Where do the rights of the parents to raise their children in the manner they see fit end?
In a case likely to kick up — yet again – the debate over parental responsibility regarding how children are fed, a Florida mother was arrested Tuesday for child neglect and her newborn was admitted to the hospital in a crisis that started over vegan beliefs.
Local news station WESH reports that Sarah Anne Markham’s pediatrician alerted authorities after the woman’s 12-day-old baby appeared dehydrated during a doctor visit. The doctor said that Markham refused the medical advice to admit the child to the hospital or take the medicine offered, on the grounds that “it contained ingredients that came from animals.” After police were summoned to her home, Markham reportedly told them that she’d purchased organic soy formula for the baby, and that “she wanted to pursue a religion-based treatment and she had contacted a ‘natural’ or vegan doctor, but police said she did not share any proof of this to them.” Police added that “They asked Markham if the product was confirmed with a doctor that it was safe to give the newborn, and she replied saying that since it was organic, it must be OK.” The baby remains in protective custody.
The case has chilling echoes of the one of the Atlanta couple who three years ago were sentenced to life for murder in the starvation death of their 6-week-old son. The couple’s defense argued that “the parents did the best they could while adhering to the lifestyle of vegans,” but prosecutors countered that they’d limited his diet to soy milk and apple juice. At the time of his death, the baby weighed just three and a half pounds. Also in 2011, a French couple were charged with “neglect and food deprivation followed by death” after the demise of their 11-month-old baby, who died underweight and with a vitamin deficiency. The vegan couple admitted the child’s entire diet consisted of breast milk.