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Alberta to review naturopathic regulations in light of toddler death

Alberta's health minister wants to know if the rules governing naturopathic practitioners in the province are tough enough, after the high-profile death of a toddler.

Health Minister says the regulatory body was set up 4 months after the toddler died

David Stephan, 32, and his wife Collet Stephan, 36, were convicted of failing to provide the necessaries of life for nearly 19-month-old Ezekiel, who died in March 2012. (CBC/Facebook)

Alberta's health minister wants to know if the rules governing naturopathic practitioners in the province are tough enough, after the high-profile death of a toddler.

Ezekiel Stephan died of bacterial meningitis in March 2012.

His parents, David and Collet Stephan, were found guilty Tuesday of not providing the necessaries of life to the nearly 19-month-old toddler.

Health Minister Sarah Hoffman tells CBC News the regulatory body that now oversees naturopathic doctors, the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta, was established four months after Ezekiel died.

'I think it’s important for us to know whether or not the regulations for the naturopathic college could have prevented this from happening,' health minister Sarah Hoffman says. (CBC)

"I think it's important for us to know whether or not the regulations for the naturopathic college could have prevented this from happening if they were in place at the time that Ezekial did die," Hoffman said.

"I think it's important for us to look at what has been established through having a college and if that code of conduct that is part of a professional governing body … would have provided more assurance that the individual would have done a referral in this situation, because certainly I think it's really important that if you do require medical support that you get it."

More than 40 Canadian doctors have filed a letter of complaint with the college relating to the death of Ezekiel.

'Real accountability gap'

Dr. Michelle Cohen wrote the letter of complaint.

The Ontario physician wonders why the toddler's parents were sold an echinacea treatment for what they believed to be viral meningitis … without the naturopathic practitioner involved seeing the toddler.

"It seemed to me there was a real gap in accountability that needed to be addressed," Cohen said.

"The expectation I have … is that you do not provide treatment for somebody unless you have seen them, talked to them, laid hands on them, done a physical exam."

College not commenting

The College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta won't comment on the case.

Meanwhile, Hoffman has asked her department to review the regulations that are in place to see if anything can be done to strengthen them.

The province will also review the college's standards of practice and code of ethics.

With files from Jennifer Lee

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