Because sitting back and doing nothing while your child dies of meningitis is considered unacceptable in most civilized societies, a jury in Canada just convicted a mother and father of failing to provide for their 2-and-a-half-year-old son when he became deathly ill four years ago. Maybe you remember this story: David and Collet Stephan are religious fundamentalists who own a company called Truehope Nutritional Support, which sells natural, homeopathic remedies and nutritional supplements. Not surprisingly, the Stephans favor homeopathic remedies over ones that, you know, actually work, and when their son Ezekiel came down with meningitis they tried to cure him by feeding him "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." This nonsense cocktail was supposed to boost his immunity. Needless to say, it didn't work.
During their trial, the defense argued that the couple were loving parents who simply had no idea how sick their son was. They maintained that they figured he just had the flu. (Not that treating the flu with maple syrup would be any more successful.) Unfortunately for them, the prosecution produced a friend of the couple's who's a registered nurse and she explained that she did, in fact, warn the Stephans what was likely wrong with their child. The four-man, eight-woman jury voted to convict in less than 48 hours. Collet Stephan reportedly broke down in tears as the verdict was read. David Stephan, however, as he's done in the past, took to Facebook to rail against the injustice of it all: prosecuting parents for doing what they think is best for their kids, the court's verdict, the supposedly chilling effect this will have on moms and dads the nation over. You know, that kind of self-pitying horseshit.
"Dear Jury, I deeply love each and every one of you," the post on David Stephan's personal Facebook page begins, thanking the jury for its time. "I only wish that you could've seen how you were being played by the crowns (sic) deception, drama and trickery." According to Stephan, the verdict against him and his wife opens up "the flood gates" for any parent anywhere in Canada to be prosecuted for not engaging in "parenting as seen fit by the government." "It is only about whether or not it can be proven that at some point your child's life was endangered," he writes. "And if so you may find yourselves in the same boat as us." So there you have it. If you were wondering whether David and Collet Stephan learned a damn thing from this ordeal -- maybe that feeding a toddler smoothies when he's incredibly sick rather than getting him to a hospital is negligent parenting or that you should listen to a nurse when she tells you your kid has meningitis -- the answer is apparently an unequivocal no.
This isn't the the first time the Stephans have used Facebook as an unofficial press secretary. Early last, David Stephan penned another one-for-the-ages rant decrying the Canadian government for allegedly pursuing a vendetta against him and his wife. Stephan claimed that the crown had it in for their business. Among other things, Truehope Nutritional Support sells a product called "EMpowerplus," which the Stephans claim can cure everything from bipolar disorder to ADHD to full-on childhood autism. They reportedly even fed some of this stuff to Ezekiel while he was in the throes of meningitis, figuring it would make him all better. The Stephans have been at war with the Canadian government over EMpowerplus for some time, maintaining that in 2003 it stopped a shipment of the supplement at the Canadian border. This interdiction, they say, resulted in "numerous suicides" as "over 3,000 Canadians were relying on (their) products in favor of pharmaceutical medications." Apparently one thing EMpowerplus can't cure is melodrama.
The Stephans are now expressing fear not only for Canadian parents everywhere, who they're sure this verdict will negatively impact because they seem to assume that everyone is as dumb and irresponsible as they are, but for their other three children. The fate of the couple's boys -- eight-year-old Ezra, three-year-old Ephraim and one-year-old Enoch, for those needing ideas for biblical names beginning with "E" -- is up in the air at the moment given that their parents are looking down the barrel of five years in prison. David Stephan says he and his wife may appeal the decision but they haven't decided just yet. About his children being without their parents, he says, "It is a heart-wrenching thought," adding, "I don't see how this is doing the public any good."
Well, let's see if we can explain it for him. First of all, you don't simply go to prison as a means of keeping the public safe; you go because you deserve to be punished for something you did -- and David and Collet Stephan basically killed their kid. They refused to vaccinate him against meningitis then prayed over him and fed him worthless homeopathic crap when he inevitably got sick -- at one point in the trial, the prosecution described how the family drove a board-stiff and feverish Ezekiel to a "naturopathic" clinic rather than a hospital -- and that means they go to prison. More than that they're completely unrepentant, which means that while they may not be a direct threat to the general public they're absolutely an ongoing threat to the rest of their children. The more time those kids spend away from these two wack-jobs, probably the better. Finally, it can be argued that the Stephans are at least an indirect danger to the public because their company peddles snake-oil to gullible doofs.
Regardless, the Stefans deserve what's coming to them. And no amount of melodramatic self-pity from either of them will change that. No matter what sentence they receive, at least it won't be death. And that's what they gave their son: a death sentence.