Alberta couple get suspended sentence in diabetes death of son

Ottawa Citizen, June 26, 2000

RED DEER, Alta. (CP) - An Alberta couple whose religious beliefs kept them from caring for their gravely ill teenage son won't do jail time. Steven and Ruth Shippy each received a three-year suspended sentence in court Monday. Earlier this month, they were found guilty of failing to provide the necessities of life in the case of 14-year-old Calahan Shippy but were acquitted of criminal negligence.

Calahan died at home on Dec. 30, 1998, from complications of diabetes. The Shippys belong to a religious sect called the Followers of Christ, based in Oregon.

The sect believes illness is cured by prayer and by anointing oil. The couple argued they didn't know Calahan had diabetes - they thought he had the flu, which had recently hit several family members. After the verdict, Steven Shippy, 44, said he has the right to not seek medical help for his eight children, adding he believed Calahan would have died even if they had taken him to hospital.

But in delivering the verdict, Queen's Bench Justice Douglas Sirrs said the family showed wilful blindness and practised ignorance of medical issues. 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. The Crown indicated previously it would not ask for jail time.


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