Parents Face Charges After Son Dies From Untreated Meningitis

A 19-month-old Canadian boy died in March 2012 after his anti-vaccination parents failed to seek medical attention for his meningitis; instead, the nutritional supplement company owners opted to treat him with home remedies.

Now, four years after his tragically preventable death, Ezekiel’s parents  — David and Collet Stephan — are pleading not guilty to charges of failing to provide the necessaries of life, reports CBC News.

How could something like this have happened? Little Ezekiel had actually been sick on and off for a couple of weeks leading up to his death. The Stephans — who prefer naturopathic remedies because of  negative experiences with the medical system — gave their ailing son a variety of home remedies. These included administering water with maple syrup, juice with frozen berries and finally a mixture of apple cider vinegar, horse radish root, hot peppers, mashed onion, garlic and ginger root as his condition worsened.

A friend, who is a nurse, mentioned to the couple that their child could be showing signs of meningitis — although he wasn’t showing the classic symptoms of the illness. When Ezekiel stopped breathing, the southern Alberta couple performed CPR and sought emergency medical help.

Unfortunately, the ambulance transporting Ezekiel was not properly equipped with an intubation tube, which caused him to be without oxygen for nearly nine minutes. His heart also stopped when he was airlifted to another hospital. Although Ezekiel miraculously pulled through the night, he was removed from life support five days later because the lack of oxygen to his brain had caused him to be brain-dead.

Had his parents sought medical attention sooner, or had the ambulance been properly equipped, the toddler might still be here today. There are so many what-if factors to this tragic story.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC,) meningitis infection may show up as a sudden onset of fever, headache and stiff neck. Oftentimes, other symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • Altered mental status (confusion.)

These symptoms can come on quickly or over a period of several days, but typically they are apparent within three to seven days after exposure. Later symptoms of bacterial meningitis can be very severe, including seizures and coma.

For newborns and babies, these symptoms might be absent or difficult to notice. Infants might appear to be slow or inactive, irritable, vomiting or feeding poorly. A bulging soft spot on a young infant’s head could also be a sign. If you think your infant has any of these symptoms, seek medical attention right away.

RELATED: Immunizations: Is Your Child Safe & Protected?
Michelle Stein

Michelle Stein is a journalist who lives in the Midwest with 3 kids. After quitting her newspaper reporting job more than a year ago, she now works from home as a freelance writer.

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