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.

Kid kicked out of high school and arrested for writing about shooting his neighbor’s pet dinosaur.

OK this is just getting stupid now:

High school student says he was arrested for killing dinosaur in class assignment – NBC12.com – Richmond, VA News

Alex Stone said he and his classmates were told in class to write a few sentences about themselves, and a “status” as if it was a Facebook page.

Stone said in his “status” he wrote a fictional story that involved the words “gun” and “take care of business.”

“I killed my neighbor’s pet dinosaur, and, then, in the next status I said I bought the gun to take care of the business,” Stone said.

Holy Sweet Flying Fuck!I wouldn’t make it through high school these days if this is the norm. As a freshman I once wrote a short story about an unnamed student who might have shot himself in the head in the boy’s bathroom (the ending is somewhat vague) one afternoon because I was bored. It wasn’t even part of an assignment, I just was struck with inspiration and wrote it. Showed it to a couple of friends and it got handed off to a teacher.

Do you know what that teacher did? She encouraged me to submit it along with a couple of other creative efforts I had done to the school district’s creative writing contest. I won a bronze medal for that bit and a gold one for a short reimagining of the fairy tale Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

In my version of the tale, Goldilocks stumbles upon the cabin of the Three U.S. Government workers where she tries all three computer terminals until she finds one that’s “just right” and ends up launching our nuclear payload at Russia setting off WWIII. The story ends with one of the government workers shooting her in the head just as the missiles scream out of their silos. The moral of the story was: “Just because a terminal is just right, doesn’t mean it’s just right. It could be terminal.”

Yeah, I thought that was clever at the ripe old age of 14.

Anyway, I can only imagine the trouble I’d be in if I were in high school and wrote something like that today. It’s bad enough he was suspended for a week, but did he really have to be arrested too?

According to police, when Stone was asked by school officials about the comment written on the assignment, he said it was a joke.

Summerville police officials say Stone was disruptive and was told that he was being detained for disturbing schools.

Stone was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. District officials say the student has been suspended.

You can be arrested for being disruptive at school? Holy shit! Had this been the practice back in the day I’d have a criminal record a mile long now. Probably be on death row for multiple counts of brutal character assassination* too!

*Get it? Character assassination? Because I killed off a couple of fictional characters? Ha ha! I kill myself!

Too Much Faith Will Make You Crazy: Daddy is the Devil edition.

Behold the power of True Belief and the harm it can cause:

Baby killed as family jumps from Paris window after ‘devil sighting’ – Belfasttelegraph.co.uk

A baby died when a family of 12 leapt from their second floor balcony in Paris claiming they were fleeing the devil.

Eight more were injured, some seriously, in the tragedy when they jumped 20ft into a car park in Paris suburb of La Verriere.

Now you may be saying to yourself that this isn’t entirely irrational… if they actually were fleeing the Devil.

They weren’t:

The baffling incident occurred when a wife woke to see her husband moving about naked in the room, police said.

She began screaming ‘it’s the devil! it’s the devil!’, and the man ran into the other room where 11 others adults and children were watching television. One woman grabbed a knife and stabbed the man before others pushed him out through the front door.

When the man forced his way back in, they all began screaming in terror and leapt from the balcony screaming ‘Jesus! Jesus!’

The naked man also leapt from the balcony, detectives said.

Perhaps, you may be thinking, they were all high on drugs. A hallucinogen perhaps? Police say they found no evidence of drug use or “unusual religious rituals.”

So what could have caused all of these people to assume the naked man who looked like one of their relatives was actually Old Scratch come to take their souls? The article doesn’t say and there may be more to this story to come out in time, but at first blush it appears they just believed the whole Gods/Demons things a wee bit too much.

And an innocent baby paid the ultimate price for his family’s astounding credulity.

Jon Stewart on the Republican “Pledge to America.”

If you’ve been paying attention then you know the Republicans recently unveiled their “A Pledge to America” as an outline of what they hope to accomplish if they manage to regain control of Congress in November. If you’re old enough to remember when the Republicans unveiled their “Contract with America” back in 1994 then you may be thinking that the title of this new plan sounds eerily familiar.

As Jon Stewart points out there’s a good reason for that feeling:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Postcards From the Pledge
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Meet the New Republicans. Exactly the same as the Old Republicans. They have nothing new to offer. They only have the same old bullshit that got us into this mess to begin with. As unhappy as I am with the rate of progress and just plain-old general pussy-ness of the Democrats, the Republicans are only offering to go back to fucking us over every way they can if we’re stupid enough to put them back into power. They even admit that they’ve not changed one bit since they got their asses handed to them in 2008. Not only to they intend to continue with the same stupid policies, but they’re bringing their crazy Tea Party friends along for the ride this time around.

Is that really what you want?

Here’s proof that if you believe in yourself, you can do anything.

Ah, the power of belief! Some say you can move mountains with it. Others that you can alter the flow of rivers.

But you have to learn to crawl before you can walk so you should probably start with a small-scale test of your belief in yourself. Something simple like, say, breaking a board over your head:

Remember kids, you can do anything that you think you can do so long as you can handle the pain of trying it repeatedly until the board, or your neck, breaks. It’s probably a good thing he didn’t start off by demonstrating how to catch a bullet with your bare hands. Or, worse, your teeth.

Found over at Greg Laden’s Blog.

Daniel Hauser’s father now has leukemia.

Remember Daniel Hauser, the (at the time) 13-year-old illiterate kid out of Minnesota who was ordered by the court to get chemotherapy to treat his cancer over the protests of his alt-med preferring parents? His mother took off with him rather than follow through on the court order, but after a few days they eventually showed up again and complied with the judgement on the stipulation that his parents could include alternative treatments as part of his therapy. Six months later Daniel finished his last chemotherapy treatment as was cancer free.

You’d think the parents would’ve learned a lesson from this experience. A lesson they can now apply as Daniel’s father has just been diagnosed with leukemia himself:

One year ago today, Danny Hauser, from Sleepy Eye, MN, flew to California with his mother to avoid going through court-ordered chemotherapy after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Authorities and the FBI searched for Danny and his mother for six days, before the two finally returned to Minnesota. Danny eventually went through chemotheraphy and radiation and is now in remission.

A close family friend of the Hauser’s, Dan Zwakman confirms Danny’s father, Anthony Hauser, was diagnosed with leukemia two weeks ago after feeling ill and exhausted for the past month.

Zwakman says Hauser is choosing to treat  his leukemia using natural healing treatments instead of going through chemotherapy. The Hauser family, who lives on a farm in rural Minnesota, holds a strong belief in the advantages of alternative medicine and natural supplements.

Nope, they didn’t learn a goddamn thing.

But that’s OK. His father, being a legal adult, has every right to refuse proven medical treatments in favor of alt-med bullshit if he really wants to. Maybe he’ll get lucky and the cancer will go into remission on its own. I won’t be holding my breath in anticipation of that happening, but it’s been known to happen every now and then. The article does note that Anthony has had three blood transfusions over the past several weeks so perhaps he’ll come to his senses before it’s too late to do anything about it.

If it’s the same leukemia his son had — Hodgkin’s lymphoma — then it’s one of the more curable cancers you can get. When treated properly survival rates are between 85 and 98% depending on factors such as your age and how early it was detected. Even with a worst-case scenario an 85% chance to cure it is pretty outstanding. What constitutes proper treatment? Chemotherapy. I’m not sure what his chances of survival are without chemo, but Daniel’s doctors only have him a 5% chance of making it with the treatment. Being that his father is older I’d guess his chances are even more remote, but I guess we’ll find out before too long.

One interesting side note: In researching this entry I learned that the current staging system for lymphomas is named after the town it was developed in: Ann Arbor, where I currently reside.

SEB Safety Tip: Eating raw gastropods for a dare could kill you.

Ah the stupid things young people will do on a dare. Down in Sydney, Australia a young man is fighting for his life after eating a slug infected with rat lungworm:

The 21-year-old contracted rat lungworm disease – a rare form of meningitis – after the stunt.

Rat lungworm disease is caused by Angiostrongylus cantonensis, a parasitic worm that is carried in the pulmonary arteries of rats. Larvae are excreted in the rat’s droppings, which are often eaten by slugs and snails.

The disease can cause fatal swelling of the brain and spinal cord.

I’m sure everyone is very impressed at the size of your balls for nearly killing yourself over a stupid dare. Next up perhaps you’ll attempt to choke to death swallowing a live gold fish?

Remember kids, if you’re going to eat slugs be sure to cook them properly first.

14-year-old autistic boy charged with making terrorist threats over stick figure.

Down in Georgia the officials at the Ridgeview Charter School are having a fit over a stick-figure drawing by a 14-year-old autistic boy which depicts him shooting a teacher:

The sketch shows two stick-figures. One of them is labeled ‘Me’ and is shown shooting a gun at another with a teacher’s name above it.

Karen Finn says that her son, 8th grader Shane Finn, doesn’t understand why he is in trouble. She says the boy is autistic and has the mental capacity of a 3rd grader.

Officials at Ridgeview Charter School say the student will face a tribunal and is being charged with making terrorist threats.

I dunno, maybe I’m stupid, but this seems like an overreaction on the part of the school district. If we’d had such rules back when I was in elementary school I’d have been locked up in solitary confinement years ago for all the stick figure drawings I did of the school being destroyed by tanks and guns and I’m not autistic. I didn’t enjoy school all that much and there was more than one afternoon spent daydreaming of various ways it would meet an untimely end.

I realize “things are different now” but unless there’s some credible reason to think this kid was about to literally grab a gun and start shooting up the school then I’m not sure I see why these charges were even considered. Maybe I’m wrong and he’s just a pencil scratch away from hosing down the school with lead, but based on this news item it sure doesn’t seem like he is.

Teen nearly kills himself for a free soda.

Are you stupid enough that you would clamp wires to your nipples and give yourself a 120 volt zap just to win a bet for a free soda?

High schooler Kyle DuBois is and he damn near killed himself:

Police released an interview with Kyle DuBois and his teacher, Thomas Kelley, after the teen shocked himself in class, sending him to the hospital.

Students in the electrical technology classroom say Kelley was in on the prank, even offering the teen soda if he did it.

Police say they interviewed the teacher hours later, at which point he vehemently denied taking part. He alleges he even told the students to knock it off.

“The one thing I remember him saying is, ‘What will you give me if I clip these to my nipples?’ ‘Nothing.’ ‘Give me a Mountain Dew, Kelley,’” the teacher can be seen telling police during the recorded interview.

Authorities interviewed the teen a week later when he was out of the hospital, who remembered a friend taking part in the dare, not the teacher.

“I bet ya free Mountain Dew first year every day, the friend did… to zap myself,” said DuBois to police.

via WHDH-TV – Police record talk with shocked NH teen, teacher.

His heart stopped and the teacher had to perform CPR to save his dumb ass. You can see part of a video one of the other students recorded with his cell-phone in the original article.

Given the almost ubiquitous appearance of defibrillators and how they are used in TV shows and movies, you’d think this kid would know that running electricity over his heart might be a bad idea, but I suppose some folks just have to learn this stuff the hard way.

Too Much Faith Will Make You Crazy: Spiritual Molester Edition.

It’s not just the Christians who allow their faith to get in the way of common sense and critical thinking. Sometimes it’s the more nebulously defined crystal huggers.

Take for example the following case of a woman who invited what she believed to be a female spiritualist into her home to “cleanse” herself and her two young boys. Problem was the spiritualist wasn’t really a spiritualist or, for that matter, a woman:

Pic of Jose David Morales-Hernandez

Not really a "spritual cleanser." Hell, not really a woman though you'd think that much would be obvious.

‘Spiritual cleanser’ charged with nine sexual abuse crimes – Salt Lake Tribune.

Police have said Morales-Hernandez dressed as a woman and called himself “Nicole Morales.” He claimed on his business card to be “The Divine Master” and a Mayan priestess. He is homeless.

Before the ceremony, Morales-Hernandez had the woman and her two young boys strip down to their underwear, police have said.

The boys said he took them separately into their own rooms, turned off the lights, locked the door, massaged them and sexually abused them, police wrote.

Their mother said the boys acted “different” after each session, the charges state.

The mother called police after the 12-year-old told her about the abuse. The 13-year-old told police that Morales-Hernandez did “unpleasant, wrong, uncomfortable and weird” things to him, the charges state.

The article is very brief and doesn’t specifically mention what belief system the family ascribes to that would require the services of a “Divine Master Mayan Priestess.” You’ll note that the article mentions that the boys acted different after each session implying that it took more than one session before this woman caught on that her kids were being molested. The police are also looking for anyone else who may have been stupid enough to fall for this scam and let their kids be violated to come forward which suggests he may have been doing this sort of thing for awhile.

This isn’t the first time the crystal huggers have gotten burned by a phony spiritual cleansing scam, but usually they just lose a lot of money. I think this is the first time I’ve heard of someone using this particular scam to molest kids with. You really have to wonder just how far out there they have to be not to get suspicious the moment they hear the words “OK, now you guys need to strip down to your underwear and then come with me into the next room, one by one, alone, in the dark, and I will cleanse you of all your evil spirits!”