Anti-vaccination Alt Med Peddlers Kill Son with Meningitis

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Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if a person selling sham “alternative medicine” products really believes that those products are effective or if they know they’re bunk but are so sociopathic that they don’t mind hurting people to make an easy buck. When it comes to the owners of Truehope Nutritional Support, Inc in Canada, producers of Empowerplus (a magical supplement they claim can fix everything from fatigue to bipolar disorder), I can say that it’s most likely the former, since their infant son is dead today because they gave him their supplement instead of real medicine.

Truehope is owned by David and Collet Stephan, and this isn’t the first time they’ve gotten in trouble with the law. More than a decade ago, Health Canada sued them to try to stop them from selling Empowerplus to people with severe mental illnesses, who were then encouraged to stop taking their actual psychiatric medicine in favor of some completely unregulated pills that may or may not contain vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, Health Canada was unsuccessful, and so the Stephans continued to make money hand over fist by preying on the mentally ill.

Just a few years later, the Stephans’ 18-month old son Ezekial fell ill. They treated him with maple syrup, juice with frozen berries, apple cider vinegar, horseradish root, hot peppers, mashed onion, garlic, ginger root, and yes, Empowerplus. As he kept getting worse, a family friend who happened to be a nurse told them he had meningitis, an extremely serious inflammation of the brain and spinal cord that can be deadly if not treated. And for the record, by “treated” I mean “with medicine,” not maple syrup.

Instead of taking Ezekial to a real doctor, the couple visited a naturopath without even taking their son along. And without examining the toddler, the naturopath gave them products for treating viral meningitis.

This is where I should point out that there are several possible causes for meningitis. Viral meningitis is usually mild and can clear up on its own, but you need an actual doctor to see the patient to correctly diagnose it.

Bacterial meningitis nearly always results in death when left to its own devices, which is why there’s an extremely effective vaccine that we give children that reduces the incidence of one strain by 90%. It may not surprise you, however, to know that the Stephans are anti-vaccine.

Now that they’re in court over the death of their son, the Stephans are arguing that the vaccine wouldn’t have necessarily kept their son from getting the disease. That’s true, in part because of how many other ignorant parents are like them and refuse to vaccinate. If everyone vaccinated, herd immunity would result in the disease being all but eradicated.

And even if Ezekial had been vaccinated and still contracted the disease, modern medical science would have stood a very good chance of saving his life with antibiotics, taking his risk of death from about 100% down to about 20%. He didn’t get that chance because his parents have fooled themselves into believing in nonsense.
The Stephans now face prison time and the removal of their other children. In the meanwhile, the Truehope website is still up and running, offering other families the opportunity to kill their children with no repercussions.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. I really really hope they do prison time. Sickens me that they can so hopelessly neglect their child when we have free damn health care in this country.

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