Canadians David and Collet Stephan are in court this month to defend their actions of a few years ago, when they used herbs and supplements instead of traditional medicine to treat their son's meningitis. Prosecutors have accused the Stephans of not providing the necessities of life by not contacting medical personnel about their 19-month-old son Ezekiel's condition until it was too late to save him, according to CBC New in Calgary. The Stephans say the courts should respect their family's medical choices.
It all happened four years ago, when Ezekiel became ill and a family friend — who is a nurse — told the parents that the boy likely had meningitis. The Stephans, owners of a nutritional supplement company called Truehope Nutritional Support, used alternative remedies such as olive leaf extract, whey protein, water with maple syrup, and juice made from frozen berries to treat their son's condition. After a few weeks when Ezekiel did not improve, they gave him apple cider vinegar, horseradish root, hot peppers, onion, garlic and ginger root.
It was only when the boy stopped breathing that the Stephans called for emergency medical treatment. Ezekiel was taken by helicopter to a hospital, but it was too late. He was taken off life support five days later.
For their part, the Stephans consider the court case to be a witch hunt against them and their anti-vaccination beliefs. In 2004, Canada's health agency unsuccessfully attempted to stop Truehope from distributing the supplement Empowerplus, which the company claimed has the ability to treat mental conditions such as bipolar disorder. (Incidentally, the Stephans also gave Ezekiel Empowerplus during his illness in an attempt to boost his immune system.)
The Stephans have been pleading their case in the courts and in social media, using a Facebook page called Prayers for Ezekiel, which is helping the couple raise funds to continue their court battle. If Facebook posts are a good representation, public opinion seems to be decidedly against them in this issue, but there are some who steadfastly defend the Stephans and their healthcare choices.