In a case that has garnered worldwide attention, a Canadian man, David Stephan, will spend four months in jail because he treated his son with a natural remedy instead of taking him to the hospital.
Stephan’s wife, Collet, avoided jail time but she faces three months of strict house arrest, and can only leave home to go to church or medical appointments.
David received a stricter sentence by the judge in late June because he did not call 911 when his 19-month-old son, Ezekiel, stopped breathing in 2012, said Justice Rodney Jerke, the judge in the case. The boy, who had viral meningitis, died at the hospital.
The Stephans were able to avoid the three to four-and-a-half year prison sentence prosecutors had requested for “denying the necessities of life” to a child.
“Mr. Stephan’s post-conviction actions demonstrate a complete lack of remorse,” Jerke told a court in Lethbridge, Alberta. “To this day he refuses to admit his actions had any impact.”
Jerke accused the Stephans of being willfully blind by trying to treat Ezekiel with a natural remedy of hot peppers, garlic, onions and horse radish, The Canadian Press reported. The Stephans thought the boy had the flu, and they said he was improving until he stopped breathing. The justice also was upset with David for calling his father for help instead of 911.
“Any reasonable and prudent person would have taken action,” Jerke said. “This is far beyond a child that has the sniffles.”
The fathers asked for leniency, saying their other three children need a dad “who’ll help raise them up.”
Doctors Protest Parents
Jerke described the Stephans as “caring and attentive parents” in court.
“My children are everything to me and I’m everything to my children,” Collet told the court. “I am incredibly sorry I did not take him to the hospital.”
Around 70 people showed up to support the Stephans at the courthouse in Lethbridge when they were sentenced, The Canadian Press reported. The supporters shouted “we love you” to the couple as they passed.
A small group of counter-protestors, including several medical doctors, showed up to protest against the Stephans.
“You cannot impose your personal views on your children in a way that endangers their life,” Dr. Kirsten Jones, one of the protestors, told the news outlet. “Those children have a right to grow up to become independently thinking adults and to form their own moral judgments at that time.”
Strangely enough, Jerke ordered the Stephans to post an unedited copy of his verdict to her personal Facebook page, and to a Facebook page run by supporters, Prayers for Ezekiel.
The father has alleged that a slow response from Alberta Health Services may have contributed to Ezekiel’s death.
“We took it upon ourselves to meet the dispatched ambulance halfway on the highway,” he said in a statement to the press. “It took approx. 40 minutes from the initial 911 call before he was in the care of the attending EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians). When EMT finally arrived, the ambulance was not equipped with the correct intubation equipment for our son, who could not breathe on his own.”
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