Calgary

Calgary mother who treated dying son with herbal remedies 'was doing the best she could': lawyer

A Calgary woman who treated her dying son with herbal remedies was doing the best she could, her defence lawyer told court Friday as he made his final arguments at her criminal trial.

'Are you seriously suggesting it wasn’t her obligation ... to take him to a doctor?': Judge

Tamara Lovett is on trial for criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessaries of life to her son Ryan, 7, who died of a strep infection in 2013. (Facebook)

A Calgary woman who treated her dying son with herbal remedies was doing the best she could, her defence lawyer told court Friday as he made his final arguments at her criminal trial. 

Tamara Lovett, 47, is charged with criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessaries of life to her son, Ryan Alexander Lovett. 

Seven-year-old son Ryan died in March 2013 after getting a strep infection that kept him bedridden for 10 days. Ryan also had meningitis, pneumonia and jaundice, court has heard.

According to testimony, Lovett gave the boy dandelion tea and oil of oregano rather than antibiotics.

Lovett's lawyer, Alain Hepner, said in his final submission that there is no doubt Lovett was a loving mother who did everything she could but realized too late how sick Ryan really was.

As Hepner recounted Lovett's testimony that she reasonably believed the boy merely had a cold or flu, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Kristine Eidsvik interrupted him.

"Are you seriously suggesting it wasn't her obligation at that point to take him to a doctor?" Eidsvik said. "She admits at that point, he can't stand up, he's got pain in his groin, he's got fever, his arm is puffing up." 

Hepner replied: "She was doing the best she could at that period of time." 

What would a reasonable parent do?

Eidsvik said the court must determine at what point an objectively reasonable parent would have taken the boy to a doctor.

"Didn't she have a duty to go in there and get him checked out?" Eidsvik said.

Didn't she have a duty to go in there and get him checked out?- Judge Kristine  Eidsvik

"Where does it say that a parent has to be an infectious disease doctor? Nowhere. I think the duty is about the parent going in and getting some advice, and that's where I see trouble with your argument here."

Hepner acknowledged Lovett's judgment was wrong in not seeking medical attention, but he said the legal system should not punish the "morally innocent."

"She believed in the remedies. She was wrong, her judgement was wrong, and as such she waited to call the doctor, but I say that doesn't raise that conduct to criminal standard," he said.

"You ought not conclude that she had wanton and reckless disregard for the safety of Ryan Lovett."

Judge reserves decision

But Crown lawyer Jonathan Hak described her conduct as reckless because she was aware of how sick her son was and failed to help.

"The very person who would have been helping Ryan — his mother — turned out to be his worst enemy," Hak said.

Hak went through a detailed timeline of the days leading up to Ryan's death, describing each and every ailment the little boy suffered — a cough, an ear infection, a bleeding nose, a swollen arm, fever, difficulty standing, pain in his lymph nodes, vomiting and jaundice.

His mother was aware of his symptoms and his suffering and still did not seek medical help, even when it was clear the boy was not recovering, said Hak. During the trial, court heard the boy never saw a medical doctor, his birth was never registered and he did not have an Alberta health card.

Hak said Lovett failed to do her legal duty as a parent and get the boy medical help and should be found guilty of not providing the necessaries of life.

"The last few days of Ryan's life must have been intensely lonely and sad," Hak said.

The judge will release her decision on Jan. 23.

With files from The Canadian Press