Two Mormon parents who own a nutritional supplement company are accused of letting their toddler son die from meningitis because they tried to treat him with home remedies instead of medicine.
David and Collet Stephan have pleaded not guilty to charges that they failed to provide the necessities of life to their 19-month-old son Ezekiel, reported CBC News.
Prosecutors in Alberta, Canada, say the couple did not call an ambulance until the boy stopped breathing and instead fed him supplements with an eye dropper and lay down with him.
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Collet Stephan, 35, told police that a friend told the couple their son had meningitis -- inflammation caused by an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
She said they tried to boost the boy's immune system by feeding him with olive leaf extract, whey protein, water with maple syrup and juice with frozen berries.
They finally fed the boy, who was becoming stiff and lethargic after two weeks of illness, a mixture of apple cider vinegar, horseradish root, hot peppers, onion, garlic and ginger root.
The child was airlifted to a hospital after he stopped breathing, and doctors removed him from life support after five days.
Prosecutors played recordings during the couple's trial of Collet Stephan describing their attempt to treat the boy.
The 32-year-old David Stephan and his wife operate Truehope Nutritional Support Inc. from their home in Raymond.
Health Canada unsuccessfully tried in 2004 to stop the company from distributing its supplement Empowerplus, which the couple claims can manage mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder.
The government did issue warnings about the supplement -- which prosecutors say the couple gave to their dying son.
Prosecutors told the court the couple loved their son and were not accused of ignoring or killing him, but they said the parents should have sought medical assistance sooner.
David Stephan has said he believes the government is prosecuting the couple to force parents through the courts -- instead of through legislation -- to vaccinate their children.
He argues that no evidence shows Ezekiel's death would have been prevented if he had been given the vaccine for Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).
Empowerplus, which is basically a mixture of vitamins and minerals, was developed by Truehope, a company founded by David Stephan's property manager father, Anthony Stephan, and a salesman friend, David Hardy.
Critics say the Stephans' claims about the supplement are not backed by reliable scientific testing.
Truehope threatened to sue a mental health writer, Natasha Tracy, who wrote critically of her experience buying and taking the supplement.
David Stephan complains in social media posts that these critics are conspiring to keep them from raising money for their defense through online fundraisers.
If convicted, the couple faces a possible five-year prison term and the loss of their other children.
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