A Calgary pediatrician says she wasn't surprised that a southern Alberta mother had to feed her 19-month-old child with an eye dropper only days before the child died in 2012.

Dr. Jennifer Ray D'Mello testified today in the negligence trial against David and Collet Stephan that it's common for parents to "resort" to using an eyedropper if a young child is sick and doesn't want to eat.

The doctor also told the jury that the herbal remedies the Stephans gave Ezekiel during his illness seemed, at least at times, to work, particularly on March 5, 2012, about a week after he became sick.

On March 12, Ezekiel was rushed to the Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary after he stopped breathing.


Ezekiel Stephan of Raymond, Alta., died in March 2012. An autopsy shows he had meningitis. (Stephan family)

D'Mello examined the toddler March 15 and she said the child was brain dead, comatose and on a ventilator.

During her interview with the couple, D'Mello said it was apparent the Stephans were attentive to Ezekiel while he was ill.

She said the Stephans told her they had treated their son with herbal remedies for what they initially believed was croup. Collet Stephan boosted the child's routine feedings with various herbal ingredients and fed him with an eyedropper when he didn't want to eat to ensure he stayed hydrated.

Within a week he had improved enough to go to preschool, and Collet decided the extra herbal supplements were no longer necessary. But a day later he was again lethargic and stayed in bed, so he was put back on the supplements. The next day he seemed better.

That was the routine until March 11 when Ezekiel's condition grew worse and a nurse friend suggested he might have viral meningitis and recommended the child be taken to a doctor.

They researched treatments online and the following day the Stephans picked up an echinacea mixture from a naturopath in Lethbridge. By then, however, Ezekiel was too stiff to sit in his car seat and had to lie on a mattress in the Stephan's vehicle as they drove to Lethbridge.

A pathologist has testified Ezekiel died from a combination of bacterial meningitis and a lung infection.

The trial is scheduled to resume Monday in Lethbridge Court of Queen's Bench and is expected to run at least until March 24.

With files from Lethbridge Herald