Emaciated teen found dead had history of untreated diabetes

A teenage boy who died under suspicious circumstances last May in Calgary was returned to his family by a B.C. judge despite a social worker's concerns that his parents were neglecting his diabetes treatment, court documents reveal.​

15-year-old Calgarian, once in provincial care in B.C., was returned to family despite concerns

The homicide unit was brought in to investigate after a 15-year-old Calgary boy died. EMS found the teen in medical distress at his Citadel home. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

A teenage boy who died under suspicious circumstances last May in Calgary was returned to his family by a B.C. judge despite a social worker's concerns that his parents were neglecting his diabetes treatment, court documents reveal.​

After initial reports of the boy's death, it was revealed child services had taken the boy away from his family once when they lived in B.C., which raised questions about how Alberta and B.C. share social services information

CBC News has obtained a copy of the B.C. judge's reasoning for placing the boy back in the home in 2005. The document helps to shed more light on his early life. 

The boy's death was labelled suspicious and the homicide unit was brought in to investigate in May 2013 after the 15-year-old was found emaciated and in medical distress in the northwest Calgary community of Citadel.

It was known he had diabetes, but the exact cause of death was not clear after an initial autopsy. More forensic testing was ordered, but no more details about the cause of death have been released. 

No charges have been laid.

B.C. social services intervention 

The boy, who can only be identified as AR, was taken from his parents while the family lived in B.C. after it was alleged they were not properly taking care of his diabetes. 

A year later, at the age of five, AR was returned to his family home to live with his parents and seven siblings.

After six months of supervision, the family was left alone and eventually moved to Alberta where the boy died almost a decade later in 2013.

The document, written by B.C.'s Judge J.G. Cohen, details how the parents didn't trust authorities or their son's diagnosis and mismanaged the disease. It outlines long periods of time when the child wasn't being properly treated or seeing a doctor.

Cohen goes on to write that although he found the parents were not blameless, he believed AR would be safe at home.

"There is no proof that the parents continue now, in the present, to deny that AR has diabetes or that they will treat him in the future, should he be returned home," he wrote in 2005.

Cohen referred to a 2001 report that noted, "the parents appear to have caring, supportive and affectionate relationships," and the older children were all attending school and were "well behaved, respectful, happy."

Details of boy's early life revealed

In December 2000, the boy who was then two-years-old was brought to the Surrey Memorial Hospital in B.C. with ketoacidosis — a complication from untreated diabetes.

He was diagnosed with the disease and the family was instructed on how to care for their son. A home-care nurse visited regularly but AR's health problems were just beginning, according to the document.

His mother was required to do blood readings every day and report them to the B.C. Children's Hospital. After a few months, a doctor at the hospital became concerned that the readings were false.

AR was admitted to hospital again, this time for two weeks. The parents were shown again how to handle the disease. 

For several months, the parents followed up with a doctor, but refused to attend diabetes clinics. They eventually stopped bringing him to the doctor.

Two years later, in October 2003, he was admitted to the intensive care unit at the B.C. Children's Hospital for being extremely malnourished and losing hair. 

Near-death experience while in care

The boy was placed in provincial care, where he remained for just over a year. His Romanian parents were granted supervised visits, but weren't allowed to speak their native language or bring him Romanian books or movies. 

During that time, B.C.'s family and child services applied to have AR permanently removed from his parents' care.

But Cohen found the application was made in December 2004 "without making any reasonable effort to maintain this large and otherwise well-parented family."

Cohen ruled the child's social worker was biased against the parents.

He pointed to an incident when AR suffered a major hypoglycemic event while in care and almost died during a visit with the parents. According to the document, the social worker didn't allow the parents to help, although they could have. 

That showed a "monumentally inappropriate lack of trust between the social worker and parents," according to Cohen, who said a new social worker should have been found at that point.

Cohen wrote that AR had a right to expect that — if it could be done safely — the social worker would help him be reunited with his family. 

"The worker in this case failed to make any reasonable effort to live up to this duty and instead made every effort to deprive AR of his family," wrote Cohen.