On The Preventable Death of A Child – The Human Tragedy of “Alternative Medicine”

By Marvin Ross

It is a terrible tragedy and the focus of worldwide attention. Ezekiel Stephan was a 19 month old toddler whose parents are presently being tried in Lethbridge Alberta for failing to provide the necessities of life for him. Ezekiel was treated by his parents with various alternative products for what they thought was a cold and croup until he stopped breathing. He was airlifted to Calgary’s Children’s Hospital where he arrived brain dead and soon died of what was diagnosed as bacterial meningitis.

David Stephan, the father, is the son of one of the founders of Truehope – a supplement company that promotes its product, EM Power + (EMP), for psychiatric conditions and recommends that its customers go off medication. I have been writing about them for over 15 years and, along with Dr Terry Polevoy of Waterloo, ON and Ron Reinhold, a former Health Canada inspector and now private investigator in Calgary, we published an E-book called Pig Pills Inc: The Anatomy of An Academic and Alternative Health Fraud. Ron has done an excellent summary of the Truehope history on his website, Rainbow Investigations

Both David Stephan and his wife, Collet, took EMP and gave it to Ezekiel. And both parents worked at sales and marketing for Truehope.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation just obtained and made available the medical interview/history done in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit of the Calgary hospital. Aside from the history of Ezekiel’s symptoms and the emergency that precipitated his being airlifted to Calgary, is the family medical history. It is frightening in my opinion.

Collet had no prenatal care from a physician but from a family friend who is a nurse and who helped at delivery. Ezekiel had never been seen by a doctor and was never given any vaccinations. During her pregnancy and while breastfeeding, Collet took EMP. For occasional colds, Ezekiel was given olive oil leaf extract and garlic. According to testimony at the trial, the nurse did suggest that Ezekiel had meningitis and to take him to the ER. They did not but rather went to a naturopath to get some echinacea.

His medications from about 11 months on consisted of daily smoothies containing EMP, Omega 3-6-9, whey protein, FermPlus, and a digestive enzyme. The autopsy report is also available at the bottom of this article for anyone who can stomach the findings.

According to the label for EMP, pregnant and lactating women should consult a doctor before using the product and it advises that the product be kept away from children under 6. And yet seemingly Collet took the product without consulting a doctor and gave it to her child. When EMP was first used in a study at the University of Calgary, Dr Catherine Field, a nutrition researcher at the University of Alberta, told me that she did not know if this product was safe but felt that it could be used short term as long as the research subjects were monitored by a medical doctor. She further stated that it was unsafe for pregnant women or for women who might become pregnant and thus pregnant women were excluded from the study. (P 66 of Pig Pills).

I also have in my possession a freedom of information document provided by Health Canada to an investigative reporter at the Canadian Television Network (CTV) on the adverse events associated with EMP reported to Health Canada. The document is dated January 2007 and deals with “near misses” and reports of Truehope activities.

In one case, a family contacted the owner of Truehope (not named) and it was alleged the family was advised not to seek medical help from a doctor. In another case, a 50 year old woman with multiple gall stones was contacted by an unnamed owner and told to refuse surgery but to take large amounts of olive oil (which the report said is contraindicated).

Two reports to Health Canada were filed by Truehope employees but the information was redacted. In another case, a doctor reported that his pregnant patient was taking EMP and he cautioned her about it as it had an unknown safety profile. The woman checked with Truehope and was assured that it was safe although the doctor was concerned that the information she was given was inaccurate.

There was a great deal of discussion in these documents over safety in children and in pregnant and lactating women and Health Canada insisted that warnings be given about its use for those populations on the label.

Truehope, for psychiatric conditions, recommends that prescription medication be stopped. In 2012, I reported on a case in British Columbia where a man with schizophrenia replaced his psychiatric medication for EMP and became so psychotic that he murdered his father. The headline on one paper proclaimed that vitamin therapy contributed to murder. I followed up with an article asking why Health Canada allowed this agent to be sold and that question is still relevant.

For those interested in the type of advice that Truehope gives to the mentally ill over the phone, you will find these interesting. We had a doctor develop a number of hypothetical scenarios that were then checked for accuracy by a psychiatrist. Frightening is all I can say.

And undoubtedly Tony Stephan will threaten to sue me for this blog. He once threatened to sue The Scientist for an article I wrote about his company and  he has threatened me  with legal action more than once in the past. More recently, he threatened to sue mental health writer and advocate, Natasha Tracy.

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6 thoughts on “On The Preventable Death of A Child – The Human Tragedy of “Alternative Medicine”

    1. Oh my the typos !!!!
      If my favourite paper will not comment or write further, the Lethbridge Herald follows the trial, so slowly the truth will come out….

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  1. This is story full of horror and shows surely how whacky this naturopathic medicine is. It also illustrates how people who are brain washed into thinking that all this stuff really works cannot even grasp WHEN THEY NEED TO SEEK SERIOUS MEDICAL ADVISE. THEIR CHILDREN WERE NOT VACCINATED .

    The sad part is that though these parents were salespeople for the Truehope nonsense, they will have no doubt cajoled many others into believing the nonsense about their products. The true story needs to be made very public.

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  2. It is fine to allow adults the freedom to believe and legally act on unscientific irrational beliefs. But we should not allow the crime of infanticide to be committed.Children can die from parents’ belief systems that defy reason. Is it fair to leave the innocent at the mercy of such illiteracy when they become seriously ill?

    Recently we have learned the specifics about the horror of dying for some (probably all)
    humans. What horror must this little one have to endure as he lay dying?

    So we have to ensure that this does not happen, if humanly possible. Maybe a well advertised, convenient palliative care center for children when they get sick. Others must have seen his neglected state and hopefully would call anonymously to save all children.

    Marvin Ross has done his part. Let’s support him.

    Like

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