The anti-vaxx crowd are, in a lot of ways, the epitome of scientific ignorance. With a philosophy based on a single bunk study, their anti-medicine sentiment is not just limited to childhood vaccines. For many, it extends to include the whole of medicine, trading vaccines, antibiotics, and other treatments for homeopathic garbage, like plant extracts and roots, and in some truly insane cases, crystals and chanting.
It’s a dangerous view to have. In the Canadian province of Alberta, the hazard of scientific and medical ignorance claimed the life of a 19-month-old boy named Ezekiel Stephan in March 2012.
The boy’s parents, David and Collet Stephan, own a nutritional supplement company. While this on it’s own is not indicative of parental negligence, confidence in their product probably contributed to them forsaking actual medical treatment for home remedies when Ezekiel contract meningitis, an infection that causes inflammation of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. From CBC:
“In a bid to boost his immune system, the couple gave the boy — who was lethargic and becoming stiff — various home remedies, such as water with maple syrup, juice with frozen berries and finally a mixture of apple cider vinegar, horse radish root, hot peppers, mashed onion, garlic and ginger root as his condition deteriorated.”
Ezekiel wasn’t taken in for medical treatment until he stopped breathing, at which point he was airlifted to a nearby hospital. Doctors removed him from life support five days later.
Both David and Collet Stephan have plead not guilty to charges of “failing to provide the necessaries of life.” Both are currently on trial.
The Stephan’s are no stranger to controversy, however. They have been to court before, as proprietors of Truehope Nutritional Support, Inc., a company that produces alternative multivitamins under the premise they are “revolutionizing mind & body health.”
Health Canada, a department of the Canadian government responsible for national public health, unsuccessfully tried to stop Truehope from distributing EMPowerplus. At the time, EMPowerplus was being marketed to treat a variety of mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
EMPowerplus was also at the center of a November 2011 incident in which a schizophrenic man killed his father and severely injured his mother while being treated with EMPowerplus in lieu of antipsychotic medication.
Truehope also threatened to sue mental health writer Natasha Tracy, who criticized the company and the product after trying it herself.
Prosecutors say the Stephan’s used EMPowerplus to treat Ezekiel while the toddler was suffering from meningitis.
David Stephan believes the couple are being prosecuted so the government can force people to give vaccines to their children. He also argues that critics are conspiring against him and his wife to keep them from raising money for their defense and that there is no evidence Ezekiel’s death could have been prevented if the toddler had been given the Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine series.
Haemophilus influenzae infections in infants and young children cause acute bacterial meningitis, as well as bacteremia, pneumonia, epiglottitis. In places where Hib vaccines are routine, Hib infection rates have fallen 90 percent, which has also lead to a stark decrease in pneumonia, epiglottitis, and meningitis rates.
Essentially, had the Stephan’s followed the Public Health Agency of Canda’s routine childhood immunization schedule, Ezekiel would have received all of his necessary Hib vaccinations by age 18 months. Had they done this, their son might still be alive today.