The Death of a Toddler In the Hands of Homeopathic, Anti-Vaxxer Parents Is F*cking Infuriating

A 19-month-old boy dies of meningitis when his hyper-religious parents refuse to take him to the hospital but instead feed him maple syrup and apple cider vinegar. Now the parents are claiming persecution, but they don't have a prayer.
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A 19-month-old boy dies of meningitis when his hyper-religious parents refuse to take him to the hospital but instead feed him maple syrup and apple cider vinegar. Now the parents are claiming persecution, but they don't have a prayer.

If you're someone who trusts homeopathic remedies to the exclusion of all or even many advancements in modern medicine, you're incredibly foolish. If you're someone who has faith in bizarre religious superstition rather than an acceptance of proven scientific fact, you're incredibly foolish. If you're someone who doesn't vaccinate your child because you think vaccines are dangerous, you're both incredibly foolish and a potential threat to those around you. Now, if you're a believer in bizarre religious superstition who trusts only homeopathic remedies and who won't vaccinate and you have a child with meningitis whom you refuse to get medical attention -- well, you're foolish, a threat to those around you, a grossly irresponsible parent and, oh yeah, a fucking criminal.

Early on Tuesday the story of little Ezekiel Stephan began circulating on the internet and social media. If by some chance it hasn't already been posted all over your Facebook wall, let's bring you up to speed: Ezekiel is the 19-month-old son of David and Collet Stephan, staunch Mormons living in Canada who own a company called Truehope Nutritional Support, which deals in natural, homeopathic remedies and nutritional supplements. Not surprisingly, they're big believers in home cures and have largely eschewed modern medicine, a fine -- if laughably misguided -- decision for themselves as adults but a horribly irresponsible one to be forced upon their four children. Correction -- their three children, as they're now facing charges in the death of Ezekiel, who came down with meningitis and wasn't taken to a hospital but was instead treated at home by the Stephans with, among other things, maple syrup and apple cider vinegar. Because that totally works against meningitis. 

Ezekiel died back in 2012, when the Stephans refused to grasp the severity of his diagnosis by a nurse friend of theirs and instead chose to "boost his immunity" through a mixture of “water with maple syrup, juice with frozen berries and finally a mixture of apple cider vinegar, horseradish root, hot peppers, mashed onion, garlic and ginger root." Needless to say, this nonsense cocktail had literally no effect whatsoever against the disease -- which occurs when there's an inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, usually because of an infection -- and Ezekiel's condition continued to deteriorate until he stopped breathing altogether. Only then did the Stephans finally call for an ambulance. It was too late, of course, and doctors had to remove the boy from life support after five days with no improvement. 

Now here's where the already-aggravating becomes downright infuriating. With the trial getting underway, David and Collet Stephan are lashing out at the Canadian government and calling the charges part of an ongoing vendetta against them aimed at shutting down their business. Truehope Nutritional Support markets something called "EMpowerplus," which the couple claims can successfully treat everything from bipolar disorder to ADHD to full-on childhood autism. Prosecutors say the Stephans even fed some of this crap to Ezekiel in an effort to cure his meningitis, because that's something responsible parents do. (If they were looking for an eventual testimonial from their son to put on the packaging, well, that's not coming.) The Stephans, meanwhile, say they've been unfairly targeted by the government, with Health Canada previously filing an unsuccessful case against the company in an effort to stop the sale of EMpowerplus and issuing warnings against its use.

In a Facebook post from the family dated March 6th -- on a page called "Prayers for Ezekiel" -- the Stephans ask, "Will we ever be free?" and claim they can't sleep because of all the unfair persecution they've endured. (Ezekiel, by the way, is still sleeping soundly.) They lash out at their arch-nemesis Health Canada, which they blame for seizing their "mental health supplements" at the Canadian border back in 2003. They say this interdiction resulted in "numerous suicides" as "over 3,000 Canadians were relying on (their) products in favor of pharmaceutical medications." The rest of the post is a rambling exercise in melodramatic self-pity, as the Stephans crowdsource for defense money and cite Jesus, Gandhi and an "awakening taking place" as inspiration to keep fighting the good fight against -- who the fuck knows what. The people who don't want them to be afforded the opportunity to kill any more of their kids or anyone else's kids, I suppose. 

And the kids of others -- that's where the infuriating becomes bloody-eyed, white-hot-flaming enraging. Because all of this could have of course been avoided, had David and Collet Stephan simply allowed the HiB vaccine to be administered to their young son. The HiB vaccine has been around since 1977 and is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines; according to researchers, before the vaccine was made available as many as 20,000 children came down with HiB -- which causes meningitis -- and around 1,200 of them died. Unlike EMpowerplus or maple syrup and horseradish root, HiB actually, you know, prevents meningitis. But the Stephans don't see it that way and have actually criticized the case against them as a backdoor attempt to intimidate parents into vaccinating their kids. The fact that there are parents out there who need to be intimidated into vaccinating their children -- for the sake of those kids and every kid those kids come into contact with -- is one of the great mysteries of our increasingly intellectually bankrupt society.

David and Collet Stephan are hyper-religious, conspiratorial wack-jobs and dangerous parents who, make no mistake, need to have their remaining children taken away from them immediately. If the current prosecution of them is successful, that's very likely what will happen -- and they'll have only themselves to blame. There's an argument to be made that as an adult you can believe whatever the hell you want. But as soon as that begins negatively impacting those who can't defend themselves or make their own, hopefully more rational decisions, all bets are off. You want to endanger your child by not vaccinating him, then feeding him snake oil when he predictably gets deathly ill? That's when the adults have every right to step in and be the responsible party you refuse to. 

The Stephans are no different than those parents who pray over their deathly ill children. They simply put the life of their little boy not only in the hands of God but in the hands of pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo. Tragically, the result is the same.