Another child dead from quackery

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. Unfortunately, due to an all-too-prevalent attitude that views children as more or less the property of the parents, leading to far too much deference to parental “rights” when it comes to their choosing quackery for their children, it’s not at all uncommon for children to suffer the consequences of parents choosing naturopathy instead of medicine. I’ve written about such children victimized by quackery, be it naturopathy, faith healing, or other forms of quackery, far more times than I can remember. It’s depressing to contemplate.

As is this story that hit the news yesterday:

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.

David Stephan, 32, and his wife Collet Stephan, 35, have pleaded not guilty to failing to provide the necessaries of life for 19-month-old Ezekiel, who died in March 2012.

RCMP said at the time that the boy had been ill for a couple of weeks but his parents only called for an ambulance when he stopped breathing.

The Crown alleges the parents fed the boy supplements with an eye dropper, lay down with him and consulted a friend.

Then this happened:

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, according to the Lethbridge Herald. At the time, Ezekiel had become so stiff that he was unable to sit in his car seat and had to lie on a mattress in the back of the family’s vehicle.

Collet told the RCMP that Ezekiel’s condition improved after he took a naturopathic remedy for meningitis, Global reported, but after he took a nap, he stopped breathing. Collet started CPR and David called 911.

In previous media interviews the family has denied that they handled Ezekiel’s illness inappropriately and said they were “blindsided” by the charges in 2013.

In another story:

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

One wonders what “remedies” that this naturopath gave Ezekiel that would take care of viral meningitis. What herbs? What supplements? Was it homeopathy? After all, homeopathy is an integral part of naturopathy. It turns out that they fed Ezekiel water with maple syrup, juice with frozen berries and a mixture of apple cider vinegar, horse radish root, hot peppers, mashed onion, garlic and ginger root, and apparently they thought that this would do something. All I can think of is the sheer hubris, not to mention the malpractice of not even examining the child. After all, naturopaths keep saying that they want to be primary care providers, the equivalent of family practice physicians or pediatricians; yet here we have a naturopath who didn’t even do the most basic thing a physician should do when confronted with a sick patient, particularly if it’s a patient suspected of having something as serious as viral meningitis, which is to examine the patient. After all, it might be bacterial meningitis, which is even more serious.

Also, who knows who the naturopath was who treated the child? There are multiple naturopaths in Lethbridge, including at least Cindy Cervanka, Clayton J. Koganow, and Tracy Pike. Unfortunately, none of the news reports mentions who the naturopath was who treated Ezekiel. That’s unfortunate. Of course, perusing the websites I could find, they all appear equally quacky; so it doesn’t really matter.

It also turns out that the Stephans didn’t just consult quacks. They sold their own quackery:

The Stephans run a nutritional supplements company called Truehope Nutritional Support Inc. out of Raymond, Alta.

Health Canada launched an unsuccessful court case in 2004 to try to stop the distribution of the company’s supplement Empowerplus — a product the company claims can manage mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder — and also issued warnings about it.

In 2006, the company was found not guilty of distributing Empowerplus without a drug identification number.

Court also heard the Stephans tried treating Ezekiel with Empowerplus.

Curious and not having heard of Truehope, I wandered over to the Truehope website to see just what the Stephans have been selling. My, there are a lot of dubious claims on the website. For instance, the site claims to be able to treat ADD/ADHD, anxiety, autism, bipolar disorder, depression, fatigue, and stress. Of course, all supplement manufacturers claim to be able to treat fatigue and stress. They’re conditions sufficiently amorphous that it’s easy to claim to treat them. I also notice that Truehope appears to make claims primarily to treat psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders. Certainly, not even the company makes any claims for efficacy against infectious diseases, certainly not against something as severe as meningitis. To me, this makes the parents’ actions even more irresponsible, given that even they don’t claim that their supplements can do anything for what their child suffered from.

They do have a whole lot of nonsense on their site about the “nutrient theory of mental illness.” “Theory.” You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Certainly, it doesn’t mean some half-assed idea that you pulled out of your nether regions based on cherry picked science. For example:

Numerous studies have been done on the relationship between single nutrients and mental health, but none have ever turned up a “miracle nutrient.” At Truehope Nutritional Support Ltd., we believe that a broad spectrum of deficiencies results in the symptoms of mood disorders, not a deficiency of one single nutrient. And since a deficiency in one nutrient has been shown to interfere with the absorption and/or metabolism of other nutrients, a chain reaction can result in multiple deficiencies. This is the foundation of the EMPowerplus Advanced™ formulation. It provides a broad spectrum, highly absorbable range of nutrients that are essential to brain function, and it delivers them in a balance that allows inter-dependent nutrients to work together.

Which all sounds impressive on the surface, but is a claim that’s very difficult to falsify—or to prove. In other words, it’s typical of the claims of herbalists, who like to make assertions about “synergy” between all the various natural products in ground up herbs without ever explaining how they actually demonstrated that “synergy.” Of course, they never actually do demonstrate it.

So what’s in these magic supplements? Shockingly little of interest, actually. If you look at the list of ingredients for EMEmpowerPlus Advanced, for example, contains nothing but a bunch of vitamins and minerals. It might as well be Flintstones vitamins! OK, not quite. It also contains choline bitartrate, DL-phenylalanine, citrus bioflavonoids, inositol, L-glutamine, L-methionine, grape seed extract, ginkgo biloba leaf, and other things.

So the trial continues and is expected to continue until March 24.

In the meantime, David and Collet Stephan are on Facebook indulging in self-pity and conspiracy mongering. They claim they’re being persecuted by a shadowy group:

This group is known to put on seminars that are sponsored by various pharmaceutical companies for the purpose of defaming and disparaging any treatments that are outside of allopathic medicine including chiropractic, naturopathic and homeopathic medicine. One of these seminars was solely dedicated to the defaming of my father’s company that is known as Truehope.

And:

So the question is, will we ever be free? Free from the turmoil… free from the attacks… free from being plagued with anger and hatred. Yahshua (Jesus) once said “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free”. Free from what one must ask? Free from the Romans or any other tyrannical government of that time or ours? Sure! But before that can take place, the people that are in bondage to these external forces must first be free from themselves. It is us as individuals that place ourselves in bondage. Why? Because we do not accept the truth and as such we are bound by our emotions, our anger, our hatred, our fears and we are no longer in control, but rather being controlled from within. We are subjected to internal slavery. It is because we do not live the truths that we are to Love unconditionally as we are loved and that we are to forgive others as we are forgiven. To show compassion, mercy, charity to others as we would hope for ourselves. We do not accept the truth that we are all Divine Sons and Daughters of a Divine Creator. This perspective alone should change our outlook toward others regardless of who they are or what they have done. Regardless of their ideologies and how destructive they may be. They are Divine Sons and Daughters just as you and I are, and as such, they are entitled to our unconditional Love and forgiveness just as much as any other Divine Creation.

A better question is whether you deserve to be free. After all, your negligence killed an innocent child.