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.