Antivaccine nonsense Medicine Popular culture Pseudoscience Quackery

Ezekiel Stephan: Justice denied, quackery triumphant

In 2012, a 19 month old boy named Ezekiel Stephan died of bacterial meningitis because his parents believe in quackery over medicine. They were convicted, but a new trial ordered by the Supreme Court has now acquitted them in a truly horrific ruling.

It’s been over a year since I last wrote about the tragic death of Ezekiel Stephan, who died of bacterial meningitis, thanks to medical neglect. Unfortunately, this time around, I’m writing about this case because this week there’s been a massive miscarriage of justice. In a retrial, Ezekiel’s parents, David and Collet Stephan, were acquitted and will face no responsibility for the death of Ezekiel:

An Alberta couple who treated their son’s illness with natural remedies rather than take him to a doctor have been found not guilty in the toddler’s death after a retrial.

David and Collet Stephan were tried on charges of failing to provide the necessaries of life to 19-month-old Ezekiel, who died in 2012.

Supporters in the courtroom cheered and Collet Stephan cried as she hugged her husband.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Terry Clackson spoke to the court in Lethbridge, Alta., for only four minutes on Thursday before releasing his written decision in the judge-alone trial.

Yes, these quacks who killed their child through medical neglect, and they’re going free. Even worse, they’ll now be heroes to the alternative medicine crowd in Canada (and, let’s face it, the world), for having been “falsely accused” of child neglect, being “persecuted” by the system, and finally having beaten the charges and found to be innocent. Yes, they’ll be heroes. Even worse still, David Stephan can go back to do ing what he does best: Grifting in the service of his company’s Truehope supplements and making money by appearing at “natural health” expos, the latter being a revenue stream that his conviction had cut into severely, as expo organizers, facing very negative publicity, dropped him like the proverbial hot potato.

David and Collet Stephan

Ezekiel, you might recall, was the 19-month-old son of David and Collet Stephan. He lived in Alberta with his parents until his death from bacterial meningitis seven years ago. He was a child who very likely would have lived had it not been for the fact that his parents were (and still are) heavily into alternative medicine. His parents tried to treat him with “natural remedies,” at one point took him to a naturopath, until, by the time they sought conventional medical care, Ezekiel was in extremis. Basically, Ezekiel had been ill for a couple of weeks and getting sicker and sicker, but the parents didn’t seek conventional medical care until he stopped breathing, which led them finally to call an ambulance. But it was too late. Ezekiel died.

As a result, David and Collet Stephan 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 cause a problem in protecting children from their parents’ belief in quackery when they become seriously ill. Before the verdict was announced, I had 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. Of course, Stephan’s entire business and worldview were (and still are) inextricably linked to what happened, 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. Not surprisingly, 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 the Stephans’ appeals wended their way through the courts. In November 2017, 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, puzzling, and even infuriating. Basically, the Court ordered a new trial, using this rationale:

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.”

As I said at the time, I don’t know Canadian law and am not a lawyer anyway. At the time, I was worried about just the result that’s happened, that David and Collet Stephan would be acquitted, and unfortunately my worries were justified.

You’ll never believe the Court’s rationale for acquitting the Stephans:

The judge ultimately sided with the defence’s medical experts in finding the boy had viral not bacterial meningitis and ultimately died of a lack of oxygen.

Speaking with the media after the decision was handed down, David Stephan called the last seven years an “emotional roller-coaster.”

“We didn’t know what to expect coming into today, and it’s the right decision, and it’s shocking because it’s been seven years of our life fighting this so it’s become part of our identity,” he said.

“It’s a beautiful thought that we can move on with our lives.”

Stephan said his case “helps protect parental rights” so that parents won’t be held criminally liable if they choose alternative treatments for their sick children.

Here’s David Stephan, speaking to the media after the verdict:

Ah, yes, “parental rights,” the all-purpose justification that quackery-loving parents everywhere use to justify medical neglect of their children, be it treating diabetes with prayer instead of insulin, refusing chemotherapy for their children with cancer, refusing to vaccinate their children against potentially deadly diseases, and many other ways that parents abuse and neglect their children by subjecting them to treatments not supported by science. I always note when I come across people like the Stephans invoking “parental rights” that these parents always make it about them and their rights and somehow never seem to bother to consider their children as a separate, autonomous being with rights of his own, which encompass the right to good medical care and not to be subjected to medical neglect. Children are not extensions of the parents’ bodies. The parents do not own their children. They are supposed to be the guardians of the children, and in that role society gives them very wide latitude in deciding how to raise the children (too much, if you ask me). When parents medically neglect their children, then the state has to step in to protect the child’s rights.

Senator Rand Paul once said about school vaccine mandates, “The state doesn’t own the children. Parents own the children, and it is an issue of freedom.” This is the attitude of far too many parents about their children, that they own them. Sadly, it’s not just in the US where there is a widespread view that parental rights are absolute or near absolute and people react with outrage against the state and sympathy for the parents whenever the state tries to intervene. I see this in every single case of medical neglect that I write about on this blog; public opinion is almost always on the side of the parents. Sadly, prosecutors and child protective services know this too, which can’t help but restrain them. As a result, in some places, even parents who justify not treating their children with anything resembling science-based medicine using their religious beliefs have pretty much carte blanche to do whatever they want, to subject their children to whatever treatment or lack of treatment they want. The result? Lots of dead children.

If you want to see just how bad things are in the US, at least, I will briefly recount a case that I’ve discussed several times before, that of Kent Schaible, whose parents Herbert and Catherine Schaible chose prayer instead of antibiotics to treat Kent’s bacterial pneumonia. Their son, two years old at time, had been suffering from a respiratory illness for two weeks. It worsened and developed into pneumonia, as his parents prayed. The parents were convicted of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment, were sentenced to ten years of probation, and had to promise to take their children to a doctor when they were ill (i.e., “pretty please, promise not to do it again””). That was 2009. Guess what happened in 2013? They did it again! Their 7-month-old son Brandon Scott died of bacterial pneumonia and dehydration, and once again Herbert and Catherine Schaible did nothing but pray as their child’s condition deteriorated until he finally died. It is not exaggerating in the least to say that it took two dead children, both of whom died under similar circumstances, before the state finally acted to protect the Schaible’s other children by taking their children away and sentencing the Schaibles to several years behind for third degree murder. It was nowhere near enough.

But what about the Court’s decision to believe the Stephans’ medical expert, who claimed that Ezekiel did not die of bacterial meningitis, but of viral meningitis? The “reasoning,” such as it is, is truly cringeworthy:

Back then, the official cause of death was bacterial meningitis.

However, in his written decision, Clackson wrote that he accepted the opinion of Alberta’s former chief medical officer, Dr. Anny Sauvageau, who told court she does not believe Ezekiel actually died from bacterial meningitis.

“In this case, we know there is no specific treatment that is effective for viral meningitis,” Clackson wrote.

“It follows that the Crown did not prove medical attention would have saved [Ezekiel’s] life or that if he had viral meningitis and it was life-threatening [which is not established in the evidence], medical attention even could have saved his life.”

My response? WTF does it matter? Yes, bacterial meningitis is easier to treat because it can respond to antibiotics, and viral meningitis has to run its course, but, damn! Seriously? That’s the Court’s “reasoning”? They do realize, I hope, that supportive care, such as being placed in a pediatric intensive care unit on a ventilator, would have maximized Ezekiel’s chances to ride out the meningitis, even if it had been viral. The Court ruled that the child died of “lack of oxygen.” Even if he did have viral meningitis lack of oxygen could have been prevented by placing Ezekiel on a ventilator and supporting him until it became clear whether he could survive.

How on earth did the Court accept the defendants’ bullshit argument? And, make no mistake, the argument was purest concentrated bullshit. As Alheli Picazo notes:

The child did NOT have viral meningitis.

The bacterial meningitis was at such an advanced state by the time Ezekiel finally reached hospital, he was clinically brain dead and sepsis was coursing through his bloodstream; the post-mortem revealed pus on his brain, in his spinal fluid, and on his right lung.

These facts are 100% knowable, and known, and irrefutable. People lie, autopsies and medical reports do not.

I don’t know what Dr. Anny Sauvageau was smoking, but she really should lay off or at least share. It’s not as though the diagnosis of bacterial meningitis was subtle, as explained above, and viral meningitis looks very different at autopsy than bacterial meningitis. It also looks very different from brain death due to hypoxia.

Here’s Picazo again:

Brain death from oxygen is markedly different from brain death from meningitis, and both the CT scan in hospital and autopsy conformed there were NO signs of brain damage or death from oxygen deprivation.

The child died from “a cardiac arrest secondary to what was likely a hypoxic event because of his overwhelming bacterial meningitis.”

Here’s my good buddy Dr. Clay Jones, a pediatrician who knows a thing or two about meningitis, writing for Science-Based Medicine:

Dr. Adeagbo concluded that Ezekiel died from both bacterial meningitis as well as pneumonia with an accompanying empyema. Empyema is typically diagnosed in the setting of a bacterial pneumonia when pus collects within the lining of the lung.

So what does this mean? It certainly makes sense from a clinical perspective. Ezekiel likely developed bacterial pneumonia caused by infection by either S. pneumo or HiB, which went untreated and developed into an empyema. At this point surgical drainage is usually necessary for recovery in addition to appropriate antibiotic treatment. His bloodstream was repeatedly showered with the pathogenic bacteria, which eventually made its way to the child’s brain.

This new information adds to my suspicion that Ezekiel was much more ill-appearing than described by his parents and the nurse who visited the family’s home. Although there may have been some degree of waxing and waning of his symptoms, particularly with the fever he almost certainly developed during the course of his illness, I am very skeptical of claims that he had any significant recovery just prior to his arrest. This also makes it more likely that he suffered a great deal prior to his death.

And back to Picazo, who lets us know that Dr. Anny Sauvageau is not only not licensed in Alberta but unqualified in forensic pathology:

Here’s what you need to know about Dr. Anny Sauvageau:

Her qualifications and credentials have come under scrutiny before. She is not board-certified or trained in forensic pathology, nor does she have license to practice medicine in Alberta.

She did not, at any point, examine the child and her nonsensical testimony and blatant misreading of the autopsy would have medical professionals calling for her to be stripped of her medical license — but she doesn’t have one.

It turns out that Dr. Sauvageau also has a history of being a hired gun for child killers (excuse me, “expert witness”) and that the Stephans aren’t the only homicidally neglectful parents for whom she’s come up with, let’s say, “creative” alternate explanations for the death of the neglected child. For instance, there was the case of John Clark in Calgary, a child who had been born at home, had never been vaccinated, was not fed properly and had never seen a doctor until the day before he died. Her defense in the case brought against John’s parents Jeromie and Jennifer Clark was only somewhat less ridiculous. John was brought to the hospital malnourished with a clinical picture most consistent with sepsis, and Dr. Sauvageau claimed that it was an overly aggressive correction of the child’s hyponatremia (low sodium) that killed him, not the malnutrition and sepsis. While this story is marginally more plausible (overly aggressive correction of hyponatremia can indeed cause seizures), when taken in context with the whole picture, I have a hard time taking her testimony in this case seriously, either. For instance, Dr. Sauvageau also claimed that John wasn’t septic because there were no positive blood cultures. (Hint: You can be septic and still have negative blood cultures. Indeed, the definition of sepsis does not require a blood culture positive for bacteria; positive blood cultures are no longer even part of the diagnostic criteria for sepsis.) She also claimed that John’s small size was due to a hormonal condition, not malnutrition, based on his “body proportions.”

In the case of Ezekiel Stephan, Dr. Sauvageau’s testimony reached incredible levels of absurdity, surpassing those of her testimony for the defense in the death of John Clark:

Sauvageau’s analysis of Ezekiel’s condition comes from reading Adeagbo’s report and listening to the 911 call made by Ezekiel’s parents after the boy had stopped breathing.

During the call Ezekiel started breathing again and David put the phone to the toddler’s mouth.

“I can hear the breathing of the baby that is not a normal breathing … as an expert on asphyxia. .. [it was] an obstructed phenomenon,” said Sauvageau.

This is patently ridiculous. Dr. Sauvageau relied only on reading the autopsy report and listening to a recording of a 911 call to make such ridiculous speculations, and the Court actually took her seriously—more seriously than a trained forensic pathologist who actually did the autopsy and found puss on the brain and in the lungs?

There is only one reaction to testimony like this and the Justice actually giving credence to it:

Godzilla facepalm

Or maybe:

Or maybe:

And that’s before knowing that Dr. Sauvageau is suing Alberta Justice for wrongful dismissal, claiming that her position was not renewed after she stood up to political pressure to change a contract for transporting bodies for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Alberta.

The Alberta Crown Prosecution Service is considering appealing:

In a written statement, the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service said it has not yet decided whether to appeal Clackson’s decision.

“We respect the decision of the Court,” reads the statement. “This has been a challenging case for everyone involved. The Alberta Crown Prosecution Service will review the decision to determine next steps.”

I know the prosecutor has to say he “respects the Court’s decision,” but I don’t. I do not respect the Court’s decision. Not at all. The Court’s decision is so at odds with easily demonstrable reality that it is the duty of the prosecutors to appeal it, and I hope they do. Seriously, David Stephan claimed in his closing argument (he apparently was representing himself) that that it was paramedics who caused Ezekiel’s death by improperly intubating him and that Ezekiel might have lived had the first ambulance that arrived been better equipped to treat a child his age with breathing difficulties. He also claimed that he and his wife didn’t know Ezekiel had meningitis, even though there was copious evidence presented that they they at least suspected that he did and had been urged to take Ezekiel to the hospital as he deteriorated. In light of the case against the Stephans, this ruling is truly incomprehensible.

Don’t believe me? Get a load of this quote from Justice Clackson:

Clackson said that Ezekiel was indeed sick, but the law does not impose a duty to seek medical attention for every sick child.

“The child had been sick, had improved, then regressed and was waxing and waning. They were watching him closely for signs of meningitis, just in case, even though he did not appear to have any of the symptoms,” Clackson wrote.

“I have concluded that the Stephans knew what meningitis was, knew that bacterial meningitis could be very serious, knew what symptoms to look for.”

During the trial, the Stephans testified that they initially thought Ezekiel had croup, an upper airway infection. They treated him at their home with natural remedies, including a smoothie made with garlic, onion and horseradish.

The parents said the boy appeared to be recovering at times and they saw no reason to take him to hospital, despite his having a fever and lacking energy.

They did call an ambulance when the child stopped breathing. He was put on life support in hospital and died a few days later.

But Clackson said meningitis wasn’t the cause of the child’s death in March 2012.

“As I have concluded that Ezekiel did not die of meningitis, it follows that the Crown has failed to prove its case.”

The law does not impose a duty to seek medical attention for every sick child? Perhaps not—but only if the illness is obviously minor to a reasonable layperson. That was clearly not the case here. Ezekiel was, as we say in the biz, sick as snot and circling the drain. Not to take him for medical evaluation and to opt for treating him with witchcraft was child abuse at its most naked. As for the claim that Ezekiel died of oxygen deprivation because the first ambulance didn’t have the right equipment, it was pretty clear from the medical evidence that it almost certainly wouldn’t have mattered if it had. By the time the parents called EMS, Ezekiel was almost certainly too far gone to be saved. Even if he could have been saved, what about the suffering and long-term sequelae he would have suffered from bacterial meningitis treated too late?

The bottom line is that Justice Terry Clackson has screwed up royally, issuing an utterly nonsensical judgment so divorced from science, medicine, and reality that I would laugh at it if the consequences weren’t so horrific. He believed the testimony of an unqualified doctor who never actually did the autopsy on Ezekiel and used only the autopsy report and the audio recordings of the 911 call and the EMS response over that of a forensic pathologist to acquit David and Collet Stephan. His ruling will both allow David Stephan to continue his grift peddling his useless supplements, which are promoted to treat real diseases and whose use are likely to lead to preventable deaths, and, worse, will likely demoralize child protective service officials and prosecutors, who are likely to think twice prosecuting medical neglect. There will be blood on Justice Clackson’s hands.

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]

60 replies on “Ezekiel Stephan: Justice denied, quackery triumphant”

I suppose the “Good” news is this decision can be appealed. (Canadian courts are different. Acquittals can be appealed.) But will it be ? I can only guess. The bad news is, these two people will go on to create and likely kill more children.

I hope the Crown will appeal, but they may decide that after seven years it’s just not worth it, especially since they have put in other cases that can serve as precedent to respond to parental neglect in the meantime.

Their language wasn’t very strong, hence my comment.

Deeply troubling.

The decision should be up at in a few days.

The fact that Ezekiel died is not really material to the charge of failure to provide the necessaries of life. Associate Chief Justice Rooke said this quite plainly in his findings on the pre-trial motions from the Stephans, yet the trial judge appears to have made his decision based on the possibility of preventing death. In my opinion both actus reus and mens rea regarding willfully withholding professional medical attention, and therefore the Stephans should have been found guilty of the charge.

I have some other comments, but they’ll have to wait.

(as some may remember, I attended the Stephan’s hearing before the Alberta Court of Appeal)

as some may remember, I attended the Stephan’s hearing before the Alberta Court of Appeal

I do and was hoping that you would chime in here.

To be honest, I wondered that myself, or whether Justice Clackson had some connection to the Stephans or Truehope. The verdict is just that horrible.

From the start, the Crown undersold the case, failed to uncover and/or present some of the more damaging evidence, failed to cross the defense as strongly as they might have. Even so, this ruling is so egregious, it’s hard not to conclude the fix was in. i doubt it’s anything as crude as literally buying off the judge. More likely some manipulation of political influence. For example, I wonder how the case fell to this judge, who certainly seems, err, a bit biased. The whole involvement of Sauvageau, with her ongoing case against the Crown, speaks to higher level political stakes. You have to wonder if something more deeply odd than this case is going on in Alberta – how did she ever get to be the Chief Medical Officer there in the first place? Anyway, something’s seriously effed because the Judge’s comments are just Trump-level false on the facts, e.g. “he did not appear to have any of the symptoms” of meningitis. Disgusting.

Sauvageau parted on very bad terms from her position as Chief Medical Examiner and seems to be trying to make a bit of a career of providing paid testimony contradicting her former employer’s.

Un-fricken-believable. A jury of their peers saw through their transparent bullshit and deemed them guilty of being criminally negligent dumb-asses. (And contrary to popular stereotypes, Albertans are not more ignorant then any other Canadian). The defence attorney did her job and convinced one of the appeal court justices that their was a chance that the jury was filled with absolute fricken morons who couldn’t understand simple words, and got it tossed to the Supremee court. There the combined jurisprudence of Canada decided that they should be re-tried. Smartly enough, knowing they couldn’t bullshit their peers, they rolled the dice with being able to baffle a judge with their BS. I really hope the provincial prosecutors use the medical errors and incompetance of the defence witness to appeal and get a new case with a judge competent to hear medical testimony.

Is it too early to start drinking heavily?

I don’t drink; but given the current insanity going around, maybe it’s time I started???

If an adult chooses to forgo scientifically valid medical treatment, except vaccines which can affect others, it is their choice; but a child doesn’t have a choice and is innocent, so society either, hopefully in time, needs to intervene, or, if too late, send a message to parents.

Holy hell. I’m going to add something about that to my post. So basically Sauvageau is an expert witness for hire who’ll say anything the defense wants her to say.

The couple in that 2018 case (their child was found to be septic and have blackened toes on arrival at the hospital; there was evidence of an online search (presumably by the parents) for “natural” remedies for gangrene) was found guilty of the same charge the Stephans faced and sentenced to 32 months in prison.

However, they are appealing, so maybe they’ll be fortunate enough to have their case go before Justice Clackson too.

The Clarks were actually facing two charges: failure to provide the necessaries of life (same as Stephans) and criminal negligence causing death. They were convicted on both charges but the “Kienapple principle” applies – where there are multiple convictions for the same event, only the more serious charge “stands” on the record. They have appealed. I’ll try to attend the hearing (it’s hard to find out when these things are scheduled unless they are reported in the media). The appeal will be before a panel of three judges and if the Clarks succeed they will be retried in Calgary, so there is very little chance of them going before Clackson unless he is relocated to Calgary or very odd circumstances bring him here temporarily.

There was another similar case in which 7 year old Ryan died because his mother used “natural remedies” instead of taking him to a doctor. She was tried by judge alone and also found guilty on both failure and negligence. Her history of internet activity and cell phone text messages were a big part of the Crown’s case since they demonstrated that she was observing serious symptoms and looking for remedies. I attended most of that trial. If Mr. Hak, the Crown prosecutor had prosecuted the Stephans at their original trial, I suspect he would have covered the things the judge messed up on and secured appeal-proof convictions – he had a lot of experience as a prosecutor, including several quite notable cases.

The Raditas in a third somewhat similar case, failed to properly treat their son’s type 1 diabetes. In my opinion he was tortured to death over a period of years. His condition at the time of his death was truly appalling. The Readitas are serving life sentences for murder. Their appeals were rejected unanimously by the Alberta Court of Appeal.

Oh yuck. Why do people like this, a judge with clearly poor judgement, get to keep their jobs? Their jobs where they have huge power over other people’s lives?

From a basic medical perspective:

If a medical student in a pathology course exam attributed an empyema (pus between the lung and chest wall) to a viral illness the instructor would (correctly) fail them. It demonstrates an ignorance of a common principle: pus = bacteria.
An intentionally unvaccinated child is at greater risk for pneumococcal disease, which alone can cause the problems seen in this case: empyema, meningitis, sepsis, and death (especially if left untreated, as this case was). On the other hand, there is no common pathology linking viral meningitis to an empyema, let alone death.
If listening to the breath sounds of a dying child over the telephone (or a recording of it) can be a valid method for diagnosing an airway problem then why isn’t it the standard of care for all emergency situations? Because it isn’t valid, of course; a reasonable jurist should be able to figure that out on logic alone.
It is pathetic that the father attempts to blame the ambulance crew for what is egregious parental neglect. IIRC, another reason that the ambulance had to be called was that the child was too rigid from meningitis to properly fit into the parent’s vehicle.

I agree with the general thrust of your argument but there are two misunderstandings:
“a reasonable jurist should be able to figure that out on logic alone”
The trial was by judge, not jury.
“the child was too rigid from meningitis to properly fit into the parent’s vehicle”.
That did actually put the child in the car but had to lie him in the back seat because he was too stiff to be able to be placed in the child seat.
Sorry, probably just pedantry.

So, Clarkson agrees that it’s OK to let your baby suffer and die as long as you didn’t think he was all that sick, and it’s the ambulance’s fault anyway? Go free, and kill yourself another baby?

Thus, the “expert” held that two children ( Stephan and Clark) died BECAUSE of standard medical care ( “improper intubation” and ” aggressive treatment of hyponatremia”, respectively) NOT because they were denied care due to neglectful or charlatan parents!
Doesn’t this reflect alties’ belief that it’s always SBM ( vaccines, chemotherapy, meds) that kills, not woo?
I wonder if Mr Stephan will now make presentations at expos and give details of his cruel persecution and eventual triumphant acquittal… maybe there will be a film in the works ( where are you , Del?)
It has all of the markings of a natural health success story, despite the dead child but I’m sure he’ll find a way to garner sympathy for his loss caused by those negligent, unenlightened emergency workers.

( by any chance, is Alberta one of those places which has a large population of freedom and sovereign rights folks? Freedom to do as you please with your children and freedom to call yourself a health or medical expert?)

As to your question, I would not phrase it quite that way, but note Alberta is both small “c” conservative and large “C” Conservative as in party affiliation, with a dash of cowboy while singing the best who done us wrong songs. Think some elements of Republican Texas.


That’s absurd. I know you are a hightly respected skeptic and blogger, but that is just a ridiculous comment–even if you meant it as a joke. Why would Canada want Texas, Alabama and Mississippi? Did you forget Louisiana? And why would they trade Ontario for these? This makes no sense even as humor or satire.

Maybe I just missed something.

There are some sovereign types in Alberta, though typically described as “freemen on the land.” Some of the cases that have been before the courts are quite amusing. There are definite pockets of fundamentalist Christians, many of Dutch heritage (Dutch Reform Church) and the south has a lot of Mormons. There are some militia types, but they generally seem to keep a fairly low profile.
The Stephans have been seriously lambasted by commenters in all of the open-for-comment articles on the CBC website. Many people have suggested draconian measures and things well outside the law. Lots of people have said they should have their other children taken. Their sympathizers have been few and the arguments from them weak.

Alberta recently voted in a complete shithead for provincial premier (equiv to governor) who leads the United Conservative Party (we don’t vote for premier – the leader of the winning party becomes premier as long as he/she wins in his/her own riding). The conservatives were a single party for a long time but split because of a faction who wanted it to be more right-wing, especially socially. In my view, they tend to be happy as long as people they don’t like are being punished by the government – pretty much indistinguishable from a lot of Trump supporters in that regard. The split groups were reunited to prevent vote splitting between the factions. Alberta is not as right wing as many like to make it out to be. Edmonton, the capital, has long been fairly left leaning. Even Calgary, capital of the oil idiotstry, is pretty socially liberal in a lot of ways.

Not to mention the best province in Canada if you want to get government grants/rebates for using solar power. ( Ironic with the whole “In the oil industries pocket” perception of the province.

Keep in mind, Albertan’s historically voted in governments based on their fiscal responsibility, and not social awareness. Hence being the province that had until relatively ecently no debt, and laws against running a deficit. No arguments from me about the religious whack-jobs getting too much influence there. Mind you, the last Alberta premier I had any time for was Ralph Klein aka king Ralph.

This court case pisses me off just as much as the Ontario one where first nations won the right to medically neglect their kids based on lies and deception. Unless of course, Homeopathy was actually developed by the Ontario first nations and not that German guy. I’m starting to think that we need a court populated and staffed by scientifically literate people to deal with cases involving medicine and science. Too many ignorant judges are making uninformed or scientifically irrational decisions (Glyophsphates causing cancer comes to mind)

This is highly emotional, highly frustrating and just plain vexing given the clarity of the clinical presentation, the post, and the plausibility that earlier (standard) medical intervention had a very reasonable probability of success in saving this child and (lets not forget) diminishng his suffering. As often happens, there are so many issues here lumped together that its tempting to use a wrecking ball vs a laser to address this case and it’s implications. I’m also not a lawyer, nor am I Canadian, but FWIW (in my opinion, which is one of a clinial researcher and medical ethiist) there are case-specific issues and broader policy/legilative issues to be sorted from each other and not lumped together, tempting as that may be. Starting with Ezekiel’s case; if the latest single judge ruling is pinned so heavily to the defense’s (agreed, highly flawed) opinion, then that seems a pragmatic and expedient route to appeal and get the fallacious elements dismissed. Second, as others have mentioned,it wouldnt take much to examine whether there are technicalities such as conflicts of interest, issues of medical licensure, training/qualification, etc that would disqualify judge or expert, hence re-opening the case.

Policy-wise, this is a longer haul, and will obviously be much more highly controversial; especially in the present climate where libertarians feel under attack and tend to lump any attempts to codify minimum standards as attacks on autonomy or their religious beliefs or both. It’s ironic that conservatives cite the same autonomy of an embryo or fetus in their opposition to abortion, yet defend parental autonomy over a toddler here. Which brings us to the great point about guardianship. Legally, guardianship is definable, and amenable to the creation and enforcement of minimum standards. Guardianship should not be confused with biologial maternity/paternity, as those roles have traditionally come with carte-blanche (to the pain and suffering of many innocent children).

The simple fact of the matter is that parents quite often do, but do not always know what it best for their child. Anyone in clinical practice knows that while it’s critical to listen carefully to and provide proper weight to a parent’s global impressions of their child’s well being and idiosyncrasies, one cannot ignore or rationalize the child’s objective clinical signs, symptoms and (if verbal) personal reports on how they are feeling. Unfortunately, we seem to only have these tragic retrospective examples in our library of what goes wrong when there is parental over-reach, which causes suffereing and ends in death. The solution here is a very long and complicated game that must rely on as utilitarian an approach as possible in defining minimum standards of guardianship and the penalties for failure. While enormous pain of the loss of a child is an inherent penalty to a parent with feelings, moral character and a soul, being a parent does not ensure that one has those human qualities.

It is so unfortunate that there is scant-to-no doubt that Ezekiel suffered greatly, AND that his death was overwhelmngly likely to have been prevented by earlier intervention. The real injustice by this ruling is that his voice and his sufferent are silenced by zealot parents, an apparently unqualified physician and a single judge who assigned disproportionate weight a scientifically illogical case presentation.

Speaking, for what it’s worth, as a parent, I will gladly tell you that I get “what’s best for my children” on a relatively rare basis. I screw up and have screwed up all the time. My S.O. and I say that our kids will do well ‘in spite of us’, not because of us.

I am tired of this “owning children” claim. I have three daughters, and I never “owned” any of them. What is this, ancient Rome where people sold their daughters to men because the were chattel property?

I think courts and CPS should be more concerned about the greater good of protecting children than deferring to nutjob parents with idiotic ideas about healthcare. Of course, we have to deal with those ignorant anti-vaxxers every day, who also think that they own their children.

One more thing – I expect this from stupid American courts, but I thought Canada was better than this.

The OP contains two oft repeated misleading if not just false elements of reportage on this case, both of which credit the Stephans far more than they deserve.

First, the Toronto Star piece says, “They treated him at their home with natural remedies, including a smoothie made with garlic, onion and horseradish.” While they did indeed give Ezekiel such a smoothie, the report gives the impression home cooked remedies were the primary method they chose to treat the lad Not so. As revealed in their on-the-record statements they were counting on Truehope products to cure him. Specifically Truehope OLE (Olive Leaf Extract), significantly decsribed on the Truehope website as a “natural” alternative to penicillin.

Second, Orac, who should know better by now, writes, “His parents at one point took him to a naturopath.” That’s just not true. Here is what happened. In the morning of the day Ezekiel died, The Stephans drove into Lethbridge to sign papers at their lawyer’s office. They took the boy with them. He was so sick his body had become stiff to the point where they could not him into his car seat, so they laid him flat in the back of the car. After their legal business was done, on their way back home they stopped off at Lethbridge Naturopathic, where Collet went inside and purchased a bottle of an OTC homeopathic remedy called Blast. While she was inside, Collet happened into a short conversation with the naturopath, Tracy Tannis. Collet did not ask Tannis to examine Ezekiel, nor tell her the toddler way outside, lying in the back of the car in obvious physical distress. The point is not to excuse Tannis, though she undoubtedly had no role in Ezekiel’s death. The point is that the Stephan’s went out of their way to keep Ezekiel’s illness inside the family – or should I say the family business – including refusing any form of medical expertise, even within the “natural health movement” they supposedly believe in.

Your comment jolted my memory (which wasn’t jolted while reading Orac’s piece) and I think you are correct about those two statements. However, do you have any links? I would like to confirm that your memory of the details, that my jolted memory of the details, is correct.

Actually, this is from the link to A, Picazo’s article:

Ezekiel was regularly given vitamin and mineral supplements said his father … “And when he was sick there, we were giving him, above and beyond that, the olive root extract, which is an antifungal, antiviral, it’s a very powerful one.”

@BilyJoe: The press coverage of the case was quite poor IMHO, so there’s no easy links. I got most of the info from primary documents, which were put online here and there in various places, and are probably gone by now. I made any number of long comments dealing with details either here or at SBM, which had a lot more particulars, including which source revealed what. You can probably find them by searching the archives for Ezekiel. I have everything saved in a folder… somewhere : – / (i.e. not readily accessible)

There are reasonably good summaries of the evidence presented at the original trial in both the decision from that trial and in the decision from the Alberta Court of Appeal. It is not highly detailed, but still instructive. All court decisions are available at Most are under Alberta, but the Supreme Court of Canada decision is under Federal. This link will get you to the ACA decision and therein you’ll find links to the original trial:
This one will get you to Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Associate Chief Justice Rooke’s decisions on the pre-trial motions. It paints some interesting pictures of the Stephans.

Coverage of the original trial is not too bad on the CBC website You’ll have to do some searching. Coverage of the retrial has been very limited.

After a nurse friend of the Stephans did a rather cursory examination of Ezekiel, she suggested to Collet that it might be meningitis. Collet did some web searching and as I recall concluded it was quite possibly meningitis but viral, not bacterial. She was also advised by the naturopath that it could be meningitis (David claimed the naturopath changed her story at the retrial). She had three suggestions of meningitis. In my mind, a reasonably prudent person with no expertise would immediately consult a physician for a proper diagnosis. The Stephans did not, which I regard as proving both mens rea and acus reus for the charge in question. They did not intend to harm or kill their son, but they did intend to withhold proper professional medical care. Regardless of anything else, their willful lack of prudent action prevented any physician from having any chance to treat and possibly save their son. At the Court of Appeal hearing, Justice O’Ferrall jumped on the notion that a reasonable person would hear “meningitis” and be off to a doctor immediately, saying that if that were all that was required for conviction the Stephans would be guilty (more or less in those words – I wasn’t making notes). After these rather damning comments, it was O’Ferrall who later (on the trial judge’s instructions) said “that’s wrong in law” and write the dissent.

@ doug

“She was also advised by the naturopath that it could be meningitis (David claimed the naturopath changed her story at the retrial). “.

Huh? Tannis never saw Ezekiel. What did David say about this at the retrial?

Sadmar seems to be ”forgetting” some key elements of the case.

First, the naturopath (Tracy Tannis)’s role in the affair seems less than admirable despite her version of events.

“Nineteen-month-old Ezekiel Stephan died in 2012 from bacterial meningitis after his parents sought medical advice from naturopath Tracey Tannis. Per Tannis’s recommendation, Ezekiel’s parents treated him with echinacea. Tannis’s prescription fit right alongside the assortment of natural therapies Ezekiel’s parents had already been giving him…

The Stephan case was devastating for the naturopathic community. In the trial, Collet recalled that Ezekiel was so sick by the time she sought help from Tannis that he was non-responsive and unable to bend his back to sit-up. These are ominous signs of meningitis.

Lexi Vataman, an employee at Tannis’s office, recounted that Tannis recommended Ezekiel take the herb echinacea after Collet called the clinic seeking advice specifically for treating meningitis. While Vataman’s memory of the events have been called into question, she maintains that her testimony is accurate. Tannis later disputed Vataman’s account. Tannis claimed she advised the parents take Ezekiel to the emergency room, in addition to selling the tincture.”

Whether or not Tannis actually recommended the child be taken to the ER, testimony that her clinic sold an echinacea tincture to treat a child with a serious medical condition does not speak well of her practice.

While the Toronto Star article specifically mentioned the most ridiculous-sounding aspect of the Stephans’ “care” (the garlic-horseradish-onion smoothie), its reference to “natural remedies” does not exclude commercial products like those marketed by Truehope. I see nothing inaccurate or misleading there.

I have forgotten nothing. KevinMD is simply wrong on several key facts. Collet did NOT “seek help from Tannis.” She called Lethridge Naturopathic to see if they were a source for Blast, the echinacea treatment she had already settled on after researching “immune system boosters” online. During that call, she spoke only to Vataman, and mentioned her suspicion of meningitis (that is not in dispute). Vataman and Tannis dispute what Tannis told Vataman to tell Collet (who had not identified herself). Tannis’ account only came ‘later’ in terms of the order they testified at trial. Vataman’s version is that she told Tannis the woman on the phone was seeking an immune booster and had mentioned meningitis, that Tannis then recommended Blast, and she then passed that on. Tannis’ version is that Vataman told her a woman on the phone had mentioned menningitis, and that she told Vataman to tell the woman to take the toddler to the ER immediately. Period. No tincture mentioned by her. Both parties could be blaming the other out of fear of appearing culpable, and both could be lying to some degree.. Oddly, the authorities never got Collet to go on the record clearly with her account of the conversation.

Hoiwever, when you look at the story in full narrative context, understand these people and how they operated, it’s clear that the Stephens would NEVER “seek help” from Tannis, or anyone else.

Again, most specifically, this aspect of your quote is the inverse of the actual fact. In the trial, Collet recalled that Ezekiel was so sick by the time she sought help from Tannis that he was non-responsive and unable to bend his back to sit-up. What actually happened Bacon, was that Collet went into the naturopathic clinic, even encountered Tannis while she was inside, and told NO ONE that a toddler who was non-responsive and unable to bend his back to sit-up was just outside in the parking lot, in the back of the family car.

If you see nothing misleading in the Star’s framing, you’re incredibly naive. (I didn’t say it was inaccurate.) What’s misleading is that it skirts the whole question of the profit motive. There is a huge difference between relying primarily on natural cures to treat an infant, and relying primarily on natural cures sold by your family business – which, by the way, has from the get-go pitched it’s quack remedies with testimonials of how they cured members of the Stephan family from assorted maladies. The real story here from beginning to middle to end is Truehope, Truehope, Truehope. David Stephan’s job at the family firm was essentially head of sales and marketing. If you put together all the events in chronological order, and in as much detail as was revealed during the trial (including documents as well as testimony), you’ll see that David Stephen did absolutely nothing to change the treatment of Ezekiel as the boy’s condition declined. Only Collet took any kind of action, and she specifically only did these things while David was off at work – calling midwife Terrie Menders to look in at a sleeping Ezekiel, researching meningitis on the web, and performing the basic DIY diagnostic tests she found online, seeking a non-Truehope “immune booster” via Google U and settling (at least provisionally) on Blast, calling Lethbridge Naturopathic to see what they had in stock. Then when David returned home, these efforts were stalled or delayed. My conclusion is that whether or not David was seeking to create a sales story for OLE based on “curing” Ezekiel. he was at the very least afraid that taking the boy to any medical professional would mean admitting Truehope was inadequate in ways that could hurt sales, or bolster the legal/regulatory cases against Truehope, and thus would be unacceptable to his father, Truehope patriarch Tony Stephan.

The “garlic-horseradish-onion smoothie” has at least some basis as a pre-scientific folk remedy. When I had a chronic cough my old-country (Polish) grandaunt made a concoction based around rock sugar and onions. I never tried it. It smelled so bad that I was afraid to cough in case someone actually made me take it.I can only imagine how a sick toddler would react to being made to drink that “smoothie”.
This verdict puts a whole new meaning of “contempt of court”. That court itself is contemptible, or maybe beneath contempt.

It looks to me, sadmar, like you’re constructing a factually dubious narrative you wish to believe and getting pissy when called on it.

If I can muster the ambition, I’ll look through the court decisions again and quote the bits with regard to the naturopath. At the moment, I more interested in watching the skunk in my back yard (on my critter cam – I first discovered said skunk a few days ago when I went out the door and it was standing about a metre from my feet).

Ours appear to be neglecting their duties based on the sheer number of crickets this year. Them and the garder snakes really need to get their act together so i can hear myself think.. 😉

Sadmar’s version does ring a bell generically, but I can’t remember, or be bothered to look up, the specifics. Granted media reports on this, even when the case was fresh and new, had differing accounts of rather important details. I miss the days of fact checking in the media.

Sadmar’s version does ring a bell

For what’s worth, Sadmar’s version is how I remember myself the naturopath’s involvement – consulted in-between two doors by the mom alone (without the boy being in presence of the naturopath), on the way back from a trip to the big city.
Later, the naturopath claimed to have mentioned bacterial meningitis as a possibility.


[Ms. Meynders is the nurse]

[20] Ms. Stephan told Mr. Stephan about her concerns when he came home for lunch. She said that Ms. Meynders was coming to look at Ezekiel. They discussed Ezekiel’s symptoms and whether they should take Ezekiel to a doctor. Mr. Stephan went to his next meeting. His father was also at the meeting and Mr. Stephan asked his father to come over that evening to give Ezekiel a blessing.

[21] Ms. Meynders had a full day but she re-arranged her schedule and her husband drove her to the Stephans’ home. She examined Ezekiel and told Ms. Stephan that she did not know what the problem was, and she raised the possibility of meningitis. She suggested Ms. Stephan should take Ezekiel to a doctor. Ms. Stephan did research on the internet about meningitis and conducted physical manipulation tests on Ezekiel that she learned about on the internet. She looked at the symptoms for bacterial and viral meningitis, and, mostly due to the duration for which Ezekiel had symptoms, she concluded Ezekiel had viral meningitis.

[22] Ms. Stephan told Mr. Stephan by telephone what Ms. Meynders said, and that meningitis was a possibility. When Mr. Stephan returned home from his second meeting that Monday they discussed Ms. Meynders’ visit, and Ms. Stephan told him about her research, and about her conclusion. Mr. Stephan agreed that meningitis was a possibility. They both understood that at least bacterial meningitis was extremely serious, yet they agreed not to take Ezekiel to a doctor at that time. Instead they resumed the olive leaf extract, garlic, and MSM supplement, and started him on Total Reload, which is another type of supplement. This occurred around suppertime on Monday, March 12.

[23] On Monday evening Mr. Stephan’s father arrived to give Ezekiel a blessing. He did this in the parent’s bedroom, where Ezekiel was staying on the bed.

[24] On Tuesday, March 13, Mr. Stephan decided to take the day off to help Ms. Stephan out, and because he and Ms. Stephan needed to go into Lethbridge to sign purchase documents. By the time of the trip into Lethbridge Ezekiel was too stiff to sit comfortably in his car seat so Ms. Stephan rode on the one-hour trip from Glenwood to Lethbridge in the back of their SUV with him on a bed they made up for him.

[25] Ms. Stephan had earlier called a naturopathic clinic and told the receptionist she wanted something to boost Ezekiel’s immune system because he had viral meningitis. The receptionist told her she should take Ezekiel to a doctor, and Ms. Stephan told her that they had a nurse looking in on the baby. After the Stephans finished at their lawyer’s office they went to the naturopathic clinic and got a product called Blast, which is an echinacea tincture; a natural remedy. They gave Ezekiel some, and then went shopping at Superstore. They did not take him to the walk-in medical clinic there, but instead they returned home, this time with Mr. Stephan lying in the back with Ezekiel.

I doesn’t surprise me that press accounts from the trial were less complete than one might wish for. The trial was very long and reporters must make their notes on the fly while listening to the proceedings. The court reporter is kept very busy doing this with a modern shorthand system, so any reporter that can’t do shorthand would find it hard to keep uo. If a reporter makes an error, there is no mechanism to check it other than discussion with other reporters.

The paragraphs above are once again, in my opinion, sufficient to make the case for both mens rea and actus reus and demonstrate a marked departure from what a reasonable person would do in the circumstances. The Stephans clearly had knowledge that meningitis was a real possibility and they failed to take Ezekiel to a physician when there was an opportunity requiring essentially no effort (i.e. to the clinic at Superstore). Whether their motivation was to try to prove they could cure him with their corporate remedies is neither in evidence nor, in my opinion, relevant. Failure to take Ezekiel to a physician is actus reus. Knowing he might have a very serious, potentially fatal disease and willfully making the decision not to seek professional medical assistance, regardless of the reason, is mes rea. Again, both the trial judge and Rooke A.C.J. pointed out that the fact/how Ezekiel died is not something the prosecution needed to establish in order for there to be a conviction on the charge. It would have been different if there had been the additional charge of criminal negligence causing death (as there was for the Clarks and for Lovett).

Projecting much, Bacon? The factually dubious narrative here is the one that Brit Hermes, Orac and others originally presented about Ezekiel’s death, in which a naive couple are led to a tragic decision by a spectacularly irresponsible quack. I now see Hermes is the source of the quotes you linked from the KevinMD site. I invite anyone to go back and read the original RI posts:
and the original post by Hermes at Naturopathic Diaries:
The first RI post is titled “Another child dead from quackery” and begins:

Naturopathy is quackery, and, like many forms of quackery, it kills. People who trust naturopaths to treat actual serious diseases instead of using real doctors and real medicine dramatically decrease their odds of surviving a serious illness. While competent adults have every right to make that choice, to use fake medicine instead of real medicine, as foolish a choice as that is, making that choice for a child, who is unable to choose for himself, is medical neglect and child abuse.

Basically, skeptics who are rightfully concerned about the legitimation of naturopathy, and seeking to push back against it, saw Ezekiel’s death as a propaganda coup, a defining example of the evils of all naturos. [In contrast, the only reference to Truehope ever at Naturopathic Diaries was made by yours truly in a comment here: That’s the narrative they wished to believe, that you obviously believed, and still believe, and YOU are the one who’s pissy when called on it as contrary to the facts in evidence. You can quote articles sourced from Hermes all you want, but that ‘s just the confirmation bias chasing it’s tale.

That said, the skeptics weren’t so much making up a fantasy out of whole cloth, but rather amplifying certain factual errors in the press coverage, things which only became clear as errors much later as various documents associated with the case became available. The pattern of these errors is far from random, and suggests that the Canadian press has an antipathy to naturopathy, or is afraid to touch Truehope with a ten-foot pole, or both. I will now note some of the errors in the pull quotes Orac took from the news accounts.:

A southern Alberta couple accused of allowing their meningitis-infected toddler to die four years ago tried home remedies such as olive leaf extract and whey protein rather than take him to a doctor, a Lethbridge jury heard Monday.

This is Truehope blindness. Olive leaf extract is not a home remedy. It’s a Truehope product – Truehope OLE™ – marketed on the Truehope website thusly “naturally strengthen your immune system… the antibacterial, antifungal effects… are well-known and are even thought to help reduce the need for pharmaceutical antibiotics.” Antibiotics!

After a nurse told Collet that Ezekiel’s symptoms suggested he had developed viral meningitis, the couple drove their son into Lethbridge to visit a naturopath,.

Not even close. Per the official trial documents and findings of fact (linked to and quoted by doug above): Nurse/midwife Terrie Meynders looked in on Ezekiel in the early afternoon of 3/12.Meynders said she didn’t know what was wrong with Ezekiel, but that it might be meningitis and that Collet should take the lad to a doctor. At which point, Collet called David at work and reported what Meynders had said. David apparently nixed that suggestion, and stayed at work, where he discussed the matter with his father, Tony. During the rest of the afternoon Coillet did internet research on meningitis at WebMD where she learned about the Brudzinski diagnostic manipulation tests which she then performed on Ezekiel. From these she concluded he did have meningitis, but that it was viral. (Apparent wishful thinking, as she’d read the only clear way to determine between the two was a spinal tap.) At that point she she began to search the web for remedies, telling the RCMP “And the recommendations on the medical websites, as well as the natural websites, was boosting the immune system.” Yeah, what “medical websites” would say that. Anyway, the point is she had settled on an additional “immune system booster” as the thing to do, before she contacted Lethbridge Naturopathic. That evening, David came home armed with his response to the diagnosis of meningitis – redoubling the regime of Truehope products: more Truehope OLE, plus Truehope Total Reload “for electrolytes.” Then Tony Stephan arrived with his response to the diagnosis of meningitis: he said a prayer over the boy, who had been laid out on his parents’ bed. The trip into Lethbridge happened later in the morning of the following day 3/13.. It’s purpose was NOT to take Ezekiel to a visit with a naturopath. Again, per the findings of fact “On Tuesday, March 13, Mr. Stephan decided to take the day off to help Ms. Stephan out, and because he and Ms. Stephan needed to go into Lethbridge to sign purchase documents… After the Stephans finished at their lawyer’s office they went to the naturopathic clinic and got a product called Blast, which is an echinacea tincture; a natural remedy. They gave Ezekiel some, and then went shopping at Superstore. They did not take him to the walk-in medical clinic there, but instead they returned home,” I’d forgotten that they went shopping at Superstore after picking up the Blast.

Collet said she and David visited a naturopathic doctor in Lethbridge who gave them a treatment for viral meningitis, but never actually examined Ezekiel. .

Tannis did not give Collet the Blast, she purchased it from Vataman at the front desk. Tannis didn’t examine Ezekiel because she wasn’t asked to do so, and didn’t know either that Collet was the woman who had mentioned meningitis on the phone, or that Ezekiel was actually outside, in th back of the car.

Collet Stephan came in within a day or two of the call and spoke briefly to naturopathic Dr. Tracey Tannis, who asked Vataman to make up a tincture of echinacea.

Complete fabrication. The tincture of echinacea – Master Formulae Blast – is a mass manufactured, bottled product, approved by Health Canada (!?), and available for OTC purchase at health food/nutrition stores. BTW, that language is only found in one news account. and is clearly a case of the reporter either misunderstanding Vataman’s testimony or mangling his notes. Tannis testiifed that when she briefly spoke with Collet, she had no idea Collet was the woman who had called about the immune booster and mentioned meningitis, and that the subject of Ezekiel (who, remember, is outside, in the car, unresponsive, as stiff as a board) never came up.

BTW, some of the confusion can be traced to the official “Physician’s Report” from Ezekiel’s admittance to the ER. This is basically a history written by Dr. Jen D’Mello based on an interview with Collet, who was, of course, distraught at the time. D’Mello wrote “The following day (Mar 13th) the family decided to drive to Lethbridge to do some errands which included picking up the BLAST from their naturopath.” The thing is, Tannis was not “their naturopath”, nor did Collet claim she was. Collet had just said something to the RCMP to the effect of “we went to the naturopath’s” (there’s a transcript somewhere, but I don’t have it on file), and D’Mello either just assumed there was some existing patient-provider relationship there, or maybe just wrote it down that way because it seemed easier and didn’t matter, it being the wee hours of the morning with a dying toddler in the other room. Anyway, the press, doing what the press does, grabbed onto that careless adjective as a Big Clue, spun a few more inferences from there, and then started copying each other (also SOP), replicating the story over and over to the point where it appears to be accepted truth. The actual truth was that the Stephans didn’t truck with any kind of “doctor”s, ever.

Again, my whole point here is that all this brouhaha about Tannis has distracted everyone from what Collet and especially David actually did, which was to actively reject mutltiple calls to take Ezekiel to a doctor, and refused to have him seen by health professional who were only meters away, even as he was deathly sick, until he actually stopped breathing.

”The naturopath has testified she was busy with a patient when Collet called ahead of her visit to the clinic, but that she told a staff member to tell the mother to take the boy immediately to hospital. She said she remained by the phone long enough to confirm the message was relayed, and that she was never asked if echinacea would be a good treatment for meningitis.

Under cross-examination, the jury heard the naturopath never told police she had stayed by the phone while the advice was passed on. A worker in her clinic also told investigators she introduced the naturopath to Collet when she arrived at the clinic, and described her as the mother of “the little one with meningitis.”

Note that a naturopath quoted in the article (Britt Hermes) said she’d seen naturopaths prescribe echinacea for children with aggressive illnesses.

Given the dubious treatments Tannis reportedly offered at her clinic and testimony at the Stephans’ trial at odds with her version of events, it should be difficult to conclude that her actions were beyond reproach.

I’ve started seeing vaccine choice sites trumpeting this acquittal as proof their quackery works (and further evidence of how little they truly care for children, be it theirs or others.

Their quackery works?
Yeah it worked in killing a child. Or do they think the child wouldn’t have died if they didn’t call an ambulance?

Investigation of racist comment urged for Alberta judge who ruled parents not guilty in son’s death

“His ability to articulate his thoughts in an understandable fashion was severely compromised by: his garbled enunciation; his failure to use appropriate endings for plurals and past tenses; his failure to use the appropriate definite and indefinite articles; his repeated emphasis of the wrong syllables; dropping his Hs; mispronouncing his vowels; and the speed of his responses.”

I could probably scrape up some time to perform an editorial review of some of Justice Clackson’s other emissions in the name of the Canadian DOJ. Then again, by the other side of the same token, carping about someone’s placing the emphasis on the wrong syllable is weaksauce compared with “dropping his Hs.” That’s a new one on me as far as letters as letters go and impinges on the pronunciational territory of ‘Ms’, which — based on the principle of charity — one might assume he is consistent on when addressing female counsel.

Comments are closed.


Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading