Trial Underway in Holistic Medicine Death of Alberta Child

An Alberta mother is currently on trial over the death of her seven-year-old son in March 2013.   Tamara Lovett, aged 47, was arrested after her son Ryan died of a Group A streptococcus infection, a condition which doctors insist would have been treatable with proper medical care.   Instead of taking her son to a doctor however, Tamara Lovett chose to treat her son's condition herself using homeopathic health remedies even though friends urged her to reconsider.  

According to police, Ryan Lovett had never been taken to a doctor for annual checkups or previous treatment.  Even after he developed a strep throat infection that kept him bedridden for ten days, his mother insisted on treating him herself.   It was only after he started experiencing a seizure in the morning of March 2 that she finally called emergency services.  He was later pronounced dead in hospital.   Tamara Lovett was then charged with failing to provide the necessities of life and criminal negligence causing death.

The trial is expected to reopen a debate that has already polarized opinions about the use of natural medicine in treating children.  Earlier this year, David and Collet Stephan were found guilty by a jury in Lethbridge, Alta., of failing to provide the necessaries of life for their 19-month-old son Ezekiel.   After Ezekiel became ill, his parents treated him with remedies containing hot peppers, horseradish, and onions.  Despite objections from friends, one of whom was a nurse, the treatment continued until the child died of meningitis.   The Stephans have since launched an appeal arguing that their conviction sets a dangerous precedent in Canada.

In the meantime, bioethicist Juliet Guichon of the University of Calgary suggests that existing law should be taken even further by prosecuting friends and family members who fail to warn police that a child is in danger.   

"The legal system requires citizens to alert child welfare that a child is in danger. Citizens just have to call 911 and they can do so anonymously," she said in an interview with CTV News.  "Perhaps the police will find evidence that someone had reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the child was in need of intervention and yet did not report this information. If so, then will charges be laid against that person for failing to report the child needed help?"

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