Prison for couple who neglected child’s health



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A couples’ neglect of their child’s health which resulted in “dire and tragic consequences” has earned them prison sentences.

The pair were convicted of causing their daughter grievous bodily harm for not seeking medical help and allowing the 11-year-old to become so ill she suffered brain and heart damage.

The couple from Crows Nest, north of Toowoomba in south-east Queensland appeared in the District Court in Brisbane where the girl’s 45-year-old father pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm and his 45-year-old partner pleaded guilty to cruelty.

In 2006 when the girl became ill as an outbreak of flu spread through the neighbourhood, the father’s over-zealous belief in alternative medicine led him to feed her with increasing amounts of a dietary supplement.

At the time the man was the primary carer of the girl and her sister.

Prosecutor Belinda Merrin said the girl’s father had refused to seek medical attention despite her condition worsening - she was hallucinating, was unable to stand or walk unassisted, suffered from diarrhoea and had a temperature which had soared to 42C.

Prosecutor Merrin said the man had a distrust of doctors and conventional medicine and treated his daughter with an alternative sugar supplement manufactured by American company Mannatech.

The court heard the girl’s mother did not seek medical attention for her daughter as she feared her former husband would not let her see the children again.

The man who also had the flu apparently took Panadol himself but refused to give his daughter any and rejected pleas from the girl’s sister to take her to hospital.

Two weeks later when he relented and took her to Toowoomba Hospital a paediatric specialist there declared she was the sickest person he had seen in 35 years of medicine but even at that stage the father demanded his daughter not be given Panadol or antibiotics.

Because of the severity of her illness the girl was transferred to the Mater Hospital in Brisbane where she was diagnosed with a severe heart infection and she remained in hospital for almost a year.

The child is now brain-damaged and confined to a wheelchair and also suffers from emotional distress; she needs constant and continuing medication and physical therapy and is not expected to be able to walk unassisted again.

Judge Tony Raster sentenced the man to three years in jail, to be paroled after six months and the woman was sentenced to 12 months’ jail, to be paroled immediately.

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