On March 18th, 2012, physicians at Alberta Children’s Hospital made the always-difficult decision to remove 19-month-old Ezekiel Stephan from life support after five days under their care. Carrying the diagnosis of brain death, there was sadly no life to support at that point. The events that led to his tragic death are currently the focus of an ongoing trial where Ezekiel’s parents stand charged with “failing to provide the necessaries of life.” If convicted, they face up to five years in prison as well as loss of custody of their remaining children.
The charges against the Stephan family are based on concerns that they failed to seek appropriate medical care while he suffered from bacterial meningitis, a deadly infection involving the brain and spinal cord, for several days. Revelations from court testimony so far have revealed that the Ezekiel’s parents chose instead to treat him at home with various herbal remedies. This isn’t surprising considering that Ezekiel is also unvaccinated and his grandfather operates a notorious herbal supplement company which sells cures for bipolar disorder and autism.
So far the jury has heard from a nurse family friend who visited the home a few days before Ezekiel died and who recommended that they bring him to a doctor for possible meningitis. Instead he was brought to a local naturopathy clinic and received an herbal concoction meant to “boost the immune system.” Only once the poor child had stopped breathing did the family call 911, but it was too late. Testimony from Alberta Children’s Hospital pediatricians revealed that he was likely already brain dead by the time he arrived by emergency transport.
So who is to blame for Ezekiel’s suffering and death? Certainly his parents, and their warped anti-medicine world view, should be held accountable. But this tragic case also raises serious concerns about a system which licenses practitioners of pseudomedicine and allows them to practice their dangerous nonsense on vulnerable children. Adding to the controversy, Ezekiel’s parents are now claiming that a conspiracy between the Crown and the pharmaceutical industry may be at work.