Introduction of 2012, Ezekiel Stephan passed away

Introduction

            When you
have a baby, they are given their HepB vaccination, with parental consent,
which then puts them on the vaccination schedule for the next eighteen years of
their life. Vaccines not only serve a purpose in protecting weak immune systems
from the early weeks of life, but also serve as a purpose in protecting the surrounding
community. In March of 2012, Ezekiel Stephan passed away due to the unseen early
signs and symptoms of bacterial meningitis by his parents, David and Collet
Stephan. Bacterial Meningitis may be prevented with the meningococcal vaccine. David,
the vice president of Truehope Nutritional Support Inc., and his wife were
never ones to vaccinate their children, their three older boys and Ezekiel,
rather they preferred natural remedies and supplements from the company. Ezekiel
was a 19-month old toddler, with his entire life ahead of him. What started as something
like croup, and then the flu, the parents leaned more towards the natural
remedies to heal him and get him back to his toddler ways. It was only when
David witnessed his son stop breathing that they then began to seek medical
attention, two and a half weeks later, which unfortunately was too late for
Ezekiel’s fragile body.

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Thesis

            Patient autonomy
is highly questionable is this case of a chilling death of a toddler, that
could have been intervened with the appropriate medical attention, at the right
time. The utmost good of the toddler’s
parents going against the actual health of the toddler, and their discretion on
what was bad enough to finally see a doctor. In this paper, I will show the
evidence that should have been large enough for David and Collet to see that
something is not right with their son, despite their trust for medical
professionals.

Medical Indications

            “Bacterial Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes surrounding
your brain and spinal cord” (Meningitis, 2017).
In most cases, the viral infection is an acute illness and with proper medical
attention it can be cured with only a few complications that can last. The
longer they wait to see medical professionals, the more chronic the infection
then becomes. “Ezekiel had
already been sick for over two weeks with what his parents believed was croup
and the flu when suddenly he stopped breathing, prompting his parents to call
an ambulance” (Khandaker, 2016).
Over the course of the two weeks, the condition of the toddler immensely
worsened, and Ezekiel became acutely ill. With earlier, and proper, medical attention,
the likelihood of him surviving would have been greater, with the minor setback
of possible complications that would come from the infection. “According to the official death report, however, the toddler
had been suffering from bacterial meningitis and neurological dysfunction” (Khandaker, 2016).

Patient Preferences

            Ezekiel was
only 19-months old, he relied on his parents to make the best decisions for
him, to keep him safe, healthy, and loved. There’s
no denying that his parents did not love him, but rather than the natural
remedies and supplements that they were giving to their son, they should have,
instead, sought medical attention. “A
family friend, also a registered nurse, told the Stephan’s Ezekiel likely had meningitis, Collet researched the
disease and concluded that it was likely a viral version, and not the more serious
bacterial version. She then bought an Echinacea mixture to treat him” (Khandaker, 2016). Echinacea mixture is an herb that is used for
many medical treatments, including cold and flu. The herb activates chemicals
in the body that decrease inflammation. “Parents
cannot ignore basic standards of care for the children under their charge because
of their ideology,” (Novella 2016), “Ezekiel’s parents have the
primary responsibility for his care, for providing the basic necessities of
life, and a jury has now found that they failed to do so.” Based on the ideology of the parents, and their naturopathic
beliefs, it was proven that they did not seek medical attention when they
should have, which then had effects on their son’s wellbeing.

Quality
of Life

            Dr. Arthur Caplan, head of
medical ethics at New York University, says “What
they did is ethically wrong. You can’t keep
trying alternative things while your child is suffering and clearly not getting
better” (Chai 2016). While proven in court, it is
evident that David and Collet Stephan put their child’s life at risk, which ultimately ended in a way that could’ve been prevented. After being on life support for five days, Ezekiel
passed away. Ezekiel was only 19-months old, he relied on his parents to keep
his quality of life acceptable for his age. Dr. Kirsten Jones, a surgeon from
Lethbridge says, “You cannot impose your
personal views on your children in a way that endangers their life. Those
children have a right to grow up to become independently thinking adults and to
form their own moral judgements at that time” (Canadian
Post 2016). As previously stated, if his parents would have sought out medical
attention before he stopped breathing, he could have lived a happy life, with
only a possibility of complications to be the outcome. In the case where he was
on life support for the last five days of his life, the doctors pronounced him
brain dead when he arrived to the hospital. The plan of care ultimately stops
there, you can try to revive this baby, but at the end of the day the quality
of his life would be little to none. That’s where
it gets tricky, do the parents keep him on life support, even though they had
the most impact on him not getting medical attention? Or do the doctors and
parents see his future and how drastically it would have changed? Getting to
the point of Ezekiel’s body being so stiff he
had to lay on a mattress to be transported, “it was
way past the point where they should have received definitive medical
attention. This suggests that the Stephan’s waited longer than typical parents,
until the severity of Ezekiel’s
illness was undeniable” (Novella 2016).

Contextual
Features

            In hopes of getting
their toddler better, the Stephan’s
turned to natural remedies and supplements, “It doesn’t matter that you truly believe Echinacea can help with a serious
infection (it can’t), you still have
responsibility to provide actual health care to sick children” (Novella 2016). The parents asked for help from a naturopath, those
of whom do not base care on scientific standards, rather a homeopathy viewpoint
that essentially goes against scientific evidence. While David and Collet were
in court, the jury made sure to inform the judge to “not make their decisions based on ‘sympathy,
prejudice, or fear’ which then turned the
heads of the Stephan’s claiming “they were laid because the Crown wanted to make an example of them
for not vaccinating their kids” (Khandaker
2016). Vaccines have been a hot topic lately, mainly for the reason of
misinformation that expecting mothers have been receiving from the internet and
other sources such as naturopaths. Per the textbook, there is no evidence that
vaccines overwhelm a child’s immune system, proving that “vaccinating children saves 33,000 lives, prevents 14 million
infections, and saves $10 billion in medical costs” (Munson 2014, pg.12). When vaccinating your children, you are not
only protecting them from the diseases, but you are also protecting the
community around you by participating in herd immunity. “Herd immunity is the greater percentage of population that is
immunized against a given disease, the more less likely an infectious agent
will establish itself and threaten the lives of those who are most vulnerable” (Munson 2014, pg.12).

Alternative
Options

            Disagreeing with
the actions that the Stephan’s made,
it should have been presented clear to them that the remedies they were
practicing were not helping their son get better. Even if Ezekiel just ended up
having a cold, going to the doctor to just have that valid second opinon would
have saved all the grief they are now experiencing. “Those defending the Stephan’s argue
that they did what any parent would do, treat their child as if he had an
oridinary illness until it became clear he was seriosuly ill at which time they
sought emergency care” (Novella 2016). When a
child gets sick even if it is only for a couple days, if under medical
attention, the doctors will run tests to rule out the possibilities of
infections and disease. It could have been as simple as taking him into the
doctors office as a concerned parent, or for even just a check up.