Respectful Insolence

When confronted with skeptics who refuse to stay silent in the face of quackery–I’m sorry, “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), a large proportion of which is unproven if not outright quackery–shruggies frequently ask, “What’s the harm?” I can reply that so many of these modalities are no more than elaborate placebos reinforced with magical thinking. I can explain why science- and evidence-based medicine is superior. I can even point out that the blandishments of quacks all too frequently convince people to forego or delay effective medical therapy, allowing them to become sicker or even become so sick that conventional medicine can no longer save them.

Or I can show them:

An alternative medicine devotee will spend six months behind bars for causing his sick daughter brain damage by refusing to take her to hospital.

The Brisbane District Court was told today the 11-year-old had been suffering from a heart infection for two weeks before her 45-year-old father finally took her to hospital.

She was gravely ill when she was admitted to Toowoomba Base Hospital in September 2006.

Her temperature was 42C, she had been hallucinating and was weak, pale and could no longer walk.

The court was told her mouth was peeling, black and clogged from the alternative medicine her father had been giving her in extremely high doses.

The doctor who finally examined the 11-year-old said in a report the girl was as “sick as the sickest person I’ve ever seen in 35 years”.

Six months behind bars for neglect that caused his daughter permanent brain damage? That seems incredibly inadequate to me. This father failed in his fundamental duty to his daughter, namely to provide her with medical care.

What probably happened was this girl had endocarditis, an infection of her heart valve. Endocarditis is eminently treatable with the correct antibiotics, but this girl was not treated with the correct antibiotics. What was she treated with? Mannatech:

Instead, he had been relying on the glyconutrient dietary supplement Mannatech to cure his daughter.

A psychologist report tendered in court said the father’s belief in Mannatech bordered on “obsessive” and that he had an “exaggerated view of his own knowledge and ability” about health treatments.

He had been giving her so much Mannatech it had stuck to her teeth and clogged her mouth.

The father also suffered impaired judgment because of a brain injury he suffered in the mid-1990s.

This leaves me with two questions. First, why was the girl in this man’s custody if his judgment was impaired by brain damage? Second, why did no one report how ill the girl was becoming to the authorities? There is a mention that the mother was afraid to push the issue because the man might deny her access to her daughter, but surely someone else must have had an inkling of what was going on. What about the school? Usually when a child is absent that long, it requires a doctor’s note, and if the absence continues too long it’s not uncommon for the school to send out a truant officer to find out why the child has been absent.

I looked around for more information and could only find this:

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

At one stage the man, who had the flu at the time, took Panadol but refused to give his daughter any, the court heard.

When the girl’s sister pleaded with him to take her to hospital, he told her: “Your mother’s drumming stupid stuff into your head.”

It wasn’t until several weeks later that he relented and took his daughter to Toowoomba Base Hospital, where the man ordered hospital staff not to give his daughter Panadol or antibiotics.

So, basically this girl’s father’s faith in Mannatech doomed her to a life of severe brain damage and disability. His idiocy robbed her of a normal life. There is no excuse.

But what is Mannatech?

Oddly enough, I haven’t really covered Mannatech before. Basically, Mannatech is a multilevel marketing (a.k.a. cleverly disguised pyramid scheme) company that sells a line of “glyconutrient” supplements. Like many companies selling unregulated dietary supplements, Mannatech claims its products are good for what ails you and “promote health.” Like many such companies, makes all sorts of health claims for its products. Unlike some of the more–shall we say?–discreet supplement companies, Mannatech isn’t afraid to claim its products can treat all manner of diseases and conditions. Its most famous product, Ambrotose, is claimed to “promote cell-cell communication,” whatever that means. Mannatech has claimed that its products can treat all sorts of disease. So said the Texas Attorney General in 2006:

Mannatech, a Dallas-area company that sells sugar pills touted to cure cancer, Down syndrome and a panoply of other conditions, is under investigation by the Texas Attorney General’s Office for possible deceptive trade practices.

“Mannatech has made unproven health claims about its products, such as the ability to cure cancer and numerous other ailments,” the AG’s office wrote in an Oct. 24 response to a public information request. “The claims are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, making the claims potentially in violation of both state and federal law.”

Mannatech even claimed its supplements could treat Down’s syndrome, a genetic disorder.

Few companies can claim to have had a commentary written about them in a scientific journal that slams their claims, but Mannatech can. In 2007, the journal Glycobiology published a scathing review and commentary about Mannatech’s claims entitled A “Glyconutrient Sham” that was uncharacteristically blunt for a scientific journal. Its conclusions were that the supplements sold by Mannatech are either unproven or clearly worthless and that Mannatech’s claims for them are unjustified and unsupported by science. Naturally, as is common for sellers of supplements, lots of science is cited, but most of it, though impressive sounding, does not support the claims of Mannatech for its products or is not as it is represented.

Companies like Mannatech promote their products through a now-familiar combination of grandiose claims intentionally tinged with plausible deniability. That they can get away with this is completely due to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, a law I like to call the “quackery support act.” Indeed, Mannatech was founded in 1994. Whether coincidence or not, it is appropriate. It fits.

I realize that the DSHEA is an American law and consequently does not apply in Australia, where the 11-year-old girl described earlier was injured. However, similar sorts of laws are being promoted worldwide as part of the “health freedom” movement. In reality, the “health freedom” movement is really the “quack freedom” movement. It means freedom from reasonable regulation, freedom for sellers of dubious treatments or supplements to sell what they want when they want. It means freedom of protections against fraud.

Girls like the unnamed 11 year old are the casualties.

Comments

  1. #1 CaladanGuard
    December 17, 2008

    Its unfortunate, but something that does happen in Australia, we also have this one from earlier in the year for the shruggies. Terrible, but I haven’t seen much coverage on this case.

    http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,24755186-1702,00.html

  2. #2 Yoo
    December 17, 2008

    Like “ignorance not being an excuse to break the law”, sometimes I wish that “delusions are no excuse for breaking the law”.

  3. #3 Knight of L-sama
    December 17, 2008

    Six months behind bars for neglect that caused his daughter permanent brain damage? That seems incredibly inadequate to me.

    That has nothing to do with sympathy to quackery or anything of the sort. It’s an endemic complaint about the Queensland justice system at the moment. Sentences are consistently on the low side.

  4. #4 Flaky
    December 17, 2008

    Awww, look they even have MannaBears for kids:
    https://www.mannatech.com/MyMannatech/FilePopUp.aspx?ModNumber=1113504&go=1 , how cute is that?

    “Used as part of a healthy diet,
    MannaBears® are the ideal snack to help
    children stay healthy and grow properly.”

  5. #5 colmcq
    December 17, 2008

    “Six months behind bars for neglect that caused his daughter permanent brain damage? That seems incredibly inadequate to me.”

    I doubt the length of the jail term, short or long, would deter or change the actions of CAM practitioners. Having said that, I feel sympathy for the father and realise he must bear responsibility for his actions for the rest of his life.

  6. #6 colmcq
    December 17, 2008

    “The father also suffered impaired judgment because of a brain injury he suffered in the mid-1990s.”

    Be interesting to find out how that came about…

    “Six months behind bars for neglect that caused his daughter permanent brain damage? That seems incredibly inadequate to me.”

    It’s debatable what jail would achieve in this situation anyway. I strongly suspect a longer sentence may not deter devout CAM practitioners promoting their fatastic treatments simply because they’re so deluded. A better solution in this case would be removal of the daughter from the fathers care; a custodial sentence achieves little – bar punishment – and that makes me feel uneasy.

  7. #7 colmcq
    December 17, 2008

    ffs – ignore first comment, my browser and computer are playing silly buggers. sorry.

  8. #8 Heatherly
    December 17, 2008

    Unfortunately though, even though this was in Australia, America doesn’t usually do much better. Medical neglect is one of the hardest types of neglect to process (second from the bottom–mental injury/emotional abuse being dead last). I’m a foster care social worker in MD, and even some of our strongest cases of medical neglect received extremely minor sentences, regardless of the harm done the child.

    Not that it’s surprising–child abuse in general usually isn’t prosecuted nearly as strongly as other crimes.

  9. #9 Ahistoricality
    December 17, 2008

    First, why was the girl in this man’s custody if his judgment was impaired by brain damage?

    “Impaired” can mean a lot of things: it’s entirely possible that he was a perfectly responsible caregiver outside of the Mannatech issue.

    Be interesting to find out how that came about…

    I’d be more interested in when the Mannatech obsession began: it might be a recent issue, which would explain why the girls remained in his care.

  10. #10 marilove
    December 17, 2008

    “”Impaired” can mean a lot of things: it’s entirely possible that he was a perfectly responsible caregiver outside of the Mannatech issue. ”

    Uh.

    He refused his daughter BASIC MEDICAL CARE for a TREATABLE DISEASE and now she has PERMANENT BRAIN DAMAGE.

    “The doctor who finally examined the 11-year-old said in a report the girl was as “sick as the sickest person I’ve ever seen in 35 years”.”

    Perfectly responsible caregiver my ass.

    If he could not determine that she needed serious medical care, what else was he not able to determine? This isn’t rocket science, here.

    The fact that she is now brain damanaged from his direct neglect actually prooves that he was an unfit father and should not have had custody. She didn’t just break an arm. She is brain damaged because he did not get her basic medical care!

    Jesus Christ, I love when people defend morons.

  11. #11 Mike
    December 17, 2008

    Sadly,
    I feel removing the damaged daughter from the father’s care would remove a burden on him that he deserves. The perpetual, unassisted care of that girl would be adequate punishment I think. All other children should be removed and warning signs posted: “Idiot Lives Here – Keep Away”.

    I know nothing about Australian law but does Mannatech bear any legal responsibility for promoting their useless wares? Possibly by promoting it in a way that would prevent needed medical attention?

  12. #12 bob
    December 17, 2008

    “[I]t’s entirely possible that he was a perfectly responsible caregiver outside of the Mannatech issue.”

    Just like faith healers are perfectly responsible except when they pray for their children instead of giving them insulin shots. I guess I see what you’re getting at, but I think you missed the bigger point: that this guy was not “responsible” in the least.

  13. #13 pinky
    December 17, 2008

    Treat down sydrome? Wow…just wow

  14. #14 Katharine
    December 17, 2008

    Mike -

    Dude, are you even thinking about his daughter?

  15. #15 marilove
    December 17, 2008

    “I feel removing the damaged daughter from the father’s care would remove a burden on him that he deserves. The perpetual, unassisted care of that girl would be adequate punishment I think. All other children should be removed and warning signs posted: “Idiot Lives Here – Keep Away”.”

    Oh, okay, so he can damage her even further? Really?

    She deserves to be taken care of someone who can actually take care of her, not left as punishment.

  16. #16 marilove
    December 17, 2008

    Katharine: Sure he is. He’s thinking the daughter would make a perfect punishment! Because she hasn’t been through enough already!

  17. #17 Marcus Ranum
    December 17, 2008

    He effectively reduced the chance that his genes will be passed on. Think of it as evolution in action.

  18. #18 marilove
    December 17, 2008

    Marcus? He has other children.

  19. #19 Sam C
    December 17, 2008

    What unsympathetic comments!

    Two injured people, both an ocean away, neither of whom have hurt any of you or have any connection with you, and many of you seem to want revenge and punishment? Why?

    Why are Americans so vicious? What is wrong with you folk?

    Human error and frailty are facts of life. It is time for those involved (family and authorities) to pick up the pieces, not to pour out bile, to spray vitriol, to punish, punish, punish. The important thing is to try to stop it happening again.

  20. #20 Ahistoricality
    December 17, 2008

    I guess I see what you’re getting at, but I think you missed the bigger point: that this guy was not “responsible” in the least.

    I agree, in this instance. I am objecting to Orac’s claim that people with mental impairments regardless of cause, effect or severity should have their children removed from their care. And I was wondering whether the Mannatech issue was a recent one: if it is, then it helps to explain why he was a primary caregiver; if it isn’t, then that raises further questions about the responsibility of family courts and agencies and about the way in which parenting is judged.

  21. #21 marilove
    December 17, 2008

    “Human error and frailty are facts of life. ”

    Refusing basic medical care to your child should not be a “fact of life.”

    “The important thing is to try to stop it happening again.”

    Yep. By putting him in jail so he knows that what he did was not right, and so he can’t do more harm to his other children.

    He could have KILLED his child, had he not finally brought her to the hospital.

    Good Gracious, I don’t understand people who defend this kind of wankery.

    He abused his child. Period.

  22. #22 marilove
    December 17, 2008

    I’m sorry, Ahistoricality, but this man was obviously not well. If he couldn’t even do something so simple as give his daughter basic medical care, then he should NOT have had custody of his daughter. Period. I highly doubt this was the only case of child abuse. He had his other daughter AND wife beg him to take her to the hospital and he still refused. His daughter was told to be “the sickest of the sick” — and he chose to ignore it.

    This isn’t small potatoes. He willfully ignored some very real evidence that his daughter was likely dying. And now she’s got permanent brain damage because of his neglect.

  23. #23 Sam C
    December 17, 2008

    Marilove, I didn’t “defend this kind of wankery”, did I?

    You have just reinforced my point about the nastiness of the commenters here, with your hate-filled post and knee-jerk kick kick kick reactions.

    You’re clearly an angry person who can’t read properly and think rationally, should you too be put in jail to stop your anger spilling over into violence? Bet you don’t think so, eh?

    Egregious nastiness does not prevent stupidity. You are proof of that point. Learn to read, learn to think.

  24. #24 Orac
    December 17, 2008

    I agree, in this instance. I am objecting to Orac’s claim that people with
    mental impairments regardless of cause, effect or severity should
    have their children removed from their care.

    That is not what I meant; I meant a mental impairment that clearly interferes with the ability to take care of a child. I thought that was clear from the context. Maybe it wasn’t.

  25. #25 marilove
    December 17, 2008

    Sam C, did you read the same post as I did? Because you said:

    “Why are Americans so vicious? What is wrong with you folk?”

    We are vicious? I’m outraged that this was allowed to happen. I’m outraged that a company is able to shill a worthless pill.

    “She was gravely ill when she was admitted to Toowoomba Base Hospital in September 2006.”

    “Her temperature was 42C, she had been hallucinating and was weak, pale and could no longer walk.”

    “The court was told her mouth was peeling, black and clogged from the alternative medicine her father had been giving her in extremely high doses.”

    “The doctor who finally examined the 11-year-old said in a report the girl was as “sick as the sickest person I’ve ever seen in 35 years”.”

    And we’re vicious? Are you kidding me? Of COURSE I’m angry! Why are you not angry that a CHILD was tortured and abused by her own father? She now has permanent brain damage … and he gets six months in jail.

    “You’re clearly an angry person who can’t read properly and think rationally, should you too be put in jail to stop your anger spilling over into violence?”

    I didn’t abuse and torture a child, did I?

    I have every right to be angry. FUCK YEAH, I’m pissed. I’m pissed that this company will likely not be held leagally responsible. I’m pissed that a CHILD is now damaged FOR LIFE because her father couldn’t take her to the hospital! I am pissed that this kind of stuff KEEPS HAPPENING. I am pissed that our own government protects quackery. HELL YEAH I am pissed.

  26. #26 Blake Stacey
    December 17, 2008

    Wait a second, Mannatech is supposed to “improve cell-to-cell communication”? Wasn’t there a whole bunch of research on tumor angiogenesis in the hope that preventing cell-to-cell communication could actually treat some cancers?

  27. #27 Mike
    December 17, 2008

    Sorry, wasn’t clear on the punishment aspect. I rightfully deserved THAT thrashing.

    He should be required to provide all daily, menial care. Cleaning, cooking, exercise, etc. The control of the medical and overall welfare for the girl should NOT be his. He should be required to follow strict instructions care, feeding and report regularly for checkups and any medicine required. It just boils me to think that in six months he will be out and free from the burden he has created. Counseling might be a nice addition to the punishment as well.

  28. #28 Liesl
    December 17, 2008

    That is not what I meant; I meant a mental impairment that clearly interferes with the ability to take care of a child. I thought that was clear from the context. Maybe it wasn’t.

    It was clear. I thought I had wandered into a bizarro world for a moment with all of the out of context taking going on in these comments.

    On another note: I can’t count the number of times people have told me I need to be on that crap for my genetic disorder. Living in Dallas might make the incidence of that sort of thing higher, though. My mother and a friend of hers actually tried it; made them both quite sick. I’m sure that was just the “toxins” being purged from their system.

  29. #29 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 17, 2008

    Human error and frailty are facts of life. It is time for those involved (family and authorities) to pick up the pieces, not to pour out bile, to spray vitriol, to punish, punish, punish. The important thing is to try to stop it happening again.

    Yes human error like refusing to get adequate care for your child.

    Oh that’s not error. That’s neglect. Neglect that could have easily been avoided if he had listened to his family members.
    There are others who are partially responsible. The authorities, the mother and of course Mannatech.

  30. #30 colmcq
    December 17, 2008

    “Human error and frailty are facts of life.”

    and criminal stupidity.

    “It is time for those involved (family and authorities) to pick up the pieces, not to pour out bile, to spray vitriol, to punish, punish, punish. The important thing is to try to stop it happening again.”

    agreed

  31. #31 Liesl
    December 17, 2008

    Oops, meant to use quotation marks for your comment, Orac. Sorry about that.

  32. #32 Joseph C.
    December 17, 2008

    Why are Americans so vicious? What is wrong with you folk?

    And why do you generalize about 300 million people based on a few anonymous blog comments?

  33. #33 Gary
    December 17, 2008

    That is not what I meant; I meant a mental impairment that clearly interferes with the ability to take care of a child. I thought that was clear from the context. Maybe it wasn’t.

    I was wondering by what magical means The Queensland DCS was supposed to know he was going to do this to his daughter before he did?

  34. #34 marilove
    December 17, 2008

    And isn’t it curious, Joseph C., that we’re the vicious ones? When it was the father that ignored blatant signs that his daughter was dying?

    She was gravely ill when she was admitted to Toowoomba Base Hospital in September 2006.

    Her temperature was 42C, she had been hallucinating and was weak, pale and could no longer walk.

    The court was told her mouth was peeling, black and clogged from the alternative medicine her father had been giving her in extremely high doses.

    The doctor who finally examined the 11-year-old said in a report the girl was as “sick as the sickest person I’ve ever seen in 35 years”.

    peeling!! She was hallucinating! And yet … we’re vicious.

  35. #35 marilove
    December 17, 2008

    Herr herrr, I suck at html.

  36. #36 marilove
    December 17, 2008

    Gary, we can’t know for certain, but if there was this level of neglect over a heart infection, something tells me there was neglect previously to this. This isn’t small potatoes. He literally watched his own daughter deteriorate before his eyes, and even ignored his other daughter and his wife’s begging to take her to the hospital.

    Child abuse doesn’t generally start from nowhere, and this was certainly child abuse. If he couldn’t take her to the hospital for a heart infection, what else did he neglect when it came to her health and welfare?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more signs of abuse and neglect within this family.

  37. #37 CaladanGuard
    December 17, 2008

    Not to mention that some of us (me, at least) are terribly vicious Australians too. Might even be some vicious British people here. It wouldn’t help with anti-US vitriol though.

    In regards to Mannatech themselves, unfortunately, the Therapeutics Goods Administration here (our FDA) is very much toothless when it comes to this sort of thing. For one, their advertising laws do not include the internet at this time, so it leaves the door wide open for advertisement (so long as you don’t use ‘mainstream media’ produced inside Australia)

    This is the main way these people bring their drugs into Australia, and we have been unsuccessful so far in attempting to stop it: Advertise on the internet (no legal responsibility for claims) Sell from the internet for direct import, and you effectively bypass our TGA, as long as it is for personal use, it doesn’t contain a controlled substance and is not on the prescription register here.

    Even if you set up shop and sell in Australia, it is unfortunately very easy to either bypass the TGA, or use the CAM sections of the regulation to prove traditional use, or skip the portions about efficacy.

    Our system looks good on paper, but it works about as well as I imagine the FDA does in keeping SCAM products off the market. Great at keeping those of us in the real medical proefessions honest, which is nice. But useless for anything else.

  38. #38 marilove
    December 17, 2008

    And to clarify, we of course don’t know the details, but I don’t believe that there weren’t signs. If the authorities weren’t able to see it, his wife at least should have. She should be charged with neglect and aiding in child abuse. Certainly she knew he was unable to take care of his daughter properly. She had to have. This likely was NOT the first time something like this happened.

  39. #39 The Perky Skeptic
    December 17, 2008

    This is horrifying. This case deserves every iota of the anger it has generated here, and more. It is long past time to speak out to those in power about the harm in quackery-protection laws.

    Letter-writing campaign, anyone?

  40. #40 ArtK
    December 17, 2008

    @Sam C:

    Human error is a continuum from “oops, sorry” all the way to gross negligence and abuse. One of factors that places an event on this line is the potential bad outcome. Giving a healthy 11yo 3tbsp of OTC cough medicine instead of 3tsp is an “oops.” Giving the same dose to a 1yo is negligence. Treating the girl with crap, ignoring her worsening condition, then telling the doctors that they can’t use the appropriate treatments goes beyond gross negligence into abuse.

    Yes, I get outraged and vicious when I see an innocent being abused by someone who should have their complete trust. Would you not be outraged if he had beaten the child? Or would you have dismissed it as “just human error?” For me, and most of the commenters here, withholding proper medical treatment is on a par with a physical beating. The result is certainly the same — a child facing a lifetime of disability through the conscious action of her parent.

    One of the ways we work to prevent this is to punish people who do it. Do you have a positive suggestion about how to prevent further occurrances?

  41. #41 Lucario
    December 17, 2008

    Now, I’m the kind of person who believes there’s a place, however small, for plausible alternative medicine that has been shown to work (at least for some). However, to exclusively use alternative therapies instead of conventional, especially in life-threatening situations, is simply insane. It’s doubly insane when the therapy used is a useless bunch of sugar pills available only through MLM.

    Also, I’m curious as to how in the world one could get an infection in one’s heart like that. Was the girl immunocompromised in any way?

  42. #42 marilove
    December 17, 2008

    “For me, and most of the commenters here, withholding proper medical treatment is on a par with a physical beating. ”

    This this TIHS. It was child abuse. Just because he didn’t hit her does not mean it wasn’t child abuse!

  43. #43 marilove
    December 17, 2008

    Also, Lucario — I was wondering the same thing. Did she have another infection that the father ignored? This is why I don’t think this was the first instance of neglect.

  44. #44 colmcq
    December 17, 2008

    “the appropriate treatments goes beyond gross negligence into abuse.”

    This man was what we in scotland would call a ‘divot’; I don’t for a single second think he *intended* to harm his daughter with such calculating efficiency and injurious abandonment; allusions to ‘abuse’ or ‘torture’ are highly emotive but ultimately misplaced and innacurate: they do not promote rational discourse.

  45. #45 marilove
    December 17, 2008

    Uh … neglect is a form of abuse! Neglect, indeed, is abuse. What if he just neglected to feed her? That’s abuse.

    He neglected to take her to the doctor for TWO FULL WEEKS.

    Must I repeat this again? “He had been giving her so much Mannatech it had stuck to her teeth and clogged her mouth.”

    It is not at all inaccurate to describe willful neglect, which is what this was, as abuse. Neglect is abuse.

    Again, why do people defend this kind of stuff?

  46. #46 Cook
    December 17, 2008

    I hope for the girl and her sister that they are both now in a proper home with the right care.I wonder why the mother didn’t try harder to get her daughter medical attention.I am unsure of the laws and court there but here (US) you can call Child Protective Services without having to leave a name.If it happened to my child I couldn’t live with myself if I hadn’t done all that I could.As for all Americans being hell bent on punishment it’s so very easy to stereotype a large group of people.There are far worse places then the United States.No country is perfect nor it’s people.There are times where jail doesn’t work.And more statistics that the death pentalty doesn’t work.There are alot of people here that don’t agree with the way the criminal system works.And alot of good people working toward changing things here.But there are times where jail is the only option.I don’t think anyone would seriously suggest putting a serial killer on a system of counseling/meds then letting them back on the streets.If people could just look past their world views and work together to make things better.It’s sad to see how we all assume things about other people and with that we lose so much.This world would be much better for everyone if we could break stereotypes and work towards everyone having a better life.

    What really bothers me is that if all the money spent on these cure alls,would be put into real medicine that I’m sure cures could be found much sooner.Cures that actually work.

  47. #47 Catherina
    December 17, 2008

    I guess it may have started out with untreated strep (if antibiotics are evil….)

  48. #48 Cat
    December 17, 2008

    “Gary, we can’t know for certain, but if there was this level of neglect over a heart infection, something tells me there was neglect previously to this. This isn’t small potatoes. He literally watched his own daughter deteriorate before his eyes, and even ignored his other daughter and his wife’s begging to take her to the hospital.”

    I agree there was likely neglect and abuse.

    Based on the limited story we have been given, it sounds like the children were pawns in the father’s game for control. The mother didn’t want to speak up for fear the father would take the kids away from her again. So he’s played that game before with great success. He didn’t want to listen to anyone when it came to his daughter’s illness because, again, he wanted to be the one in control of her treatment. He considered the idea that his daughter needed to go to the hospital as “rubbish” that was put into his other daughter’s head by her mother. He wouldn’t even let the doctors do what they needed to do without trying to control whether they gave her Panadol and antibiotics!

    Why did he finally take her to a doctor? I suspect it was at the last possible moment, when he finally realized she might die and he would thus lose control over her, his wife, his other children, and possibly his own life (via jail). In other words, this is about him and has been all along.

    The children should be taken from the father at first opportunity and he should be evaluated. I worry that he is quite capable of killing those children should custody be removed from him.

  49. #49 marilove
    December 17, 2008

    Yep, Cat, you said it better than I could.

    “The mother didn’t want to speak up for fear the father would take the kids away from her again.”

    This is what gives me red flags. Why was she so afraid? Likely because he was playing mind games, and was abusive toward her and his children (emotionally and mentally; abuse is not just physical).

    When people such as colmcq say it’s not abuse, I am just flabbergasted. This is a classic example of abuse. I talked to my sister, who has worked with abused women in the past, and she says the mother’s fear is a damn good indicator of abuse. When a mother is that afraid to get her own daughter medical treatment, there is a reason.

  50. #50 ArtK
    December 17, 2008

    @colmq:

    allusions to ‘abuse’ or ‘torture’ are highly emotive but ultimately misplaced and innacurate: they do not promote rational discourse.

    I strongly disagree. One of my jobs is to teach basic safety precautions to volunteers who work under aegis of the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997. As part of the class, we teach the volunteers how to identify abuse. There are five types currently recognized — the first three are familiar to most people, but the others are just as important.

    • Emotional abuse: This is most common; attacking the emotional well-being and stability of an individual.
    • Physical abuse; The most obvious: harming the physical well-being of an individual.
    • Sexual abuse: Frequently hidden; harming an individual through inappropriate sexual contact, lewd behavior, etc.
    • Neglect abuse: Not always easy to identify; harming an individual by abandoning, ignoring or rejecting basic needs.
    • Ethical abuse: The newest; harming an individual by convincing him or her to do an act that is against his or her physical, moral or ethical interests.
    • (Taken from the AYSO Safe Haven training materials)

      Physical abuse is not just beatings and burnings. Abuse through neglect is real. We have both of these in this case and the use of the term is not over the top or inappropriate.

  51. #51 marilove
    December 17, 2008

    You’re right, Catherina, that’s where it seems it started.

    Which means she wasn’t treated for strep.

    So, colmcq, do you still say this wasn’t abuse?

  52. #52 marilove
    December 17, 2008

    Thank you, Artk. I’m copy-pasting that and saving it. That list could be highly useful later.

  53. #53 ozmum
    December 17, 2008

    Whilst I agree that this was abuse and the father should not have had charge of his children given his behaviour – I’m concerned that people are advocating that merely because the father was diagnosed with a brain injury with mild impairment he should not have had custody.

    This comes from a daughter of a mildly brain injured father who has some mild impairment as the result of a motorcycle accident. Apart from his impairments (which was mostly really bad short term memory) I couldn’t have asked for a better father. Sure he once forgot to pick my up from my school but I had a great childhood with him.

    As for Mannatech, our very own Peter Bowditch from the Aus Skeptics has a page on them http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/mannatech.htm

  54. #54 colmcq
    December 18, 2008

    “Neglect abuse: Not always easy to identify; harming an individual by abandoning, ignoring or rejecting basic needs.”

    I think the problem in this debate was that the definition of the term ‘abuse’ was never arrived at with any degree of consensus and possibly why so many people were getting upset and angry. This clarification was extremely helpful and under these conditions the father is certainly guilty of ‘neglect abuse’. However, terms such as ‘torture’ are ludicrous and intellectually bankrupt.

  55. #55 colmcq
    December 18, 2008

    “This clarification was extremely helpful and under these conditions the father is certainly guilty of ‘neglect abuse’. ”

    Interesting to note that the father was charged with grevious bodily harm and not neglect abuse; it would be interesting to hear from an expert in Autralian law why this decision was made and maybe also explain the legal complexities surrounding issues of abuse, neglect, harm and domestic violence.

  56. #56 Kathryn
    December 18, 2008

    Colmcq wrote: “However, terms such as ‘torture’ are ludicrous and intellectually bankrupt.”

    Actually, I think one could actually make a case that forcing someone to eat so much Mannatech that it was stuck to their teeth and clogging their mouth constitutes torture.

  57. #57 colmcq
    December 18, 2008

    “Actually, I think one could actually make a case that forcing someone to eat so much Mannatech that it was stuck to their teeth and clogging their mouth constitutes torture.”

    According to the United Nations:

    “Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”

    - Convention Against Torture, Article 1.1

    The level of debate here really is appallingly irrational and bad tempered.

    I’m out.//

  58. #58 marilove
    December 18, 2008

    I’m concerned that people are advocating that merely because the father was diagnosed with a brain injury with mild impairment he should not have had custody.

    Nobody said that, Ozmum. Not once did anyone every say that.

    However, there were likely signs of abuse and neglect before this, that the mother most likely ignored, if not the authorities themselves. This kind of abuse doesn’t just start from nowhere.

    colmcq, there are different definitions of torture, and force-feeding your own daughter to the point where her mouth is peeling is, indeed, torture.

    “The level of debate here really is appallingly irrational and bad tempered. ”

    Really? The man abused and neglected his poor daughter. It’s irrational to call abuse abuse, now?

  59. #59 ArtK
    December 18, 2008

    Interesting to note that the father was charged with grevious bodily harm and not neglect abuse; it would be interesting to hear from an expert in Autralian law why this decision was made and maybe also explain the legal complexities surrounding issues of abuse, neglect, harm and domestic violence.

    Not particularly interesting to me. I can think of a number of reasons. First, it’s possible that the laws on abuse haven’t kept pace with the broader consensus of what abuse is. Second, GBH may carry heavier penalties. Third, it’s possible that the prosecutors felt that it was easier to get a conviction for GBH than for neglect abuse — while we may agree that this was neglect, the fact that the father made some (badly misguided) attempt at treatment may let him off the hook, as far as the letter of the law is concerned. Having served on a number of juries, I can tell you that the results that make sense in the law don’t always make sense in a more general context.

    The level of debate here really is appallingly irrational and bad tempered.

    I’ll admit to being bad tempered. I can’t agree with the discussion being irrational whatsoever.

  60. #60 Kathryn
    December 18, 2008

    I stand corrected on my misunderstanding of the definition of torture. In colloquial usage, the line between abuse and torture is rather vague, just as the colloquial meaning of theory is different than the scientific usage.

    Of course, it would’ve been more to the point to say that some of us had forgotten the technical difference between abuse and torture is that torture is abuse applied to extract information, than to refer to our usage as “ludicrous and intellectually bankrupt.” I hardly believe that this type of ridicule elevated the discourse.

  61. #61 AndyD
    December 18, 2008

    On a separate (OT) note, and one I hope someone of a science background will cover, is the question of “toxic sunscreens”.

    This issue was raised again this week on Aussie TV (Dr Peter Dingle on Sunrise). Now, Dr Dingle is well known for his seemingly extreme views on the toxicity of almost everything we encounter, but is there any basis to this?

    The TGA (our FDA) and the cancer Council dispute Dingle’s claims but he accuses them of vested interest. As a past melanoma sufferer, I regularly use titanium-based sunscreens as do my kids. I fear parents might stop using it as a result of this report – at the start of our summer!

    My search so far suggests that the anti-sunscreen argument follows the anti-vax, anti-pharma arguments we skeptics are generally familiar with. Almost everything I found supporting the “toxicity” argument was found on websites promoting or selling homeopathic & naturopathic products (Dr Dingle is himself involved in a “wellness clinic”. There is another Dingle, possibly unrelated, marketing a “safe, natural” sunscreen product). But I am not knowledgeable enough to dispute the claims being made about the chemistry of sunscreen.

    However, I could find no skeptical coverage of the “debate”. Any takers?

  62. #62 Ahistoricality
    December 19, 2008
    I agree, in this instance. I am objecting to Orac’s claim that people with mental impairments regardless of cause, effect or severity should have their children removed from their care.

    That is not what I meant; I meant a mental impairment that clearly interferes with the ability to take care of a child. I thought that was clear from the context. Maybe it wasn’t.

    No, it wasn’t. There is an assumption running through this whole discussion that the father’s absurd and dangerous medical neglect was either a long-running theme or a result of the mental impairment. I’m asking for some chronology, or at least some respect for the lack of a chronology in the reporting we’ve seen so far. Speculating about what should have been done in the absence of information that there was clear evidence of harm or danger is irresponsible and feeds off of and into misconceptions about parenting by the disabled which are deeply disturbing.

  63. #63 Ahistoricality
    December 19, 2008

    Just to be clear, “in the absence of information that there was clear evidence of harm or danger” does NOT refer to the period after the girl got obviously sick.

  64. #64 marilove
    December 19, 2008

    Ahistoricality, if you have ANY understanding of patterns of abuse, you’ll see these patterns. The fact that the daughter’s own mother was afraid to take her daugher to the hospital because she feared her husband would take her away is a great indicator, for one.

    I have family members with mental illnesses and disabilities who parent fine, and who are not abusive. One doesn’t have to be mentally ill to be abusive. This father happened to be both.

  65. #65 Liesl
    December 20, 2008

    Marilove:

    The problem I think people have had with your comments is the insistence on fact where none is offered. People have been known to suddenly change behavior and you have no idea if that happened in this case based solely on the information given. For all we know, the mother could be lying to save herself the responsibility of not reporting her daughter’s condition. We just don’t know and it is irrational to claim that we do, or that we can even infer correctly from the limited information presented and an understanding of abuse as a pattern.

  66. #66 Emma
    December 22, 2008

    As someone has already mentioned, it’s very easy to get around the TGA rules in Australia. Pharmaceuticals are subjected to a rigourous testing process to prove that they are safe and effective before they can be can be put on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG), but complementary and herbal remedies are not. It comes down to whether or not a product is making any therapeutic claims. If a medicine claims to treat a disease for example, it must be ‘registered’ on the ARTG and must go through the testing process. But if a product only makes very general statements about benefits, like herbal remedies and supplements, then it only needs to be ‘listed’, and is exempt from the full testing process. They only need to provide enough data to show it isn’t dangerous, then they can market it here.
    I’ve just checked, and there are a number of Mannatech products on the ARTG, so it is perfectly legal for them to be marketed and sold here.

  67. #67 sonam
    September 6, 2010

    just six months trial for making a kid suffer….
    i think its not enough….

  68. #68 medical malpractice
    September 13, 2010

    just six months trial for making a kid suffer….
    i think its not enough….

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