Alberta couple who let son die of meningitis found guilty.

David and Collet Stephans

David and Collet Stephans

Back in 2012 an Alberta, Canada couple were brought up on charges of “failing to provide the necessaries of life” after their 19-month old son died of meningitis. It seems David Stephan and his wife Collet don’t believe in traditional medicine and instead insisted on using home remedies to cure what they thought was a case of the flu or croup even though a family friend who is a nurse said it was likely meningitis.

Their case finally went to trial in March of this year:

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.

Court heard the couple on tape explaining to the police officer that they prefer naturopathic remedies because of their family’s negative experiences with the medical system.

It took having their son stop breathing to get them to call for an ambulance. He was airlifted to a local hospital and put on life support for 5 days until it was clear he wasn’t going to recover. He suffered for two and a half weeks before he stopped breathing. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that David works for a  nutritional supplements company.

Yesterday the jury came back with a guilty verdict:

The four-man, eight-woman jury had been deliberating since Monday afternoon. There was a gasp in the courtroom as the decision from the jurors came down. Observers in the courtroom’s gallery started to cry.

The defence argued the couple were loving, responsible parents who simply didn’t realize how sick the little boy was.

The Crown said the Stephans didn’t do enough to ensure Ezekiel received the medical help he needed. The prosecution noted that the Stephans had been warned by a friend who was a registered nurse that the boy probably had meningitis.

The maximum penalty for failing to provide the necessaries of life is five years in prison.

Normally in cases of parents letting their sick kids die rather than getting them medical attention it’s due to religious reasons and often the parents get off because of that. I’m not sure if it’s because this is Canada or the fact that the reasoning these folks used was not religious in nature that they ended up being convicted, but it makes for a refreshing change of pace. Sentencing hasn’t been announced yet, but with any luck they’ll get the maximum to give them time to reconsider some of their deeply held beliefs.

I’m often asked what’s the harm in letting people hold onto their ignorance. This is a prime example of said harm. Alas it’s often their kids who end up suffering the consequences of that ignorance.

Pat Robertson tells viewer to try to get atheist grandkid enrolled in Christian school.

Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network and its signature show The 700 Club, has a long record of saying douchey things. So much so that I rarely comment on them anymore, but this one was particularly aggravating.

In a segment where he replies to letters from viewers he responds to one from a grandmother concerned that her grandkid is being raised as an atheist by his father so she’s seeking Pat’s advice on what to do about it. Pat’s idea? Try to get the kid away from the atheist parent and into a Christian school or a vacation Bible school.

Christians pitch a fit everytime Richard Dawkins says that he feels parents shouldn’t force their religion on their kids, but I’ve never heard Dawkins suggest that someone should actively try to get a child away from a parent intent on indoctrinating them. If he had you’d never hear the end of it.

If you’re going to argue that Christians, or members of any other faith, should have the right to raise their kids in their faith then the same should be true for atheists. Pat Robertson should’ve told that grandmother to mind her own business, but that would’ve been only fair. He’s not interested in fair, he’s only concerned with spreading Christianity as far as he can before he kicks the bucket because he thinks it’ll earn him extra whipped cream on his Sundaes in heaven or something. He also knows that if you can hook ’em when they’re young they’re more likely to stay with it as adults. To many Christians children are like Pokemon: Gotta catch ’em all.

 

SEB Safety Tip: Don’t use gasoline to rid your child of head lice.

People like this mother are the reason why signs like this exist.

People like this mother are the reason why signs like this exist.

And if you do decide that gasoline is the only appropriate way to get rid of head lice, don’t do it next to a space heater. Because bad things may happen:

According to an affidavit filed in the case, the incident happened in January. The affidavit says a space heater ignited the gasoline and burned the 5-year-old girl and Suggs.

Haileyville Police said the child suffered second- and third-degree burns over 60 percent of her body.

The mind boggles at what possible thought process could have concluded this was a good idea. The article doesn’t say if the mother was drunk or high as a kite, but it’s the only thing I can think of that would explain such abject stupidity. In fact there’s a part of me that hopes either alcohol or drugs played a role in this because the thought that anyone could be that stupid without being impaired is too frightening to consider. 

I know times are tough and all and I could maybe, sorta see the logic behind trying to use gasoline to kill head lice if you can’t afford a proper licecide treatment because (amazingly enough) the idea actually shows up in medical journals as far back as 1917. That said, you can find decent over-the-counter treatments at your local CVS for under $20, but perhaps they didn’t have $20 and did have a container of gasoline in the garage. Assuming for the moment that is the case that still doesn’t explain why you would use the gasoline anywhere near a running space heater. Granted it was January so maybe they couldn’t afford their heating bill and the space heater was the only thing keeping them from freezing, but you’d still think that common sense would dictate that gas near a heat source is a bad idea.

I’m not the world’s greatest parent and I’ve made my fair share of mistakes over the years, but this sort of thing isn’t rocket science. Just a little time spent thinking your cunning plan through would avoid an awful lot of pain for both you and your kids.

Too Much Faith Will Make You Crazy: Try, Try, Try Again Edition.

Nothing fails quite like prayer. If you’re facing a crisis of some sort and want to do the absolute least thing you can do to help, prayer is your best choice.

It’s a particularly useless thing to do when your kids are are sick and need medical attention:

Herbert and Catherine Schaible belong to a fundamentalist Christian church that believes in faith healing. They lost their 8-month-old son, Brandon, last week after he suffered from diarrhea and breathing problems for at least a week, and stopped eating.

Now I’ve written about dumbshit parents who opted to try and use prayer to heal deathly ill children many times over the years, but this case is different.

This isn’t the first time they’ve tried this:

Four years ago, another son died from bacterial pneumonia.

[…] A jury convicted the Schaibles of involuntary manslaughter in the January 2009 death of their 2-year-old son, Kent. The boy’s symptoms had included coughing, congestion, crankiness and a loss of appetite. His parents said he was eating and drinking until the last day, and they had thought he was getting better.

The Schaibles were sentenced to 10 years’ probation.

You’d think that after they killed their first son by appealing to a God, that either doesn’t care or doesn’t exist, they’d have learned their lesson and made sure to not make that mistake again.

At a hearing Monday, a judge told the couple they had violated the terms of their probation, noting the Schaibles had told investigators that they prayed to God to make Brandon well instead of seeking medical attention.

“You did that once, and the consequences were tragic,” Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerner said, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

I’d find the attempted defense of these two idiots by their lawyer hilarious if it weren’t for the fact that they’ve killed two kids so far:

“There are way more questions than answers at this point. We haven’t seen the autopsy report. We don’t know the cause of death of this child,” Jayaraman told The Associated Press. “What we do know is Mr. and Mrs. Schaible are distraught, they are grieving, they are tremendously sad about the loss of their most recent baby.”

“Nobody argues that these aren’t very loving, nurturing parents,” she said Tuesday. “Whether their religion had anything to do with the death of their baby, we don’t know.”

The hell we don’t. They made it pretty clear that they wasted days praying instead of seeking medical attention. Their church has a sermon on its website called  “Healing — From God or Medicine?” which states that it is a “definite sin to trust in medical help and pills”. That sounds like their religion being involved to me.

These morons violated the terms of their probation and are probably headed to jail with an entirely new manslaughter charge tacked on to boot. Their seven other children are currently in foster care which is probably for the best considering the judge thinks these two are “a danger to their children — not to the community, but to their own children.”  I couldn’t agree more.

And to think my mom only ever hired a clown for my birthday parties…

… and she didn’t even do that until I was 21 years old!

Cops: Mom charged after stripper party – Times Union.

SOUTH GLENS FALLS — Police arrested the mother who hired two strippers for her son’s 16th birthday party, according to the Glens Falls Post-Star.

The newspaper reported that Judy H. Viger, 33, of Gansevoort, was charged with five counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

The Nov. 3 party at Spare Time Bowling Alley featured two exotic dancers performing for partygoers as young as 14. The dancers stripped to thong underwear and bras and gave lap dances to some of the teenagers. A photo taken with a cellphone camera shows an upside-down dancer with a teen’s head between her knees and her head between his legs.

At least she meant well.

Teaching your kids about sex can be difficult.

As for this mom, I’m a little torn about what she did. Her son is 16. Chances are he’s already had sex a few times by that age. In Michigan he’s at the age of consent, though in New York (where this took place) he’s still a year away.

Personally, I probably wouldn’t hire a stripper for my kid. For one I have a daughter, but even if I had a son I’d probably still not do it. Not because I think its wrong, but because he’d probably find it awkward. It’s similar to watching a sex scene in an R-rated movie with your parents in the room. It’s just awkward. But maybe this kid and his mom don’t find such things awkward.

If the mom didn’t let the parents of the other kids know about this ahead of time then I can definitely see why they might be pissed, but if they knew and didn’t have a problem with it…   well…

Granted I think 14 is a bit young for this sort of thing, but these women stayed in their bras and thongs. We live in an age when they can see as much in the annual Victoria’s Secret fashion show which aired last December on CBS at 10PM EST. True, the Victoria Secret girls weren’t shaking their money-makers in anyone’s face, but it’s only slightly more upscale.

At best I can only say that it’s not what I would’ve done, but the fact that someone else did doesn’t outrage me.

The anti-vaxers are holding Pox Parties to intentionally infect their kids.

The malaria party was David's idea.

Cartoon by XKCD (http://xkcd.com/51/).

I write about stupid people pretty often so I’m not often surprised by what they do, but this surprised me. Apparently there is a group on Facebook which you can join to find out about Pox Parties in your area or to arrange to have infected items sent to you from other anti-vaxer parents. All so you can deliberately infect your kids with a potentially serious disease:

CBS 5 Investigates mail order diseases – CBS 5 – KPHO.

The Facebook group is called “Find a Pox Party in Your Area.” According to the group’s page, it is geared toward “parents who want their children to obtain natural immunity for the chicken pox.”

On the page, parents post where they live and ask if anyone with a child who has the chicken pox would be willing to send saliva, infected lollipops or clothing through the mail.

I’m sure the postal workers are just thrilled that people are sending packages containing items with a highly contagious pathogen through the postal service.  I’m willing to bet that’s a violation of a number of both federal and local laws, but I haven’t actually checked to find out.

But even if it isn’t illegal to send infectious diseases through the mail the thing these idiots aren’t considering is this: If you allow other people to expose their kids to your infected child and one of those other kids develops complications and/or dies, you could be held liable for the injury/death. 

It seems these parties have been going on for a few years now and the folks over at the Science Based Medicine blog wrote about it last year. Here’s the part on Pox Parties and liability:

“Chicken pox parties” present an interesting case. For the parent supplying the diseased child to the “party” the prospect of liability should be particularly troubling. She is not negligently spreading her child’s disease — she isintentionally spreading it. Intentional torts automatically subject the defendant to the possibility of punitive damages, which are usually based on the defendant’s net worth. The whole point is to make sure the defendant is financially punished for her actions — in other words, to take enough money that it hurts.

Punitive damages are on top of actual damages, such as medical bills, and pain and suffering. As in the above hypothetical, while the recovery of parents subjecting their children to the virus can be reduced — perhaps eliminated in this case — because of their actions, the award to the children cannot, and it is the children who are entitled to punitive damages. It could turn out to be a very expensive party.

But hey, it’s not like people sue at the drop of a hat in this country, right? And, really, what’s the worst thing that can happen from Chickenpox? Other than it could kill you (about 100 deaths a year on average), complications can include herpes zoster (shingles) later in life, secondary bacterial infections in the lesions (usually superficial, but can lead to bacteremia), it can cause a number of neurological disorders including acute cerebellar ataxia, and resperitory  (varicella pneumonia) and liver complications. These tend to occur more often in adults who catch the disease and people (kids and adults) who are immunocompromised, but it can happen to anyone.

I want to emphasize the possibility of your kid developing shingles as an adult, because a lot of folks who are deliberately infecting their kids seem to think they’re giving them life-long immunity. You aren’t. Your body can’t eliminate the chickenpox virus, instead it becomes dormant and could return as herpes zoster — shingles — later in life:

Varicella zoster virus can become latent in the nerve cell bodies and less frequently in non-neuronal satellite cells of dorsal root, cranial nerve or autonomic ganglion, without causing any symptoms. Years or decades after a chickenpox infection, the virus may break out of nerve cell bodies and travel down nerve axons to cause viral infection of the skin in the region of the nerve. The virus may spread from one or more ganglia along nerves of an affected segment and infect the corresponding dermatome (an area of skin supplied by one spinal nerve) causing a painful rash. Although the rash usually heals within two to four weeks, some sufferers experience residual nerve pain for months or years, a condition called postherpetic neuralgia. Exactly how the virus remains latent in the body, and subsequently re-activates is not understood.

Throughout the world the incidence rate of herpes zoster every year ranges from 1.2 to 3.4 cases per 1,000 healthy individuals, increasing to 3.9–11.8 per year per 1,000 individuals among those older than 65 years. Antiviral drug treatment can reduce the severity and duration of herpes zoster if a seven- to ten-day course of these drugs is started within 72 hours of the appearance of the characteristic rash.

The chicken pox vaccine is 90% effective in preventing the disease and nearly 100% effective in insuring that the 10% who do catch it don’t suffer complications from it. Why would you choose to intentionally infect your kids with a disease that could potentially be so dangerous when there is a vaccine that will most likely keep them from ever catching it in the first place? The only reason I can think of is stupidity.

As for mailing infected items back and forth, that’s criminally idiotic:

CBS 5 producers found others asking for more dangerous pathogens. Two people on the Facebook page were looking for measles, mumps, and rubella.

I guess stupidity is also contagious.

Soldier uses torture on his 4-year-old daughter.

27-year-old U.S. Army Sergeant Joshua Ryan Tabor has served 15 months in Iraq and apparently he picked up some less than appropriate parenting techniques while he was there:

“We had a report of [Tabor] walking around his neighborhood holding a Kevlar helmet and threatening to bust out windows,” Stancil told ABCNews.com today. “In the process of talking to Tabor’s girlfriend about what was going on, we learned that he had also been abusing his daughter.”

Stancil said that when the cops coaxed the little girl out of the bathroom they saw that she was covered in “multiple bruises pretty much all over her body.”

“She was very open with us,” Stancil said of the young girl, whose name is not being released because she is a minor. “She basically came right out and said, ‘Daddy does this to me. He uses his hands.'”

Both the girl and the father admitted to the torture, even detailing how Tabor would sit the girl on the edge of the bathroom sink and hold her head down until it was nearly submerged in water, dunking her if she refused to recite the alphabet, said Stancil.

Yes, the terrible thing this little girl did that prompted her punishment was refusing to recite the alphabet.

But at least Tabor is being upfront and honest about what he’s done:

Tabor told authorities that “his purpose was to punish her by putting her in the water because he knows she is afraid of it and he wanted her to cooperate.”

“She said her letters after that,” Tabor told the cops, admitting that he had grown frustrated with the girl after practicing the letters for “approximately three hours.”

After three hours of practice I’d refuse to say the fucking alphabet as well.

It seems Tabor felt that his daughter was not mentally up to where she should be for her age. And we all know that the best way to motivate a mentally deficient child is by repeatedly dunking their head into a sink full of hot water. Tabor’s girlfriend may also end up facing charges in the incident. She noted that Tabor has an “anger management problem” to police. Gee, ya think?

Oh, and according to investigators, the 4-year-old girl seemed quite articulate and without any developmental problems. Though after living with this asshole for the past couple of months – he has joint-custody in five months increments – she’ll probably need some therapy in the future.

Mom calls police when her son refuses to stop playing video games.

A Ms. Angela Mejia lost her shit when she woke up in the middle of the night to find her 14-year-old son playing video games hours after she had told him to go to bed. Out of frustration she ended up calling 911 to report her son to police:

Mejia’s son – one of four children the 49-year-old is raising alone – was playing “Grand Theft Auto,” an exceedingly violent video in which the gamer assumes the role of ladder-climbing criminal.

An argument ensued as Mejia unplugged her son’s PlayStation. Then, this mad-as-hell mother dialed 911. Police responded and managed to talk the boy into shutting off the game and going to sleep.

“They (police) were just like, ‘Chill out. Go to bed,’ ” the boy told the Herald.

The details in this news item are brief so it’s probably unfair to judge, but I can remember being 14 and getting into arguments with my parents over stuff and I can tell you this: They never had to call the police in to deal with me.

Were my parents perfect? Far from it and there’s probably plenty of situations they could’ve handled better, but then the same could be said of me. They made it clear, however, that they had rules for a reason and that they were doing their best to look out for my better interests whether I could see the truth of that or not at the time. We had our fair share of screaming arguments and there were times I know they were so frustrated as to want to smack me silly, but call the police?

The closest we ever got to that was the one time I stole some candy and rolls of cap-gun caps from a from a store at the age of 8 or 9 — not sure how old I was or what store it was, but my mother will probably remember — after asking my mom to buy them and being told no. Later that day she caught me with them and marched my ass back into that store where she made me return what I hadn’t already used, offer an apology for stealing, and pay for all of it out of what small savings I had. She asked the man at the store if he wanted to press charges, I can remember my heart stopping as I held my breath at the time, and he said that it wouldn’t be necessary as I had just made amends. I don’t recall a lot of my early childhood, but I can clearly remember her telling me how lucky I was that he didn’t want to press charges as we marched right back on out of there. I don’t know if she really would have called the police if the man had said yes or not, but I wouldn’t bet against it even today. There were some things my mother just didn’t abide by and I’m a better man for it.

Somehow I don’t think Ms. Mejia has that kind of fortitude:

Mejia said she approves of athletic-themed videos, but as for “Grand Theft Auto,” she said, “I would never buy that kind of video. No way. I called (police) because if you don’t respect your mother, what are you going to do in your life?”

So not only is the kid disobeying her by staying up late playing video games, but he’s playing games she doesn’t approve of and she doesn’t do anything about it?

I can’t recall at what age I finally allowed Courtney to play Grand Theft Auto III, but I was still working at Ford Motor Company at the time and that was at least four years ago, so she was probably 14 or 15. She was right around the age of the kid in this story at least. Up until that point I hadn’t even allowed her to be in the same room when I was playing the game due to the content. Every now and then she’d ask if she could play it and after much consideration of where she was maturity-wise and the content of the game I eventually said OK. It wasn’t long after that that I got into a rather heated argument with a coworker who suggested that I only had myself to blame if Courtney ended up becoming a prostitute someday because I allowed her to play GTA III, but that’s a whole other story in itself.

The point being that Courtney respected my decision not to allow her to play the game until I felt she was ready for it. She had that respect because I made it clear to her that I had concerns over the content and felt that the time wasn’t right for her to be exposed to it. She wasn’t happy with the decision, but she understood that I wasn’t withholding it just to be a dick. As it turned out, she only wanted to play the game so she could drive around the city crashing cars and doing the stunts. She didn’t care about the actual story at all so she never saw most of the content. She did a few of the missions, but mostly she just took great joy in launching her vehicle off of whatever nearby ramp she could find to watch it smash into traffic and then giggling as though it was the funniest thing in the world.

Again I’m not privy to all the details of Ms. Mejia’s situation so I probably shouldn’t judge, but it seems like she’s doing it wrong.

Nebraska learns a lesson in unintended consequences.

I always say that before you pass a law you should carefully consider whether or not you understand the full implications it holds. What sounds like a great idea may, in practice, come with some unitended consequences.

Take Nebraska’s Child Safe-Haven law. Like similar laws in many other states it allows parents of children who feel they cannot care for them to drop them off at a local hospital without fear of being prosecuted for abandonment. Unlike the other state’s laws, the Nebraska law allows not just parents, but anyone to drop off a kid and there’s no age limit on the child. It sounds like a good idea. After all if a kid isn’t being cared for properly it’s probably best that he be given up to the state.

The trouble is they didn’t anticipate how many people would take advantage of that law nor did they anticipate that parents would drive from other states to drop off their kids:

A Michigan mother drove roughly 12 hours to Omaha, so she could abandon her 13-year-old son at a hospital under the state’s unique safe-haven law, Nebraska officials said Monday.

The boy from the Detroit area is the second teenager from outside Nebraska and 18th child overall abandoned in the state since the law took effect in July.

[…] Last week, a 14-year-old girl from Iowa was left at an Omaha hospital by her grandparents. The girl has since been returned to her family.

It would seem there are a lot of families out there struggling with parenting issues and the Nebraska law is bringing them out into the open. Needless to say this wasn’t what they had intended:

“I certainly recognize and can commiserate and empathize with families across our state and across the country who are obviously struggling with parenting issues, but this is not the appropriate way of dealing with them, whether you’re in Nebraska or whether you’re in another state,” said Todd Landry, who heads the state’s Department of Health and Human Services’ division of children and family services.

[…] State officials have stressed that the safe-haven law should be used only for children in immediate danger; some worry the broadly written law could make the state a dumping ground for unwanted children.

State officials have said parents and caregivers need to understand there is no guarantee an abandoned child could be returned to them if they change their minds. The have encouraged parents to seek other resources before resorting to abandonment.

Lawmakers have spoken about the need to re-examine the law, but the Legislature doesn’t reconvene until January. Gov. Dave Heineman has been reluctant to call a rare special session.

Landry declined to comment on whether a special session was needed, but he did say Monday that a new law is needed to specifically address infants in danger. Two children coming from out of state is clear evidence changes are needed, he said.

“We need to get back to the intent of the law,” he said. “The intent of the law was always the protection of newborns in immediate danger of being harmed.”

It’s those pesky unintended consequences once again. They’ll come back to bite you in the ass every time.

One would hope this would spur a national conversation on what to do to help all the struggling families out there, but chances are they’ll just change the Nebraska law and go back to ignoring the problem. Kids with behavioral problems will continue to not receive the counseling they need and parents will continue to struggle to deal with their kids and the problems will never be resolved.

Poll says parents more worried about video games than beer or porn.

If a poll from the folks at What They Play.com is accurate then there are some parents out there with some seriously fucked up priorities. The press release for the survey is up at GamePolitics.com:

Nearly 3,000 respondents in two separate What They Play polls concluded that drinking beer and watching pornography were less objectionable activities for children than playing certain video games. Further, viewing violence was more acceptable than seeing content involving sex and sexuality within games.

[…] According to WTP’s data, here’s what parents found most offensive in video games:

  • a man and woman having sex (37%)
  • two men kissing (27%)
  • a graphically severed head (25%)
  • multiple use of the F-word (9%).

Seriously, what the fuck? This is especially confusing seeing as there are very few (and none of them mainstream) video games with graphic sexual content in them and yet they’re more concerned about sex in video games than real sex in porn?

Dr. Cherly Olson, co-author of Grand Theft Childhood, says that unfamiliarity may be part of the reason:

Although these findings seem surprising at first, they hint at fears parents have about video games. To some parents, video games are full of unknowable dangers. While researching for Grand Theft Childhood, parents we spoke with in focus groups often bemoaned the fact that they didn’t know how to use game controls – and felt unequipped to supervise or limit video game play. Of course, parents don’t want their children drinking alcohol, but that’s a more familiar risk.

On the plus side, with more and more people playing video games well into adulthood the next generation of parents should be better equipped to make decisions for their kids on what games are appropriate than today’s parents. I suppose the reason I find this so surprising is because I am one of those parents.