CALGARY — An Alberta judge says a Calgary woman who treated her son with holistic remedies before he died of a strep infection "gambled away'' his life and is guilty of criminal negligence causing death.
Justice Kristine Eidsvik also issued a judicial stay on a second charge against Tamara Lovett of failing to provide the necessaries of life.
Lovett gave her seven-year-old son Ryan dandelion tea and oil of oregano when he developed the infection that kept him bedridden for 10 days in March 2013.
"Ms. Lovett took an obvious and seriously incredible risk with Ryan's health and well-being by taking it on herself to diagnose what remedies would be useful for Ryan without the assistance of more medically qualified help,'' Eidsvik said Monday.
Tamara Lovett is charged with failing to provide the necessities of life and criminal negligence causing death in the 2013 death of her child, Ryan. (Photo: Canadian Press)
"By doing so and administering dandelion tea, for instance, instead of getting him some penicillin, which would have been administered by any doctor, she gambled away Ryan's life.
"She took a risk that no reasonable parent would have taken at that point and her actions amounted to recklessness and wilful blindness.''
Lovett, 48, told police she thought her son had a cold or the flu.
Alberta's chief medical examiner testified at Lovett's trial that the boy's body was full of group A streptococcus bacteria, which caused most of his major organs to fail.
"Her actions amounted to a wanton and reckless disregard for the life and safety of her son Ryan.''
A couple of days before he died, he was complaining of pain in his leg, his eyes became jaundiced and he couldn't stand on his own, she said during a police interview.
"Ms. Lovett did indeed know the level of Ryan's suffering but made the deliberate choice not to seek medical care. Doing the best she could was in fact not the best she could do,'' said Eidsvik.
"She knew he was getting worse and yet continued along the same course until it was too late. Her actions amounted to a wanton and reckless disregard for the life and safety of her son Ryan.''
Boy did not have a birth certificate or health card
The judge also noted Ryan did not have a birth certificate or a health-care card.
Eidsvik ordered a psychiatric assessment of Lovett before sentencing arguments go ahead. Lovett did not react when the verdicts were delivered, but seemed confused when the tests were ordered.
"I don't understand what is happening here,'' she said.
Lovett will remain free on bail until her next appearance June 19.
Crown prosecutor Jonathan Hak said the judge was correct with her harsh criticisms of Lovett's behaviour.
"The way Tamara Lovett treated her son, although she loved him dearly, his fate was sealed the way she dealt with this very serious illness,'' said Hak.
"There's no winners, none at all in a case like that. She lost her son."
Defence lawyer Alain Hepner is hoping to keep his client out of jail at sentencing.
"There's no winners, none at all in a case like that. She lost her son. I know the judge was very hard on her,'' Hepner said outside court.
"You recall her demeanour during several days of the trial — she was in tears in the prisoner's dock, watching videos, watching her statement. It was difficult, it was emotional. It was hard for everyone in that courtroom.''