Saturday, March 19, 2016

Anti-Vac Parents on Trial After Child Dies of Meningitis

“They are a poor excuse as parents.”
“Baby killers!”
These were just some of the comments left under the photos of David and Collet Stephan after the Canadian government opened its trial against the couple, charging them of failing to provide the necessities of life to their 19-month-old-son Ezekiel leading to his death on March 18, 2012.

From The Washington Post:
“According to prosecutors, David and Collet stubbornly refused to take their sick son to see a doctor, instead giving him home remedies such as smoothies containing hot pepper, ginger root, horseradish, onion and apple cider vinegar. Even after warnings from a family friend who is a nurse, the anti-vaccine couple took him to a naturopath for echinacea — an herb believed to stimulate the immune system — instead of to a doctor for an exam.

It was only when Ezekiel began to have trouble breathing that they rushed him to a hospital, prosecutors said.

By then, it was too late.

Ezekiel died from bacterial meningitis and empyema, two conditions routinely cured with antibiotics, a medical examiner told the court last week, according to the Lethbridge Herald.

If convicted, the parents could spend up to five years in prison.”

This case is but one example of the recent resurgence in vaccination debates, making a case for vaccination and modern medicine. In a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, 83% of adults say the measles vaccine is safe for healthy children, while only 9% think it is unsafe. What is your opinion on this issue in the United States? To what extent can the free speech and exercise clause be upheld in the face of national health and security?  Should vaccines be compulsory? 


Nevan Samadhana said...

Ezekiel's death could have easily been avoided if his parents weren't so ignorant. I think that they should be given the jail time for neglecting their childs needs. Medicine is not perfect but their childs chances of survival would have been much higher if they simply gave him a vaccine. Sticking to their beliefs led to the death of their son and vaccinations should be a requirement for all children.

Danny Halawi said...

The death of Ezekiel is actually really unfortunate. It just comes to show that even parents might not have the responsibility to properly take care of children, which makes us ask what can we do as a society to make sure that parents are doing their jobs. In America, as well as other countries, I don't think people place a great enough emphasis on how much parenting can affect the future generation. In some cases poor parenting can lead to a child becoming ill-behaved, immoral, or even a criminal. While good parenting can lead to the development of future world leaders. Ultimately, I believe that America and other countries should some how implement a system in which it requires parents to undergo various trainings.

Michael Lanthier said...

It is sad that this is an issue at all. People need to be a little smarter about who and where they get their information from. It is widely known that vaccines do not cause autism and other problems. Like Nevan said, this whole situation could have been completely avoided. Not only do situations like this put the child without vaccines at risk, but also kids around them. The parents should be liable for their child's death and should face some repercussions.

Carolyn Ku said...

I agree that vaccines should be required, not only for the safety of children like Ezekiel, but also for the health of the population as whole. Herd immunity (also called community immunity) is the idea that when a critical number of people in a community are vaccinated against a disease, the whole community is more protected because there is less opportunity for a disease to spread ( This is how people who can't get vaccinated, such as infants or people with a compromised immune system, can stay protected from diseases. When people don't vaccinate, who choose not to have their children vaccinate, it decreases the immunity of the community as a whole and puts infants and immunocompromised people at risk. This is one of the main causes of the measles outbreak in Disneyland last year. According to the CDC, "High population immunity secondary to high measles vaccination coverage has maintained measles elimination in the United States since declaration of elimination in 2000 (5) ... Measles transmission in pockets of unvaccinated persons increases the risk for transmission to vulnerable groups, such as those who cannot be vaccinated because of underlying medical conditions, or infants too young to be vaccinated." ( Herd immunity is one of the main reasons vaccinations should be required.

Huayu Ouyang said...

Although the parents were extremely ignorant about vaccines and chose not to take their child to the hospital for potentially life-saving treatment just because they were against traditional medicine, I don't think that they should necessarily be punished for this with jail time because they have already lost their son from this incident. Even though it was poor parenting, I don't think they were necessarily being neglectful of their child because they truly (but wrongly) believed that natural remedies were better and it seems like they were just trying to do what they thought was right for the child. I think they could potentially be punished with fines instead or laws could be passed either educating parents more on the science behind vaccines or making vaccines compulsory because like Carolyn noted, vaccines are necessarily for herd immunity and the protection of the population as a whole.

Emily Shen said...

While this happened in Canada and not in the United States, the themes of this incident are ones that are familiar to Americans given the anti-vaccination movement that has resurged in recent years.

I love this Onion article:

"I am by no means telling mothers and fathers out there what to do; I’m simply standing up for every parent’s right to make his or her own decision. You may choose to follow the government-recommended immunization schedule for your child, and that’s your decision as a parent. And I might choose to unleash rubella on thousands upon thousands of helpless people, and that’s my decision as a parent."

I think this is pretty similar to a conflict that we struggle with all the time in Model United Nations — when some countries insist that the United Nations is interfering with their own sovereignty. However, the countries who cite "sovereignty" as an excuse are often the countries who are abusing it and affecting the international community at large with their decisions. Unless you are willing to live in isolation with your un-vaccinated child, I don't believe any parent has the right to make such a decision when it so clearly affects the population at large. There are some people who actually CANNOT be vaccinated because of other diseases that debilitate their immune system, and we have to be aware of that as well.

Teague Bredl said...

I don't believe in science, is something a lot of people might say to vaccinations. I don't know if it's absolutely wrong for us to decide what type of treatment their children get, but in life or death cases, they should be held responsible. It is child abuse and neglectful to not provide your kid with the right form of treatment. I have no idea what the current laws are for taking care of your children, but I know it doesn't come up very often, otherwise it wouldn't be newsworthy. Realistically, I don't think it's a common problem for parents to ill-treat their kids on accident but I'm leaning more towards the freedom to do whatever you think is best type of approach.