An Alberta man whose son had meningitis told court Thursday that the Crown has failed to prove he and his wife were responsible for the boy’s death and it was a poorly stocked ambulance that was the problem.
David Stephan and his wife, Collet, are charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life to 18-month-old Ezekiel in 2012.
Stephan, who is representing himself, said in his final arguments in a Lethbridge court that evidence suggests a failure by medical professionals to properly intubate his son was the real reason Ezekiel died.
Testimony indicated the boy was without oxygen for nearly nine minutes because the ambulance that took him to hospital wasn’t properly stocked with breathing equipment to fit a child.
The medical examiner who did the autopsy said Ezekiel died of bacterial meningitis and there was no sign his brain was deprived of oxygen, but a defence pathologist disagreed. She testified the boy died from a lack of oxygen to the brain, which was caused by “medical misadventure.”
“There was a request made for equipment for approximately one year. Those requests were never honoured. The ambulances were never equipped,” said Stephan.
“Within a week of Ezekiel’s passing … magically the ambulances are restocked. I think these are grounds for misrepresentation and a coverup. I’m no expert in law but I think that would constitute a case of criminal negligence resulting in death.”
The Stephans have testified that they originally thought Ezekiel had croup, an upper airway infection, and that they treated him with natural remedies, including a tincture of garlic, onion and horseradish added to a smoothie.
They said he appeared to be recovering at times and they saw no reason to take him to hospital despite his having a fever and lacking energy. A family friend, who is a nurse and midwife, testified that she advised Collet to get a medical opinion the day before the boy stopped breathing. The friend feared “something more internal like meningitis.”
The Crown has argued the Stephans should have sought medical treatment for the boy sooner.
Stephan told the judge he feels there were elements of prejudice against him and his wife because they were sovereign citizens — people who believe in common law and don’t feel they are responsible to any government.
“It is my position that the Crown has not proven its case,” said Stephan. “I respectfully ask that it be a not guilty verdict.”
It is the second trial for the Stephans. The Supreme Court of Canada overturned their original conviction.
Jason Demers, arguing on behalf of Collet Stephan, said the parents thought they were doing the right thing in caring for Ezekiel.
“They are not stupid and I would submit to you that if they believed there was a problem they would have taken Ezekiel to a hospital,” Demers told Justice Terry Clackson, who is hearing the case without a jury.
“These parents are still looking for answers. They still don’t quite understand how it happened. It’s been a quest for truth for them for seven years.”
Not even a prudent parent makes the right decision all of the time, Demers said.
“Parenting, like the practice of medicine, is not like looking in a crystal ball,” he said. “Bad things happen to good children without rhyme or reason and bad things happen to good parents.”