A Belgian couple are on trial following the death of their seven-month-old son, who died of malnourishment after being fed an alternative diet.
Lucas, whose last name isn’t being revealed, died on June 6, 2014, weighing only nine pounds. According to local reports, he was suffering dehydration, and his stomach and intestines were found to be empty.
Normal weight for male infants of that age ranges from 14.5 to 22 pounds, according to the World Health Organization.
Prosecutors say the boy’s death was a result of the parents feeding their son a restricted diet.
The parents — identified as Peter, 34, and Sandrina, 30 — made the diagnosis that their son was gluten intolerant and had a lactose allergy. They began feeding him alternative products such as rice milk and quinoa milk.
Despite the parents’ concerns their child suffered from allergies, they did not seek professional advice. A search for medical documents for the child came up short.
“Not a single doctor had a dossier about Lucas and child protection services did not know about them,” prosecutors said.
In response, the baby’s father said: “We never went with Lucas to a doctor because we never noticed anything unusual.”
When it became apparent to the parents that their son was in need of urgent care, they sought help from a homeopathic doctor an hour’s drive from their home; the practitioner immediately sent them to the hospital, where their son was pronounced dead.
The parents, who own a natural health food store and have three other children, say their son was a happy child.
“We never wanted the death of our son,” his mother said.
New research released earlier this month warned people who don’t suffer from celiac disease to be wary of gluten-free diets, because these diets could put them at a higher risk of heart disease.
The case isn’t the first of its kind, with similar ones cropping up all over the world, prompting lawmakers to consider the effects of special diets on children.
In Italy, a bill introduced last summer could jail parents who imposed strict diets on their children. The law would see parents face a year in prison for raising kids on a vegan diet, and up to four years in prison if kids develop long-term health implications from their diet.
“I just find it absurd that some parents are allowed to impose their will on children in an almost fanatical, religious way, often without proper scientific knowledge or medical consultation… do-it-yourself on these matters terrorizes me,” Elvira Savino, the politician who proposed the bill, told Reuters at the time.
Closer to home, an Alberta couple was found guilty last year of failing to provide the necessities of life after their 18-month-old son died of bacterial meningitis. David and Collet Stephan had treated their son Ezekiel with home remedies that included garlic and horseradish.
*with files from Carmen Chai