They could serve up to 5 years.
Tragically, a 19-month-old boy died of meningitis back in 2012 after his parents reportedly tried to treat his illness with home remedies like maple syrup, hot peppers, ginger root, and mashed onion.
Now, in what prosecutor Lisa Weich described as an “incredibly sad” case, the Canadian couple officially been charged by a jury for failing to seek proper medical care for their son.
They were found guilty under section 215 of the Criminal Code, for which the maximum sentence is five years in prison for “failing to provide the necessaries of life.” The parents will not be held in custody at this time, but they’ll have to return to court on June 13 when the date for sentencing will be set, according to CBC Calgary.
The core reason behind the guilty verdict was actually due to the parents’ failure to seek medical attention for their son, Ezekiel, rather than their failure to vaccinate him. The parents mistrusted doctors so much that they refused to call for medical help until Ezekiel had stopped breathing, which was weeks after he first showed symptoms of the illness. By that point, it was too late.
The couple argued that they thought Ezekiel had the flu or croup, but instead of taking him to a registered doctor or hospital, they used a product from a naturopathic doctor.
As reported by Canada’s National Post, the naturopathic doctor is now also being investigated for her role in Ezekiel’s death after a group of Canadian doctors urged regulators to take action.
Shannon Prithipaul, the past president of the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association, says she thinks it’s would be unlikely for the couple to receive a sentence close to the maximum (of 5 years).
"It's not like they were not feeding their child or they were purposely withholding medication that they knew would assist the child but didn't," she said to CBC Calgary.
The situation is a sticky one because the parents loved their child. Not only have they been coping with the loss of their son, but they’ve been thrown into the public eye as a tragic example of the limitations of alternative medicine.
"What we hope that the public and the community takes away from this particular trial and the verdict in this trial is that all parents are held to a minimum standard of care that all children should expect at all times," Weich said.
"They definitely, definitely loved their son, but as stated in our closing argument and even in our opening arguments, unfortunately, sometimes love just isn't enough. Parents still have to follow the standard of care that is set by the criminal law."
All around the world, countries are beginning to take more serious action against pseudoscience.
In Australia, a law was passed in January that states no child will be admitted to child care, pre-school, or kindergarten without having been vaccinated.
Uganda took it even a step further — President Yoweri Museveni recently signed an extreme new law that will jail parents who don’t vaccinate their kids for up to 6 months.
When it comes to the efficiency of vaccines, the scientific evidence is there, but the problem doesn’t solely revolve around anti-vaccination. In the tragic case of Ezekiel’s death, it was due to a severe mistrust in the medical community that the little boy didn’t receive proper care.
There’s reason to be concerned about the public’s misplaced trust in pseudoscience. While a vaccination likely could have avoided the meningitis to begin with, an immediate visit to a medical professional could have very well saved the boy’s life.
You might also like: The Truth About the Most Popular Alternative Medicines