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Monday, 4 April 2011

Verdict of "neglect" for vegan couple over baby's death

A court in the northern city of Amiens has found Sergine and Joël Le Moaligou guilty of neglect and failure to provide medical care or proper nutrition for their daughter, Louise who died in 2008.

screenshot from France 2 report

They couple were both sentenced to five years imprisonment, but are unlikely to spend time behind bars as part if it was suspended and the period they've spent in custody was taken into account.

The sentence was more lenient than the one the prosecution had called for of 10 years imprisonment.

The case was one where faith in an alternative lifestyle - as well-intentioned as it might have been - came head-to-head with reality. And the results were tragic.

The couple are vegans, and had fed Louise on nothing other than breast milk up until the day she died at the age of 11 months.

When Louise started losing weight they took her to see a doctor who suspected pneumonia.

In spite of a recommendation to take their daughter to hospital for further tests and treatment, the parent's decided to care for her at home - using alternative methods.

Her condition didn't improve and by the time they called the emergency services it was too late.

Louise was just 11 months old when she died of a bronchial infection and weighed 5.7 kilogrammes.

The prosecuting attorney Anne-Laure Sandretto had argued that their alternative lifestyle wasn't on trial but rather whether the couple had "shown a lack of care and caused the death of their child.'

That somehow didn't marry with Sandretto's call for a 10-year prison sentence and her insistence that Louise had died "because of her parents' beliefs and rejection of traditional medicine."

An autopsy on Louise revealed that she suffered from a vitamin A and B12 deficiency, both of which are essential to a child's growth.

For Sandretto that suggested proof of the parents' culpability as Louise had only been fed on breast milk.

"The problem of the vitamin B12 deficiency would be linked to the diet of the mother," Sandretto said.

But the couple also had another child, 12-year-old Elodie, who had not suffered the same vitamin deficiencies and a doctor who had seen Louise at eight months had described her as being "in perfect health."

Speaking after the trial Anne-Laure Pillon, the lawyer for the plaintiff, called the decision the right one, even if it might have appeared lenient to some.

"It gives the family some hope," she told France 2 television.

"At the same time it shows limits and makes clear to the parents that they didn't react appropriately."

The couple have also lost partial parental responsibility for education and health of their older daughter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Heard the story on the radio and thought the parents had got off lighly. But after having read your piece, it seems that it was a balanced verdict in the end.

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