Ezekiel Stephan, 19 months old, died four years ago this past March. His parents David and Collet, loving parents by most accounts, are currently on trial in Lethbridge for failing to provide the necessities of life after they refused to take their young son to hospital to treat his meningitis; relying instead on unproven herbal remedies, half-baked naturopathic theories and a naive belief they knew better how to treat their son’s viral condition than the doctors who could have saved his life.
It’s not surprising on one level. There are plenty of parents out there like David and Collet. Perhaps even less surprising in this case because David worked for a business specializing in alternative health systems at the time his son grew so ill.
This is the same type of parent who refuses to get vaccinations for his or her children, who would far rather rely on, for lack of a better term, “faith healing” over science, and who believes in a “natural” way; generally typified, as in this instance, by quack remedies, unproven theories and a dangerous recklessness with the health of their children and the wider public.
There is no winner or loser in this type of case. We all lose. David and Collet, whether found guilty or not, are going to have to spend the rest of their lives knowing they killed their son because they allowed a belief system to override their common sense. Our local communities also lose because we are forced to put to trial a personable, young couple with three other young children to drive home a point to others like them.
There are many Davids and Collets out there; let’s hope this case puts a dent in their unwarranted certainty so no other boys like Ezekiel will have to suffer and die because their parents want to prove some obscure point about living in a more “natural” way.
Herbal remedies have their place in a total health regime, but they do not cure viral diseases or bacterial infections once those things have taken hold of a body. In those cases there is only one place to go: To a family doctor.
Little Ezekiel was suffering for more than two weeks as meningitis wracked his body to the point he was too stiff to bend or move.
There is no justification for allowing a young child to suffer that long, no matter the intentions or beliefs of his parents. A child is not a laboratory experiment.
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Former Chief Medical Examiner testifies: “Child would have survived if not for medical misadventure”
Dr. Anny Sauvageau, the former Chief Medical Examiner of Alberta, and the Chief M.E. at the time of Ezekiel Stephan’s death in March 2012, testified today of startling evidence that will likely change the official cause of Ezekiel’s brain death, and call into question Dr. Adeagbo’s, the first medical examiner, report and motives.
The parents are on trial for failing to provide the necessaries of life. The cause of death has been reported as bacterial meningitis and right pleural empyema – an infection of the lung. A jury is charged with weighing the facts, and will likely find todays evidence significant. The entire trial over these last eight weeks has been based on what is now a highly questionable medical examiner’s report.
Dr. Sauvageau led the court through her findings, but not until the Crown Prosecutors did all they could to limit the extent of her testimony. Dr. Adeagbo’s report has been the foundation of their case. Dr. Sauvageau was questioned on bias and relevance, and to the reasons for her no longer being the Chief M.E.. The court heard of her refusal to be influenced by unethical and perhaps illegal influences. “My soul is not for sale”, she said emotionally, and is the reason why she chose to expose the corruption rather than “keep it secret”. This eventually cost her her position as Chief.
Dr. Sauvageau reviewed the history of how Ezekiel had been in and out of a suspected case of croup or respiratory infection, as well, a mild flu over a two-week period leading up to his parents, David and Collet, calling 911 when Ezekiel stopped breathing. He started breathing again, after coughing up some mucus, shortly after the first emergency call. His parents can be heard deciding to rush him to the hospital instead of waiting for an ambulance. The call also records the sound of Ezekiel’s breathing as dad put the phone near his son’s mouth to convince the operator that he was in fact breathing. Dr. Sauvageau, a leading forensic pathologist and expert in the areas of asphyxia and hypoxic and anoxic injury, listened to the breathing sounds on the recording to help her piece together the likely cause of Ezekiel’s breathing constriction.
En route to the hospital, Ezekiel stopped breathing again, and 911 was called a second time. The family met the ambulance on the highway approximately 10 minutes from the Cardston Hospital. Mom performed CPR up to the time the paramedics took over. The ambulance was not equipped to establish an airway in a child Ezekiel’s age, because the Alberta Government had recently taken over the ambulance service across the province. This equipment had been destocked against the will of the paramedics, and as a result, the child was without air for over eight minutes. This failed paramedic intervention is characterized by Dr. Sauvageau as a medical misadventure. It’s sad that Alberta Health Services attempted to hid the real cause of death….