Dad who gave dying son maple syrup instead of medicine hawking controversial supplement after jail
David Stephan (Facebook)

A man who spent four months in jail for treating his deathly ill son with natural remedies instead of medicine is back to pushing his family's nutritional supplements -- which they claim treats mental illness.

David Stephan and his wife were convicted last year of failing to provide the necessities of life to their 19-month-old son, Ezekial, who died nearly five years ago.

The 33-year-old Stephan appeared Tuesday at a health food store in Prince George, British Columbia, where he promoted EMPowerplus, a nutritional supplement developed by a company co-founded by his father, reported CBC.

Truehope Nutritional Support describes EMPowerplus, which is basically a mixture of vitamins and minerals, as "a natural alternative to pharmaceutical medications" that can be used to manage bipolar disorder, ADD/ADHD and stress.

Critics say the company's claims about the supplement are not backed by reliable scientific testing, and Truehope has threatened to sue a mental health writer who wrote critically about her experience buying and taking the supplement.

Health Canada issued warnings about EMPowerplus in 2003 and 2007, and the government department unsuccessfully sued in 2004 to stop the company from distributing the product in Canada.

Truehope was found not guilty in 2006 of distributing the supplement without a drug identification number.

Stephan's appearance at Ave Maria provoked controversy, but the store's owner asked critics not to judge the nutritional supplement against the Alberta man's conviction in connection with his son's death.

“Who are we to say, because these are two different things – what happened to his child and his work itself are two different activities," said store owner David Fuller. "Who are we to not be compassionate to that and not be merciful? Here’s a man and his livelihood is affected.”

Fuller said his customers enjoyed Stephan's health and nutrition seminars in the past and hoped he would return.

"He’s very knowledgeable, and we had requests from our customers to bring David back," Fuller said. "Although we had concerns in light of the case last summer that there might be issues, at some point we have to accept the fact that people have made mistakes.”

The 33-year-old Stephan and his wife, Collet, did not seek medical attention for their toddler son until he fell unconscious, and instead tried to treat the boy's illness with natural remedies such as maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, horseradish root, hot peppers, onion, garlic and ginger root.

Prosecutors said the couple also administered EMPowerplus to the dying boy.

The child was airlifted to a hospital after he stopped breathing, but he died five days later from bacterial meningitis.

Fuller hoped critics would keep an open mind about Stephan and the products he sells.

“Our store has products for people’s body, mind and soul," Fuller said. "We want people to get results. This product gets results for people, David Stephan is a representative of that company, and we hope that he continues to help people improve their health and offers an alternative to pharmaceutical medication that doesn’t always work.”

Stephan has said he believes the government prosecuted him and his wife to force parents through the courts — instead of through legislation — to vaccinate their children.

Stephan and his wife, who was sentenced to house arrest, are appealing their conviction.