April 27, 2016 3:03 pm
Updated: April 27, 2016 9:11 pm

Naturopathic doctor in Alberta meningitis death trial to be investigated

WATCH ABOVE: The recent case involving an Alberta couple found guilty in the death of their son is raising questions about naturopathic care, and as Kim Smith reports, the body governing naturopathic doctors in Alberta is investigating one of their own.


The College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta is investigating one of its members in relation to the death of Ezekiel Stephan from bacterial meningitis in southern Alberta.

David and Collet Stephan were found guilty Tuesday of failing to provide the necessaries of life to their 18-month-old son.

READ MORE: Alberta couple found guilty in meningitis death of 18-month-old boy

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In a letter to the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta (CNDA), a group of Canadian physicians and surgeons says it’s “deeply concerned about the conduct of the registered naturopath” Dr. Tracey Tannis.

The letter reads: “by any objective measure of a healthcare professional licensed to care for children Dr. Tannis did not meet the standard of care.”

“According to what has been given as evidence in the Stephan trial, Dr. Tannis did not physically examine Ezekiel, who was so stiff from meningeal inflammation that he could not sit in his car seat,” the letter continues.

“The degree of responsibility that Dr. Tannis bears for the tragic outcome Ezekiel Stephan suffered is a matter for the CNDA to explore and publicly address.”

Naturopaths, like physicians, pharmacists and dentists, are considered medical professionals in Alberta. It’s a move enacted four years ago meant as a way for the professional body to weed out those who don’t meet certain standards.

However, a Calgary bioethicist said the province needs to reconsider.

“I don’t know, do we need another dead child for the province to act?” said Juliet Guichon, an assistant professor at the Cumming School of Medicine.

“This is a wake up call. The child is dead, so people who say naturopathy is an evidence based medicine have to come to grips that the child is dead and reconsider their views.”

Health Minster Sarah Hoffman confirms the province will meet with the CNDA and review current regulations.

“It’s been four years since they were put in place. So I think it’s important for us to consider whether or not they’re giving citizens the right protection,” said Hoffman.

Scroll down to read the letters to and from the CNDA

During the trial, Tannis, a Naturopathic doctor at the Lethbridge Naturopathic Medical Clinic, testified her secretary took a phone call in March 2012 from a woman concerned about her young son.

Watch below: Naturopath Dr. Alana Polo answers questions for Global News about alternative medicine

She testified the woman told her that she had a friend who was a nurse with her and she was concerned about viral meningitis. Tannis told her secretary: ‘You need to tell her to take the child to the ER right away.'”

Tannis testified that the next day a woman came into her clinic and asked for an over-the-counter echinacea treatment for her son who was almost two. Tannis told the court she didn’t know if the woman was the same one who called the day before.

READ MORE: ‘Take the child to the ER right away’: Naturopathic doctor testifies at meningitis trial

The letter is signed by 43 physicians and surgeons from across the country.

Dr. Michelle Cohen from Ontario told Global News that an additional 30 doctors have written to her to be added as signatories to the letter.

In a written response to Dr. Cohen, Kristen Tanaka, the college’s complaints director, said she will be investigating the matter.

“I have determined that your complaint will be investigated pursuant to section 55(2)(d) of the Health Professions Act.”

Watch below: University of Alberta professor weighs in on Alberta couple found guilty in son’s meningitis death

College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta letter

Dr Michelle Cohen Receipt of Complaint

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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