Quack Who Let His Son Die Booted From Wellness Expo

David Stephan and his wife Collet were convicted of failing to provide the necessaries of life in 2016 for refusing to provide medical treatment for their son. His name was Ezekiel and was a 19 months old.

He developed meningitis. Instead of taking him to the doctor, David and Collet stuffed him with different kinds of alternative treatments, including maple syrup, berry juice, and garlic. After two weeks of intense suffering, Ezekiel died. The parents refused to take responsibility and has since promoted a wide range of excuses, rationalizations and conspiracy theories.

The parents also made him take supplement called Empowerplus from the company TrueHope. They push their nutritional supplement for psychiatric conditions like bipolar disorder without any real evidence of effectiveness. They have also bullied their critics and threatened them with lawsuits.

David Stephan was remorseless after conviction

The mother got house arrest for three months and the father got sent to prison for four months. The difference was because the mother had done some research on meningitis and expressed some remorse. However, the father just went and bought more supplements and was completely remorseless. The prosecutors decided to appeal to sentence because they thought the punishment was too lenient. The parents also appealed, but David Stephan continued to sell naturopathic supplements as if nothing had happened.

The appeal trial for the defendants revealed that not much had changed for the parents. David was still insisting that he and Collet was innocent. Not only that, he claimed that this was the beginning of government tyranny and tried to make it look like he and his wife were the victims, instead of their dead son Ezekiel. The conviction was upheld. The date for hearing the appeal made by the Crown prosecutors has not been set.

One of the judges in the appeal court thought that David Stephan and his wife deserved a new trial. According to Canadian law, this opens up the realistic possibility of appealing the case to the Supreme Court of Canada. Because of this minority opinion, the Supreme Court will have to pick up the case. A tentative date for the Supreme Court hearing has been set to May 15, 2018.

David Stephan booted from wellness expo

David Stephan was supposed to be a keynote speaker at Health and Wellness Expos of Canada events in Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton. Then came the backlash. How could an Expo that allegedly promotes health and wellness give a platform for someone who has been convicted of letting his son die from meningitis? Not only that, but push fake supplements and plant parts as if they could treat a deadly disease?

Rick Thiessen, the owner of Health and Wellness Expos of Canada, defended his decision to invite David Stephan. Thiessen also stated that David Stephan will not speak at these events and that he “is not affiliated with any of our shows in Western Canada.”

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Several sponsors and vendors (such as Sobeys, Reliable Mobility and Flaman Fitness) have pulled out because of the Expo having David Stephan as a speaker. They explained that they were not unaware that David Stephan was a speaker and will not be sponsoring Health and Wellness Expos of Canada in the future.

The owner, on the other hand, continued to defend David. This defense was very similar to the way that alternative health stores defended his appearance as a speaker during 2017.

How did the owner defend the invitation?

Thiessen stated that he knew of David Stephan and his history before he booked him as a speaker, but claims to judge products and not the personal lives of the speakers. He also denies connection between the conviction and the products and claims that the death of Ezekiel is an issue “between David and his creator”. However, David gave precisely the products he is promoting to his dying son.

It is also very likely that his beliefs in naturopathy is directly related to the parents not seeking real medical help. It is also not at all clear that the owner has really critically investigated the products as there is no evidence that they are effective. Even worse, Health Canada has issued multiple warnings about the product. This seems to have been completely ignored. Thiessen does not address the fact that he is giving a platform to someone who not only promotes quackery, but let his own son die because of it.

Thiessen also claimed that it is important to invite controversial speakers because it is important to talk about and that “you can actually find out the facts from the original person”. In reality, this is just an appeal to false balance. It is also doubtful that you will be able to get the truth about what happened from David Stephan. This is because two courts have rejected his story and convicted him.

How did David Stephan react to getting booted?

He did a 20 minute Facebook Live rant. He labelled his critics as “trolls from Ontario” and “astroturfers” and that they targeted the Wellness Expo. Right from the start, David Stephan considers himself a victim. Stephan admits that he banned his critics, but suggests that this just made them go after the sponsors of the wellness events. In the video, he also denies that Health Canada issued warnings due to lack of efficacy and safety data and instead blamed on a “pharma troll”.

He insists that his presentations give people hope and to avoid psychiatric medication. This is the core reason, he claims, why people are criticizing him. He denies many details of the medication examination of Ezekiel, including the existence of the disease and the cause of death.

David Stephan blames just about everyone besides himself, including the judge, the hospital, the pharmaceutical industry and the media.

In other words, still completely remorseless.

Emil Karlsson

Debunker of pseudoscience.

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