Ryan Lovett was just seven years old when he got a group A streptococcal infection. His mother, Tamara Lovett, refused to take him to a doctor or a hospital and instead gave him tea based on dandelions and oil of oregano. She was under the impression that Ryan just had a cold and that she could use alternative medicine products to treat it. In reality, Ryan had a serious infection that over time developed into pneumonia, meningitis and finally multiple organ failure. During all this time, Tamara refused to take her sick son to a medical doctor and continued giving him useless “natural remedies” that did nothing for him while thinking that he seemed to get better.
Ryan suffered for ten days before dying. She discovered the body of her dead son outside the bathroom in early 2013. The 9/11 call she placed to emergency services sends a major chill down the spine. A terrible case study into the dangers of relying on fake treatments, personal experience and confirmation bias when it comes to serious infections. It would take about four years before she was convicted in early 2017 for failing to provide the necessaries of life and negligence causing death. During the trial, a doctor that testified concluded that Ryan would have survived if he had gotten treated with antibiotics.
Mother almost evaded punishment
Yet, Tamara almost escaped punishment altogether. This is because of substantial government delays which, according to the R v Jordan Supreme Court decision in 2016, can violate the Canadian constitution. The limit is 30 months for superior courts and 18 for provincial ones. If such an argument is successful, the entire criminal case would just end without Tamara getting any punishment for her crimes whatsoever. The reason for the delay is because the defense attorney put in a request for a psychiatric evaluation of Tamara, but this evaluation was postponed three months. The prosecutor put the blame on the Canadian health services in Albert as the actual request was submitted right away, so the delay was actually on the health care side.
Making appeals to the R v. Jordan decision has been a popular way for defense attorneys to defend quacks who kill their children by refusing to take them to a hospital. Previously, David and Collet Stephan made a similar argument when they appealed their conviction for failing to provide the necessaries of life after their son Ezekiel died due to meningitis. After looking at the length of the delay, their appeal was rejected by the courts.
The judge Kristine Eidsvik heard the Jordan argument from the Tamara defense, but ultimately decided to reject it in this case as well. Eidsvik concluded that “It would not be just to set aside a conviction and issue a stay”.
Tamara got 3 years in prison
The sentence was delivered on 17 November 2017. She got three years in prison. The defense wanted one year in prison plus probation, whereas the prosecutor wanted at least four years in prison. The prosecutor commented on the sentence to CBC Calgary reporter Meghan Grant and said that “this sentence of three years really pales in comparison to the life sentence she’s received already for being responsible for the death of her child”.
The sentence of three years is substantially longer than the sentence that was delivered in the case of Ezekiel. The father David got four months in prison, whereas the wife Collet got three months in house arrest. The reason for the different sentences was that the wife had at least made an attempt to learn about the disease and have someone come look at him. Another similar case involved Alexandru, whose parents got life in prison for murder because they had kept him locked up and tortured him for years and ultimately kill him by refusing to treat his type 1 diabetes.
The likely reason that Tamara got a stiffer sentence than the Stephans was that she was also convicted for negligence in addition to failing to provide the necessaries of life, whereas she did not get life in prison because the Ryan case did not involve year after year of refusing to provide insulin.
Will there be an appeal?
Many convicted quacks have appealed their conviction and sentencing. It is not currently known if Tamara Lovett will appeal her conviction, but if history is any guide, it cannot be assumed that this court case is over. Many similar cases drag on for years and years. This is yet another reason why it is vital to keep up with these cases and follow each new development to avoid the slow wheels of justice from letting this case fall into oblivion.
The big picture
One can always suggest that punishments should be harder, but it is important to not lose track of the big picture: that more and more parents are getting punished for failing to take their very sick children to a hospital or give them other forms of medical attention and relying on quackery instead. This is a welcome change considering the fact that children are often exceptionally powerless compared with their parents. As more and more attention is given to these issues, the hope is that fewer and fewer parents will mistreat their children in such horrific ways.