Parents prosecuted after homeopathic treatment leads to daughter's death

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Thomas Sam, 42, and his wife Manju Sam, 36, from Sydney, Australia, are undergoing trial for manslaughter by gross negligence for the death of their nine-month-old child, Gloria. She died from infection caused by severe eczema after they shunned effective conventional medical treatments for homeopathy, a form of alternative medicine that has been described as pseudoscience. Articles in peer-reviewed academic journals including Social Science & Medicine have characterized homeopathy as a form of quackery.

An example of severe eczema.
Image: Jambula.

Gloria developed severe eczema at the age of four months and the parents were advised to send the child to a skin specialist. Thomas Sam, a practising homeopath, instead decided to treat his daughter himself. His daughter's condition deteriorated, to the point that the baby spent all her energy battling the infections caused by the constant breaking of the skin, leading to severe malnutrition and, eventually, her death. By the end, Gloria's eczema was so severe that her skin broke every time her parents changed her clothes or nappy, and in the words of the Crown prosecutor, Mark Tedeschi, QC, "Gloria spent a lot of the last five months of her life crying, irritable, scratching and the only thing that gave her solace was to suck on her mother's breast." Gloria also became unable to move her legs.

Mr. Tedeschi also told the court that, over the last five months of her life, "Gloria's eczema played a devastating role in her overall health and it is asserted by the Crown that both her parents knew this and discussed it with each other." However, despite their child's severe illness, and her lack of improvement, the Sams continued to shun conventional medical treatment, instead seeking help from other homeopaths and naturopaths. Gloria temporarily improved during the rare times they used conventional treatments, but they soon dropped them in favour of homeopathy, and she consistently worsened.

Allegedly, Thomas' sister pleaded with him to send Gloria to a conventional medical doctor, but he replied "I am not able to do that". The parents are also accused of putting their social life ahead of their child, taking her on a trip to India and leaving her to servants while embarking on a busy social schedule, and giving her homeopathic drops instead of using the prescription creams they had been given.

Gloria was finally taken to the emergency department shortly before her death. By this time, "her skin was weeping, her body malnourished and her corneas melting", according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Speaking in the parents' defense, Tom Molomby, SC, said that, as the parents came from India, where homeopathy is in common use, they should be declared not guilty due to cultural differences.

Homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine which treats patients with massively diluted forms of substances that, if given to a healthy person undiluted, would cause symptoms similar to the disease. Typical treatments take the dilutions, with ritualised shaking between each step of the dilution, past the level where any molecules of the original substance are likely to remain; for homeopathic treatments to work, basic well-understood concepts in chemistry and physics would have to be wrong. There is no evidence that homeopathy is more effective than placebo for any condition.


Sources

Wikipedia Learn more about Homeopathy and Pseudoscience on Wikipedia.
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