Alberta couple David and Collet Stephan were charged for failing to provide their son 19-month old Ezekiel, “the necessaries of Life” when he died from meningitis. Under Section 215 of the Criminal Code, parents failing to provide the necessaries of life found guilty may serve up to five years in prison.
The Lethbridge, Alberta courtroom was filled with tension and emotion when the Stephans were accused of letting their son die from bacterial meningitis.
The Alberta toddler’s final days before meningitis death detailed in physician’s report was full of evidence of Ezekiel’s parents failure to provide him with the necessary medical attention necessary for him to survive his illness. Collet was sobbing uncontrollably as David and other relatives soothed her. The Stephans will not be held in custody at this time, but will have to return to court on June 13 when the date for sentencing will be set.
Shannon Prithipaul, the past president of the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association, thinks it would be unlikely for the couple to receive anything close to the maximum. She said that the couple was not deliberately withholding medication nor were they neglecting to feed their child.
Prosecutor Lisa Weich said that all parents are held to a minimum standard of care that all children should expect at all times. She hopes that the public and the community learn a particular lesson from this trial so that no more children will see the same fate as Ezekiel.
Weich pointed out the case did not focus on the connection between the parents and Ezekiel. She said that it was evident that the Stephans loved their son, but that “sometimes love just isn’t enough.” She added that parents should follow the standard or care that is set by the criminal law.
The couple, who live in Cardston County, in the southwestern corner of Alberta at the time, testified they believed Ezekiel had croup or flu. They said they treated him for more than two weeks with remedies that included hot peppers, garlic, onions and horseradish and a product from a naturopathic doctor, who said the product would boost Ezekiel’s immune system.
Ezekiel was rushed to the hospital in Cardston before being taken to the emergency room in Lethbridge and later flown to Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary. He was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and neurological dysfunction, according to the official death report by Dr. Jonathan Gamble.
Ezekiel was taken off life-support and declared dead on March 18.