Alberta couple gets mixed verdict in case of son who died of diabetes

Lawmakers find that protecting the health of kids whose parents rely on spiritual treatments is a deeply complicated matter

Sympatico Newsexpress National News, June 9, 2000

RED DEER, Alta. (CP) - Parents whose religious beliefs kept them from seeking treatment for their gravely ill 14-year-old son were found not guilty Wednesday of criminal negligence. But Steven and Ruth Shippy were found guilty of failing to provide the necessities of life.

Calahan Shippy died at home on Dec. 30, 1998, from complications of diabetes.

They will be sentenced June 26. The couple will not likely go to jail, as the Crown has said it is not seeking a prison term.

The Shippys, who belong to a religious sect that believes illness is cured by prayer and anointing oil, defended themselves before Queen's Bench Justice Douglas Sirrs.

Sirrs said it disturbed him the family showed what he called a wilful blindness and a practised ignorance of medical issues. They testified they didn't know their son had diabetes.

Steven Shippy said he was disappointed with the verdict. "I was kind of shocked," he said. "At times it looked really good . . . it seemed like everything kind of turned around right at the last there." Harold Grinde, a supporter of the family, called it was a case of religious discrimination.

"If this had happened to any other family who was not of this faith, they would never have been in court," he said. "Their decision that the child had the flu would never have been questioned.

"But because of these people's religious beliefs, they're being persecuted by the law."

The Shippys belong to a religious sect called the Followers of Christ based in Oregon City, Ore.

Dr. Csaba Hegedus, a pathologist who performed the boy's autopsy, told court Calahan might have lived if he had received medical help in the hours before he died.


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