more on that later) and took him to a naturopath instead of a real doctor—at least until it was too late. Ezekiel died of his meningitis and an empyema, which is a collection of pus in the pleural cavity surrounding the lungs. Every report, as well as the court documents that I read, indicated that Ezekiel’s death was neither easy nor painless.

As a result, the parents were tried and convicted in 2016 under Section 215 of the Criminal Code which deals with “failing to provide the necessaries of life.” At the time, I was actually somewhat surprised, as courts in the US and Canada appear to give parents wide—too wide—latitude for making decisions about what is best for their children, and great deference is generally granted to parental authority and parental “rights.” It is this deference that can become a problem in protecting children from their parents’ belief in quackery when they become seriously ill. I half expected that to happen in this case, the more so because David Stephan is a prominent member of his community, belonging to a family that runs a nutritional supplements company, Truehope Nutritional Support. Basically, Stephan’s entire business and worldview are inextricably linked to what happened to his son’s death, with his belief in “natural healing” having lead to Ezekiel’s unnecessary death. Indeed, reports from the trial indicated that Stephan tried to use Truehope supplements to treat his son. As far as David Stephan’s business goes, Health Canada launched an unsuccessful court case in 2004 to stop the distribution of the company’s product Empowerplus, a product that the company claimed to be able to manage mental illnesses. The case ended in 2006 when the company was found not guilty of distributing the supplement without a drug identification number.

Oh, and the Stephans are antivaccine, too.

David Stephan was sentenced to four months in jail, and his wife was ordered to spend three months under house arrest. Meanwhile his appeals wended their way through the courts. Last November, the Alberta Court of Appeals upheld the conviction, but because the decision was not unanimous, the case could automatically be heard by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s decision was…disappointing and puzzling:

The Supreme Court of Canada has ordered a new trial for a couple who used homemade remedies instead of seeking medical attention for their son who died of bacterial meningitis.

David Stephan and his wife, Collet, were found guilty in 2016 of failing to provide the necessaries of life to 19-month-old Ezekiel in 2012.

Their trial in Lethbridge, Alta., heard that they treated the boy with garlic, onion and horseradish rather than take him to a doctor. The Stephans eventually called 911, but the toddler died in hospital.

The Supreme Court heard arguments from the couple’s lawyer and the Crown on Tuesday morning before making the unusual move of ruling immediately from the bench.

Karen Molle, lawyer for the Stephans, told the high court the original trial judge didn’t instruct the jury properly to determine whether the Stephans acted differently than other reasonable parents.

“This jury charge gave this jury little choice but to convict,” Molle said.

Julie Morgan, representing the Crown, said the trial judge’s language was generalized, but it was enough for the jury to understand the case.

“The jury would have understood what their job was,” she told the court. “They found that the appellants did not meet the community standard, when they failed to take their child to a doctor when he had meningitis, and that endangered his life.”

Justice Michael Moldaver, speaking for the high court, stated that the trial judge did not properly instruct jurors “in a way that the jury could understand.”

I don’t know Canadian law and am not a lawyer anyway. So there’s no point in my commenting on the legal reasoning behind the high court’s decision. I just know that, legally, the Stephans have gotten off—for now. There will be a new trial. The bad news is that the Stephans are no longer convicted and that a new trial could well acquit them. The good news is that a new trial could also convict them or even result in a more severe penalty than their previous trial. What worries me, though, is this. If it really is true that the instructions to the jury left it little choice but to convict, would properly administered instructions meant that the Stephans would be less likely to be convicted after a new trial? Again, I’m not a lawyer, much less a Canadian lawyer, and I just don’t know.

Unfortunately, whatever the result of the new trial, you can bet that the quacks will proclaim this decision a “victory” for “natural medicine” against the forces of big pharma, the AMA (even though this case is in Canada), the medical-industrial complex, and whatever other deep state conspiracy you want to invoke. Never mind that David Stephan himself is part of a family that owns a large business selling supplements.

Indeed, David Stephan’s already begun the propaganda. For instance, on his Facebook page:

Last week, before the trial, he was posting similar messages:

Yes, he went all Godwin:

With our Supreme Court hearing coming up this Tuesday – which will not only effect the future of our family, but the future of all Canadians as this landmark, precedent setting case is being used to deprive parental rights and health freedoms in Canada – can we expect to have the corporate driven, lying mainstream media continue their play straight out of Hitlers handbook, wherein they tell such an unbelievably big lie so frequently that it actually becomes accepted as the truth?

Yes, invoke Hitler and, of course, “freedom.” Unfortunately, that “freedom” was the freedom to let a 19-month-old child die a horrible death because the Stephans thought that herbs, supplements, and a naturopath were a better idea. It’s the same dog whistle that antivaccine activists like “Dr. Bob” Sears likes to invoke.

Towards the end, he invokes “real criminals involved in our case” whom, he hopes, “will be brought to light and held accountable for not only attempting to destroy our family, but for their attempt to erode the God given rights and freedoms of all Canadians.” It’s a theme he revisits briefly in a post-trial interview:

Hilariously, when the reporter references Stephan’s Facebook post predicting that the “real criminals” will be exposed and asks him who these “real criminals” might be, the only response he can come up with. is, “Well, we’ll hae to wait and find out, now, won’t we?” Yes, he knows he’s full of crap, but he also knows that all the “natural medicine” mavens supporting him against The Man will lap this nonsense up.

Meanwhile, through it all, quackery supporters have been weaving conspiracy theories about how the state is “out to get” the Stephans, presumably at the behest of big pharma. For instance, Laurette Anderson from The Relevant School wrote a howler of an article, loaded with conspiracy mongering. Get a load of this:

The tragic story of the death of Ezekiel Stephan and the resulting traumatic assault on his parents, which is ongoing even today, is a cautionary tale for all Canadian parents. This new status quo, a result of the outcome of our justice system, sets the scene of every parent’s nightmare. Ezekiel’s parents are being held to a much higher standard than any average parent. In fact, they are being held to a higher standard than medical professionals. There are several standing court decisions holding medical doctors blameless in situations where the symptoms were more obvious than in Ezekiel’s case; and these cases were actually bacterial meningitis – whereas Ezekiel’s illness was clearly, not, bacterial meningitis. And although he did not die of bacterial meningitis, as recently as this past February, the media still peddles that false narrative.

The heart of the appeal was that the original trial judge didn’t properly instruct the jury to determine whether the Stephans acted differently than other “reasonable parents.” Let’s review what happened, shall we? Here’s an account from their first trial in 2016:

Collet Stephan, 35, told police that a friend told the couple their son had meningitis — inflammation caused by an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

She said they tried to boost the boy’s immune system by feeding him with olive leaf extract, whey protein, water with maple syrup and juice with frozen berries.

They finally fed the boy, who was becoming stiff and lethargic after two weeks of illness, a mixture of apple cider vinegar, horseradish root, hot peppers, onion, garlic and ginger root.

The child was airlifted to a hospital after he stopped breathing, and doctors removed him from life support after five days.

Does this sound reasonable?


Witnesses at the trial said the toddler’s body was so stiff he couldn’t sit in his car seat, so he had to lie on a mattress when his mother drove him from their rural Alberta home to a naturopathic clinic in Lethbridge, where she bought an echinacea mixture.

Does this sound reasonable? I don’t think so, either. None of this stops Anderson from trying to tell us that Ezekiel didn’t die of bacterial meningitis. On what basis does she do this? None. Remember, the coroner ruled that Ezekiel died of bacterial meningitis and empyema. Does Anderson have any hard evidence to cast doubt on this finding? If she does, she sure as hell doesn’t provide it. Instead, she cries conspiracy:

This leads this reporter to believe, and possibly conclude, that since every news agency in Canada has made the same claims against these parents, that they conspired against the Stephan family. It appears that the media are either recklessly reporting unsubstantiated and libellous drivel, or that they are being used to perpetuate a false narrative to distract the public from the serious lack of justice toward the family in this case’s outcome. Conspiracy, according to Oxford, is “a secret plan to commit a crime or do harm, often for political ends”. All news agencies spreading the same lie is proof in itself of conspiring, isn’t it? Political ends? How about creating propaganda and crisis in order to manipulate and slant public opinion in a predetermined direction. Yet, no outcry is to be heard at this dangerous precedent in the court.

If the Stephans are innocent, then what happened? The court says guilty, the media says guilty, and so we all believe they are guilty. Case dismissed. Remember, this couple is being held to a higher standard than any medical professional in a similar predicament with a patient. Even without an iota of training in diagnosing meningitis or any other deadly disease, they are being held responsible for not being able to read the subtle symptoms of what has been assumed, was a deathly illness.

Or maybe the reason that every news outlet is reporting the same account is not because of a conspiracy, but rather because the narrative is pretty straightforward. I do love how she cites the dictionary definition of “conspiracy,” though. Citing dictionary definitions is usually a hack move, and this isn’t an exception to that rule of thumb. Moreover, the Stephans are not being “held to a higher standard than any medical professional.” She’s disingenuously comparing apples and oranges. Here’s the difference. The “subtle cases” that she invokes as having been missed by doctors were just that, subtle and early cases. By the time the Stephans called a real doctor, Ezekiel was so incredibly sick that he was too stiff to sit down, and had been that way for days. He had stopped breathing. These are not subtle signs. These are signs that any reasonable adult should recognize as indicating serious illness.

Through it all, since they were put on trial and convicted two years ago, the Stephans have shown, in public at least, shockingly little that could be described as remorse over the death of their son and essentially zero recognition of their role in it. In their narrative, they did no wrong and bear no responsibility for Ezekiel’s death, and their prosecution and criticism in the press are a result of a conspiracy between the government, doctors, and, of course, big pharma. At one point around the , they even claimed in an interview with Elizabeth Erin of Healthnut News that their prosecution was a strategy on the part of the government to “compel parents who have chosen not to vaccinate to seek traditional medical attention when their child gets sick sooner than parents who vaccinate” and to “allow for criminal liability for parents if their non-vaccinated child suffers harm for any illness for which there is a vaccine.” Just three months ago, when Health and Wellness Expos of Canada dropped him as a speaker at its expos this year, David Stephan took to Facebook to blame it on an “astroturf” movement and “pharma trolls” using a concerted campaign of disinformation on behalf of journalists supported by the Canadian pharmaceutical industry, calling his ouster evidence of an impending corporate takeover of the natural health industry. That latter part is hilarious, of course, given that the “natural health industry” is almost as “corporate” as big pharma and how big pharma actually owns quite a few supplement companies.

Quacks have been portraying the Stephans as martyrs ever since they were charged with failing to provide the necessities of life for their child, and David Stephan has deep connections with the “natural health” community,” so much so that he was able to land a speaking gig at the Health and Wellness Expos of Canada this year, which were scheduled to take place all over Canada. He was disinvited only when critics raised a stink about featuring a man who at the time had been convicted of what most would consider medical neglect. Naturally, he portrayed that as a big conspiracy against him then as well. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to order a new trial for the Stephans is the gift that will keep giving to quacks and enemies of science-based medicine.

Countdown to Mike Adams rant about the “persecution” of the Stephans having “failed” in 3…2…1… It’s coming. You know it is.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

65 replies on “The Supreme Court of Canada grants a new trial to the parents who let Ezekiel Stephan die”

There is just something I don’t quite understand. On the one hand you have the State (in a lot of countries) allowing quacks and quackery to flourish, presumably because it stimulates the economy, creates jobs etc, resulting in a lot of misery for a lot of people and on the other hand as soon as a child dies then the state wants to put those people in jail – which I support, of course.

But shouldn’t the state also be taken to court?

I suppose the choice for quackery is considered freedom of choice. People are allowed to bring their children up, according their worldview, whether religious or philosofical. The choice to use quackery can probably be considered a philosofical choice. So only if the philosofical choices of the parents have serious consequences, they may be prosecuted for their choices.

To me quackery is just fraud, but I suppose the lawmakers think different.

Freedom of choice is fine as long as people can make these choices based on accurate information. Most quacks do not provide accurate unbiased information regarding their products and hence the public base their choices on false information. Governments know this and so do scientists, and yet quacks are allowed to continue unabated.

The current case discussed in this blog post is quite interesting if one reads the history of the case. It remains fascinating that some people can become so deluded that they will allow their own child to die, and yet continue to defend what they’ve done – this tragedy did not wake them up, it might have done the exact opposite. They just dig in their heals and point a finger at real healthcare professionals being the main culprits. This of course will lead to their followers becoming even more deluded, which in turn will probably lead to more children being harmed. Its a vicious circle which only lawmakers can break, but due to vested interests, they seemingly have no interest in doing so.

Generally, you cannot sue states for enacting bad laws. You can sue to strike down unconstitutional laws, but there’s no real remedy for harms that laws caused to you. In part, that’s probably for a policy reason – it would open too big a field of people who don’t like the law to try and sue for damages. The official reasoning is sovereign immunity, at least in the U.S.: you can’t sue a sovereign for acting as a sovereign unless its willing.

“Citing dictionary definitions is usually a hack move…”

Well, citing the definition of negligent homicide seems pretty much spot on here.

What if I quote the definition from a legal dictionary? How deep does that rabbit hole go?

So his claim is “I have full parental rights not to treat my son when he has a serious and treatable condition”. As before, completely missing from his words is any realization that his little boy died, that he had a role in that, and that it’s important that his little boy died.

I hope this lack of remorse and regret will be something a new trial will consider.

Lack of remorse is the striking aspect of this case. We have all fallen for some or other sales gimmick where you later on come to the realisation that you’ve been hoodwinked. Normal people will then go and warn their relatives and friends not to be as stupid as you. Sure losing a child is on a completely different level but they should have used the past couple of years to warn other parents about the dangers of these natural remedies – but unfortunately they did the exact opposite.

Of course they own and operate a supplement/natural woo store, so…

In many cases, the marks do not want to admit that they were marks. That’s one reason why people continue to adhere to quack protocols that have failed or are failing them.

That the Stephans also sell supplements is an additional factor. It is difficult to get somebody to understand something when his livelihood depends on his not understanding it.

No one wants to admit their behavior caused the death of their child. I have to believe the Stephans loved Ezekiel.

So the rationalizations have to be a form of denial. Of course they aren’t at fault. It’s all a deep state conspiracy. Ad nauseum.

Because if I though I had killed my own kid, I’m not so sure I could live with it. Just the thought of hurting a patient, who isn’t even related to me, makes me sick to my stomach (in fairness that feeling is what prompts me to focus on high quality care).

Doubling down is just as much a way of not looking at the harm they caused their child as it is protecting their means of livlihood for their other children.

Therapy would have been a better choice. I suspect prison will have to do. I think they will run out of miracles after their next trial.

Be careful what you say about ‘normal people’ – depends on what you mean by ‘normal’. If by ‘normal’ you mean ‘statistically likely’, I have to disagree. People tend to dig deeper instead of admitting a horrible mistake. Sad, yes, but reality in my opinion.

These particular individuals are woo-peddlers, and therefore will be particularly invested in continuing in the same way instead of changing.

But I completely agree with you on what people should do in this circumstance.

I saw no remorse from him at any time. No acceptance of responsibility, and a tendency to blame anyone other than he and the poor child’s mother. I’m sorry they are getting a second chance. Ezekiel didn’t.

To have remorse would show that he has a conscience. Does he has one? (that is a real question).


You are an idiot and a paid troll. You have no facts . We are Anonymous and we expose unethical writers who write lies .EXPECT US!
TABBY SABO Alberta YouthVoice Radio

Alas quacks will never stop and always find an excuse. Even if there is some bad publicity, I’m pretty sure they will argue it’s just one naturopath that behaved badly and that a good (or a true) naturopath would have refered them earlier to a hospital.

Except their naturopath did refer them to a hospital, when she saw the kid. You can’t get a referral if you haven’t been seen.

I thought the naturopath didn’t see the child? Or at least that was her defense for not sending them to the hospital was that she didn’t see the child and the mother downplayed how sick he was.

I’m not too surprised the Supreme Court found as it did. I do think it interesting that their arguments before the court were based on a point of law handed to them by the dissenting judge in their hearing before the Alberta Court of Appeal, and not arguments they raised in that court – assuming what has been reported is accurate. Unfortunately, written rulings of the Supreme Court tend to be very terse and not very revealing.

I am curious about what happens now. Assuming the Crown proceeds with retrial
– where will the trial be held (back in Lethbridge?)
– will they be tried only on the original charge or is there opportunity for the Crown to amend the charges to include criminal negligence causing death (precedent now exists from the Lovett case)
– if it is heard in Lethbridge, will the Crown bring in a prosecutor with experience e.g. Jonathan Hak who prosecuted Lovett

There is opportunity here for the Crown to be extremely thorough and carefully avoid any opportunity for shortcomings in their case from the original trial. The Crown also has the opportunity to directly address the error in law made by the judge in that trial. The Stephans have nothing but their assertion of a coverup by the Medical Examiner, as far as I can tell. If the Crown approaches it reasonably, I think a conviction on retrial is very likely unless someone on the jury refuses to convict on the evidence. There is definitely a faction in Alberta that could do that.

Didn’t you go to some of the hearings on this case, doug?

I hope you’ll keep us up to date on this case, since it seems to be in your backyard.

My first thought when I started reading Orac’s article was, “Uh, oh. They got off on a technicality.” Doesn’t sound like the Appeals Court took issue with the facts of the case.

I’m not a lawyer, but it’s my understanding that appeals courts and higher may (nearly) never comment on the facts, but are restricted to the technicalities of the law. This is why it’s so difficult, for instance, to introduce exculpatory evidence post-hoc, although the Innocence Project has had some notable success in that domain.

I attended the hearing before the Alberta Court of Appeal.

If the retrial is heard in Calgary (which I doubt), I will certainly attend if I can.

The Supreme Court of Canada hears two types of case – those where there is automatic right to a hearing because it is a criminal matter and there has been a dissenting opinion in a lower court of appeal (as for this case) or because the Court has granted leave. Leave is only granted in a small number of requests for leave and the cases where it is granted are mostly matters of law or of national interest.

The SCC hearing is available here (this is for Collet, I don’t know if it is limited to her part of the hearing only or covers both)–37845-36846&date=2018-05-15&audio=n

@kfunk: IANAL either. However, I do have a couple of friends who are law professors. I’ll have to ask them that question! 🙂

I was on a murder/kidnapping trial jury in 2015. The judge spent a lot of time giving us very explicit instructions as to how we were to deliberate the charges, which was a good thing since the defendant apparently had a history of appealing everything. Last I checked, however, none of his appeals have gone anywhere and the verdict of guilty still stands.

Such a shame these “parents” in Canada now get a retrial.

Sorry this is a bit off topic.

I am looking to get into contact with TCM experts in the US/Canada (real scientists not the fake ones). Currently doing some research on the steady internationalisation of TCM. If you know of someone please ask them if you can send their details to me at [email protected]

Incorrect jury instructions are not actually a technicality. Because the legal standard is given to the jury, not determined by them, if they’re given wrong instructions, they’re basically applying the wrong law. It actually goes to the heart of an issue.

And I echo Doug’s point that it’s interesting that that’s the tack they could. At best, it could get a new trial, as it did, not overturning the conviction.

The CBC article on this case ( highlighted that the only error in law was that the trial judge did not explain in enough detail the difference between actus and mens rea.

[quote]The two elements the judges believe were combined by the trial judge are actus reus and mens rea.

Actus reus, Latin for guilty act, raises the question of whether the Stephans failed to provide their son with the medical attention that was necessary in the circumstances.

Mens rea, Latin for guilty mind, raises the question of what level of risk could objectively be foreseen by a reasonable person.

The concept of marked departure was explained by Crown Julie Morgan as actions removed from what a reasonable person would do in a specific situation, in this case meaning not taking a child displaying symptoms of meningitis to the hospital. [/quote]

My not a lawyer understanding is that the jury applied the correct law, but may not have properly understood both parts of the “Reasonable Person” test in applying the law.

Hopefully the re-trail can include the precedents set in later cases (negligent homicide comes to mind as Doug alluded to), and result in a proper penalty for these clowns. Preferably a couple years each in Provincial prison, and maybe some court mandated education on what constitutes proper health care.

Personally, I’d like to see quacks investigated/ pursued before they harm anyone.

How can that be?
In the US and Canada, there are many practitioners who are going far beyond what their credentials allow or using untested/ disproven methods PUBLICLY:
we’ve read about cancer quacks without any meaningful education, nutritionists or chiropractors treating serious illness and all sorts – physicians and uncertified woo-meisters- treating/ “curing” autism.

Practicing medicine without a license I think it’s called.

I guess I can dream: dreaming is free.

Part of the problem I think is that the Medical Boards are simply not interested in pursuing these cases. Maybe they even can’t; if a naturopath claims what he is doing is not the practice of medicine, he may be able to steer clear them.

But yeah, when you have naturopaths administering IV medications that sure sounds like the practice of medicine to me, even if it’s “just” vitamins.

What grinds my gears are nurses who get into this crap. They give my profession a bad name and I was the BONs would issue a policy statement about advocating unproven treatments, or advocating against proven therapies like vaccination: the current anti vax push in Ohio is led by a nurse for God’s sake. Thankfully, I’m assured by the OAAPN that it doesn’t have a prayer.

But we have MUMPS now in Ohio. And guess who the patients are? Unvaccinated college students, of course.

I am still gobsmacked by the things they chose for treating Ezekiel. Not medicines, but seasonings and condiments? Given that, and their lack of visible remorse, it seems like their plan was, if he died, to cook him and eat him.

ORD: See my comment below. If they had treated him with seasonings and condiments they’d be less culpable that they are, in that they wouldn’t have been expecting to profit of him by claiming the fabulous Truehope products they peddle had cured him of what ailed him – this being the core narrative of “the Truehope story” in which Tony Stephan discovers a magic formula to cure his children of serious illness. Originally, that was just mental illness with Truehope EmpoerPLUS™, but hey, they were looking to diversify into new scam markets.

“[A]pple cider vinegar, horseradish root, hot peppers, onion, garlic, ginger root, olive leaf extract, whey protein, water with maple syrup and juice with frozen berries” Those are ingredients, not medicines. Even the maple syrup because, Canada.
If only I had added a few more things to my last pot roast!

Blog related – so not OT:

The Search and explore button seems to be not working..Also Browse,

The Stephans did NOT (not not not not not) take Ezekiel “him to a naturopath instead of a real doctor”. This is no small quibble, but what could/should be a key prosecution point in any retrial. What actually happened: they took Ezekiel with them as they travelled to Lethbridge to sign papers at their lawyer’s office, and on the way home they stopped at the office of a naturopath, where Collet picked up a commercial OTC echinacea supplement and spoke briefly with the naturopath, Tracy Tannis, without bringing the boy in to be seen or even telling the “doctor” that he was outside in the car. So, first, why in the hell did they go to their lawyers instead of rescheduling when Ezekial was so ill he was as stiff as a board and had to be laid out on a mattress? Second, why did they refrain from taking him into the naturopathic clinic – which would have provided a type of care they supposedly believed would be effective – when they were right there and he was that sick? How is that anything but neglect, or at least clearly “failing to provide the neccessaries”? The answer, of course, is that they’re not believers in “natural medicine” sui generis, they’re believers in Truehope – that Truehope is all that is necessary.

Which brings us again to one of the major failings of the press coverage of the case: it’s terribly misleading to refer to the Stephans as a “couple who used homemade remedies”. That’s true but, but the homemade stuff was totally secondary to the Truehope products. It’s clear from David’s statements to the authorities (if you read them critically) that he, at least, believed the key to clearing up whatever Ezekial was suffering from was Truehope OLE™, an olive leaf extract supplement advertised as a “natural antibiotic” that, yes, can serve as a substitute for real antibiotics. Yet EVERY press account I’ve seen that mentions the olive leaf stuff has it all in lower case, as if it’s some generic thing or maybe even a homebrew concoction, without identifying it as a Truehope product, much less referencing the claims Truehope makes for it.

Something else I’d like to see addressed if there’s a retrial, though I seriously doubt the Crown has any desire to go there: I don’t think Collet has the same faith in Truehope as David. I think she wanted to go beyond Truehope to help her son, but yielded to pressure (perhaps not spoken directly, but exerted more subtly??) from David and David’s father, Truehope founder/head-honcho Tony Stephan to keep the ‘remedy’ “all in the family”. I say this because everything Collet did to do more for Ezekiel, and she made several efforts at this, occurred when David was at work and then got pulled back after he returned home. This includes Collet calling the nurse-midwife who looked in on Ezekiel and suggested he might be suffering from meningitis, her internet research into and performance of the home tests for meningitis, and her call to Lethbridge Naturopathic where she mentioned the possibility of meningitis to receptionist Lexie Vataman, who told her the “immune system booster” they carried was the Blast echinacea formula. (It’s not clear whether Collet mentioned meningitis before or after asking about “immune boosters”…) Yet, from David’s statements to the investigators, it’s pretty clear he probably never accepted the notion that his son had any kind of meningitis at all, just maybe a really bad cold.

Thus, I don’t think Collet is anywhere near as culpable in Ezekiel’s death as David and, yes, Tony Stephan – who I believe perjured himself in his testimony that his only involvement was to pray for the boy. Had it just been up to Collet, she might have followed the advice of the nurse-midwife to take her son to a doctor, or at least taken him in to be seen at Lethbridge Naturopathic. Tannis and the Vataman both testified that Vataman told Tannis that a woman on the phone had mentioned the possibility her toddler had meningitis, and Tannis recommended the child be taken to see a real doctor. (Tannis testified she insisted Vataman tell the caller to take the tot to a hospital immediately, and listened in while Vataman did so. Vataman did not confirm this detail, but also testified her memory of the events were not that clear.) Given the interpretations of the autopsy results I’ve seen, by the time the Stephans arrived at Lethbridge Naturopathic it was probably to late for any medical professional to save Ezekiel, but we can’t know for sure and certainly the Staphans didn’t know that. Had Collet taken Ezekiel into the clinic, given the seriousness of his condition at the time, I do think it probable Tannis would have insisted they take him to the hospital immediately, and the poor kid might at least have had some small chance at survival.

Hmm, your timeline raises an interesting point, sadmar. If the Stephens went to Lethbridge to see their lawyer, presumably both of them went into the law office. Where were their children during that office visit? Did the lawyer (or anyone else in the office) see Ezekiel? Did they just leave all of their children in the car?

I can see leaving Ezekiel in the car when stopping into the naturopath (if they thought he just needed an OTC “treatment”), but a visit to a lawyer is generally a lot longer than popping into a store. I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to leave very young children alone in cars in Canada (or not put them in a car seat). None of this is itself a real crime, but doesn’t add evidence to their disregard for care of their children?

Yes, my questions exactly: where was Ezekiel when they were in the lawyer’s office; how long were they in there, etc. I’ve had the impression only Ezekiel was with them, but that may not be true. (Could the other kids have been old enough to stay at home by themselves, or been with some other adults… school maybe??) What irks me is that you’d think the prosecution would have tried to clarified these things at trial, or maybe a competent news reporter would have inquired. I do have to note that the anti-naturopath zeal by many helped obscure all this stuff, and place undue focus on Tannis… * Again the thing that stands out to me is that they definitely had a very sick kid in the parking lot of a person they supposedly believed was a competent healthcare provider, and didn’t do or say a damn thing about it. The questions about the car seat and whether he was ever alone in the car are secondary, I think, but may add to the evidence of disregard depending on the answers. Back to the actual purpose of the trip: I wonder if the investigators even interviewed the lawyer (or office staff, if any) about whether they saw Ezekiel that day, or whether the Stephans mentioned anything about him, etc.

Considering all these things I have to think the prosecution went very easy on the Stephans in the investigation and the trial, especially in terms of the Truehope angles, which they seemed not to want to touch with a ten foot pole. I’d love to know why they acted so restrained. There are any number of possibilities: I’ve read some vague references to Truehope having friends in high places; they may just have been afraid of going after Truehope again; there may be other political sensitivities around “natural health” constituencies, or the the fact that Health Canada approves a fair number of ‘natural” remedies (including, I think, the version of Blast Collet got from Lethbridge Naturopathic); or maybe it was just a legal strategy based on the idea a simpler, lower charge would more likely yield some kind of precedent conviction. But methinks something really stinks in how they went about the case one way or the other.

To be fair, this stemmed in from an example of how news coverage amplifies and distorts things in unintentionally misleadfing ways. Jenn D’Mello, the doctor who took Collet’s statement at the hospital, wrote in her report, “the family decided to drive to Lethbridge to do some errands which included picking up the BLAST from their naturopath”. The problem is that D’Mello casually used the word “their”, just assuming that the Stephans would have visited someone they were familiar with, when it actually seems that in fact, the first time Tannis met any of the Stephans in person was when Collet chanced into her as she picked up the Blast. So the press coverage repeats this assumption based on one quickly tossed off word choice, and puts it in a prominent place in the reportage, which leads to people giving it a lot of weight and speculating about what they think it, which leads to more news coverage and commentary, in an upward spiraling feedback loop. This kind of thing happens all the time due to deadline pressures and other aspects of daily news reporting, so it’s always dangerous to take new accounts as accurate pictures of the real world without doing a fair amount of digging to verify things. And in this case, the clues to the actual nature of events didn’t become available tothe public until fairly late in the game when various trial documents were released. procedures. Still, Orac has had consistent problems over the years in putting too much credence into things he gleans from news reports as rock hard evidence, when they’re rarely anything of the sort.

I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to leave very young children alone in cars in Canada

That is true for both, children and animals.


OK, let me walk back my statement that a naturopath saw him. I must have conflated that trip by the office with the nurse-midwife seeing him.

But having him in the car while she went into the office sure doesn’t improve her case she did everything in my view. First, kids that age should not be left unattended in cars. Second, the naturopath might have been scared enough by how the kid looked to recommend calling an ambulance. Or not.

This case, the Charlie Gaird case, and Alfie Evans cases have revealed something really really disturbing to me about how people think:

The majority seem to think parents are owners, rather than guardians, of their kids, and should have the legal power to do whatever the hell they want with them, and are genuinely baffled that the state has the power to intervene and override their wishes. There are people out there who just should not have kids – period. When you put together the fact that there will always be a % of the population who are willfully ignorant and easy prey for quacks with how easy it is to have a kid you get this ^.

Even here in Ireland we are getting arguments about “freedom” where people don’t seem to understand quackery as a danger. A recent law coming in to ban all “curing the gay” theraphy and people cry “freedom”, people should have the freedom etc. They miss the point, first of all it’s mostly kids subjected to this pseudoscience who don’t have “freedom” of choice, second and most important, as the minister who introduced it said “this is less to do with freedom of choice and more to do with preventing someone from masquerading as a doctor offering a medical service when they have no medical training and their ‘therapy’ is rejected by medical science”. It’s like asking to let me have the “freedom” to sell you stuff with apple juice on the bottle but it’s actually horse p1ss – I don’t have the freedom to deceive you.

I also have to say one of the major downsides of the internet and more globalized world is how European politics is getting infected by US political attitudes. Our extreme right wingers (not our mainstream centre-right who are more left wing than the US democrats) are picking up arguments from the nuts in the US you’ll even hear them reference “liberals” where no such language is part of European political discourse, and they bang on about how the NHS and other single payer models “murder” kids who have no reasonable prospect of recovery as if US private hospitals never disconnect life support ever.
Now they are interfering in our abortion referendum it’s been discovered most of the people running the online campaign are actually based in the United States, and when I’ve encountered some of them (from a group called Youth Defense) they had American accents 2 out of 3 times. The poison of US politics is spreading like a cancer.

I’m gonna push back on the idea that the Gards and Evans’s were treating their kids as property, to “do with however the hell they want.” Yes, they claimed that as the parents they were the highest authority, even over the law. Their kids were dying and they were desperate to save them.

I don’t see either family going for woo. They were taken in by foreign doctors who made promises they couldn’t keep, and hung on to that narrative because they were looking for something, anything, to save their kid. But they didn’t go to woo. They just went to a neurologist advocating a treatment still in clinical trials and, well, I don’t know what the other doctors thought they could do.

Either way, though, the parents were NOT asking to use magic water on their kids. They valued science based medicine. It just couldn’t do anything for them, but the parents refused to give up.

I blame the doctors in America and Italy who LIED to these parents and gave them false hope for that shit storm.

It may be that not being in Europe (dunno where you are posting from) you didn’t see how disgraceful these two cases got. I have the following basis for my view many seem to think you can do whatever you want with your kids:

It got really really disturbing. Lunatic supporters “charlies army” and “Alfies army” arrogance of ignorance on steroids types tried to storm the hospital and pull the fire alarm to “rescue” the kid (In alfies case) while other peoples kids (who could be saved) were in the operating theatre, the police had to knock them back.
There were people (including people who are to law what engineers for 9/11 truth are to science) saying ”legally they can just walk in and take him off life support”
The parents were not advocating a treatment in clinical trials, it was a treatment the doctor who advocated it admitted would not cure them or even give them a reasonable quality of life.
The parents suggested over and over (then contradicted themselves later saying they never thought he could keep on living – in BOTH CASES!) that he could just keep going like that and “they knew” that the doctors were wrong that they might be in distress and pain locked inside their mind because “we know our son better than the doctors” (as painfully stupid an assertion as you could make in these situations – you don’t know MEDICINE better than the doctors) they were content at first to leave them like that waiting on a miracle cure.
Far from suggesting that this was two people (docs and parents) who wanted to do the right thing and they just disagreed the parents in both cases called the doctors murderers saying they wanted to “murder” and “kill” their kids.

…and finally and most importantly 6. ALL OVER the comments on news sites people said over and over and over and over again (and these parents gave the same kind of quotes) one version or another of ‘parents should be able to do whatever they want with their own children the state has no right to interfere’. They said it, in black and white, over and over and over and 100s upticked the comments agreeing with them (many more clearly disagreed but it was scary how many did agree with it)

As this horrible case continues to unfold, it still irks me that David Stephan garners all the attention. I haven’t seen anything from Collet. sadmar’s post is bang on in this regard. Collet was Ezekiel’s mother, yet she is continually reduced to silence by her husband. This too is a form of abuse.

Some of the additional details here make the case considerably more damning in my opinion. Knowing they went to a naturopath is distasteful to me, but that they didn’t even take the child into the clinic or seek a real second opinion from this person is horrifying. One way for a parent to self-diagnose negligence is to assume they don’t get everything right and to talk to others (doctors preferably about medical conditions, but friends or even a convenient naturopath or anybody who might have a better answer) to do error checking. If I can’t be sure if I could diagnose meningitis in my child like a medical professional can, I would definitely be asking someone for help if my child got really sick –“what-if” scares me! It looks to me like they avoided an opportunity just to make sure.

“Parental rights” assumes parents are competent enough to judge what their children need, however much they claim to love their children. Clearly parents aren’t always that competent.

When my brother was 6 months old he got bacterial meningitis (this was just before the HiB vaccine). My mother is not a medical professional, but she was sufficiently alarmed at his symptoms that we went from a trip to the grocery store to the doctor’s office in about 2 minutes. I don’t remember what happened after that except I ended up at the neighbor’s for several days (until my grandmother could fly out to take care of me) and he ended up in the ICU for a while.

My story is meant to illustrate that a person doesn’t have to be a medical professional to realize something is seriously, dangerously wrong. Even some frankly pretty dumb people are able to realize “this isn’t right”. To realize that and do nothing? That is where the criminality comes in.

During the Alberta Court of Appeal hearing, Justice O’Ferrall said something to the effect of you hear the word “meningitis” and you go straight to emergency, not too long before he said “That’s wrong in law” on the matter which lead to his dissenting opinion. Prior to that he said that based on their actions, the Stephans were clearly guilty. I wish I could see a transcript of the hearing – I found it easy to pick up on some of those very blunt remarks but some of the words that went between them are less memorable but critical for context.

An appeal in that court basically consists of speeches by the lawyers to the panel of three justices who ask uncomfortable questions any time they feel like it. Each lawyer is supposed to be given a limited amount of time, but the senior judge allowed considerable leeway.Much of the Stephans case was that the prosecutor had been mean to grandpa and kept interrupting him and the nasty judge let him get away with it.

I have absolutely zero reason to believe that what the charges were or how the prosecution proceeded were influenced one iota by an perceived status of the Stephans or the family company or intervention on their behalf. I think it simply that that a case like this was new territory for the investigators, the prosecution and the judge. As far as I could tell from a search of CanLII, cases of failure to provide the necessaries of life have been rare across the nation – which I suspect was something considered by the Supreme Court which would be concerned with inappropriate setting of precedent.

Watching the “Air Disasters” series on the Science Channel, I noticed some possible parallels.
First, some of the accidents could have been averted if the culture of the airline or the country hadn’t inhibited the first officers from speaking up more forcefully or taking action when they clearly knew what was wrong. Collet may have been so intimidated or dominated by her husband that she couldn’t bring herself to act. Given the amount of attention David has attracted to himself, it seems at least plausible to me.
Second, some of the disasters that were not unavoidable became so because of what the investigators termed “fixation”. The pilots, and sometimes the first officers and flight engineers, become so fixated on completing the checklist or responding to the first alarm or warning that they can’t take in or react to cascading warnings or problems. It’s more likely to happen to crewmembers who are fatigued or stressed.
I have seen both of these happen in hospital medicine. They have happened to me. I expect that they occur in the military, law enforcement, shipping, and other businesses that can call for rapid complex decision making in the face of serious potential consequences. Possibly the Stephans rapidly found themselves out of their depth, went into denial, and were always steps behind the actual situation.
I don’t think any of this lets them off the hook. I do think it might help to explain how things went so badly wrong.

Since the Stephans seem to have all that wonderful evidence in their support, I’m sure they’ll present it at their trial.

Do you have any specific comments on the blog article?

I don’t understand the attitude that you should not seek the best available care for your children when they’re ill. How can anyone possibly think that a bunch of condiments and breakfast ingredients will do anything other than cause the patient to have a bellyache ? Okay, so you don’t like science-based medicine. But your child hasn’t got a choice! you’re using him for a guinea pig! “Oh well, if he dies we can make more” ? And they haven’t even got a scintilla of remorse, just blame shifting.

Let’s get a few facts right here.

1- The judges ordered the retrial based on several things, including evidence of coverup of medical malpractice that began when the understocked ambulance tried to use an oversized tubing on the toddler, tearing his trachea, damaging his spine and prompting a series of heart attacks.

2- The autopsy did not prove meningitis and the evidence of lung infection is likely from the botched medical procedure that tore up this child’s insides.

3- Moreover, there was evidence of falsified medical records and perjury on the part of doctors giving testimony.

Consequently, regardless of your feelings about the benefit:risk ratio for vaccinations which are documented to be contaminated with herbicides and metallic nano-particles of unknown origin, the suppressed evidence at the first trial and the narrative in this blog post are as unsupportable as the convictions of the parents.

Absolutely false. The order for retrial was based entirely on the instructions of the judge to the jury.
copied and pasted here, the entire ruling of The Supreme Court of Canada:
“Moldaver J. — We are in essential agreement with the reasons of Justice O’Ferrall.

In particular, we agree that the learned trial judge conflated the actus reus and mens rea of the offence and did not sufficiently explain the concept of marked departure in a way that the jury could understand and apply it.

Accordingly, we would allow the appeal, quash the conviction and order a new trial.”

No. Fabrication not in evidence.
No. Fabrication not in evidence.

Points 2 and 3 were not argued at the Alberta Court of Appeal, nor at the Supreme Court.

My codes for italics for the quotation of the court ruling and my point numbers got eaten.

You have some strange ideas about how intubation works if you think that a “too big around” intubation tube could somehow get all the way to the bottom of a child’s lungs. Also, even supposing someone did manage to stick a pole into this poor child’s lung (one or the other, not both, because the lungs are branched off the trachea), that is never going to look like, or smell like an infection so advanced it filled the lungs with pus. Pus doesn’t happen in a few hours, it takes days. So no, the infection of the lungs was not the ambulance’s fault.

Your lies about vaccines are irrelevant. This child needed antibiotics.

His lies about falsied autopsy reports is also irrelevant. You can’t jump from claims of improprieties in the medical examiners office (which have yet to be proven) to falsification or perjury in THIS case.

These people are grasping at straws.

Yes, yes. I think we all can agree that the benevolent State should always beat down and imprison (or worse) anyone who stands in the way of the holy decrees of career-politicians, crony capitalists and special interest groups.

But cool site. I came here for the G’kar quotes and stayed for some of the nonpartisan discussion on the oh-so-clear cut line between quacks and rational humans (wink wink).

“Yes, yes. I think we all can agree that the benevolent State should always beat down and imprison (or worse) anyone who stands in the way of the holy decrees of career-politicians, crony capitalists and special interest groups”

I know what most of us in this thread can agree on: Children need to be protected from parents too stupid and narcissistic to provide them with proper medical care.

So you think people who can’t consent don’t deserve medical care?

What is the special interest group of “keeping children alive”? We’re talking about a Canadian case, so medical care for this child would have been covered by the state, so I don’t know where the crony capitalism comes in on that side.


You’re the only one who’s ranting here. And, the lack of proper punctuation in your rant inclines me to believe that whatever education you had, it didn’t take very well. I’ll let someone else deal with your misunderstanding of the timeline, should anyone feel the urge.

Please, stop posting in all caps.

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