Calgary

Alberta father's fear focus of Crown in toddler meningitis death trial

The father of a 19-month-old boy testified Wednesday his son had never been taken to a medical doctor prior to being rushed to hospital where he died of meningitis.

'You don't trust conventional medicine very much do you?' asked prosecutor

David Stephan and his wife, Collet Stephan, during their March trial. The Stephans are on trial for failing to provide the necessaries of life for 19-month-old Ezekiel, who died in March 2012. (David Rossiter/Canadian Press)

The father of a 19-month-old boy testified Wednesday his son had never been taken to a medical doctor prior to being rushed to hospital where he died of meningitis.

David Stephan, 32, is charged along with his wife, Collet, 35, with failing to provide the necessaries of life for 19-month-old Ezekiel in 2012.

Ezekiel, who had been given smoothies with hot peppers and horseradish when he became ill with what his parents thought was the croup, stopped breathing and later died in hospital.

"You don't trust conventional medicine very much do you?" asked prosecutor Clayton Giles during cross-examination.

"Why would you say that?" replied Stephan.

Giles asked if he had taken either Ezekiel, or his older brother Ezra to a medical doctor.

"Just Ezra. It was a recommendation from Dr. Tannis, the naturopath, that we take him in," Stephan said.

He said Ezekiel saw the naturopathic doctor "once."

'Hindsight's 20-20'

Giles said since a nurse friend of his wife's had suggested Ezekiel might have meningitis it made no sense not to take him in.

"You still haven't told me why it is you were prepared to risk a potentially fatal disease being the issue without having it checked by someone who could tell you," Giles said.

"Hindsight's 20-20," replied Stephan. "Had I known that this was going to take place, you've got to know that I would be the first person advocating something else."

Giles said the Stephans were "working in the dark" and trying to treat something they had no information on.

Stephan said there was nothing that raised any "alarm bells" and denied he failed to act because it flew in the face of his family's belief in natural medicines.

"I'm not delusional and no, I don't put on blinders."

'I felt that it would be one strike'

Stephan earlier testified he didn't inform doctors at Alberta's Children's Hospital, social workers or the RCMP that Ezekiel had shown signs of improvement and been well enough to go to church and pre-school.

"You were concerned they were going to take (older son) Ezra away, right?" asked Giles.

"It was the idea that they might think we were negligent parents if they found out that we didn't put Ezekiel in a car seat. I felt that it would be one strike," Stephan replied.

"I didn't feel that our lack of communication of that to the doctors or whoever it was would bring them to the opinion that we were neglectful as parents."

The Crown contends the couple didn't do enough to ensure the child had proper access to medical care before he became seriously ill.

'Show of force'

Stephan was also concerned at the heavy police presence when they were preparing to give a statement to the RCMP.

"Now you're thinking, 'Oh, my goodness. Are they going to arrest us? What's going on here?" he said.

"If one or two police officers show up, that's one thing, because they come in pairs. But if there's more than that, my assumption is that they are there for a purpose. So am I under fear of being arrested? Absolutely at this point. Do I feel I've done anything wrong? No, I don't, but I felt that somebody else has clearly felt that we've done something wrong to the point that there's this incredible show of force there."

The Crown has wrapped up its cross-examination of Stephan.