The GEM Debate:
Is This Child Neglect?
Sarah Markham, of Casselberry, Florida, was arrested last week and charged with child neglect after police say she refused to follow a pediatrician’s directive to take her infant son to the hospital. The doctor told Markham that her 12-day-old son was suffering from dehydration and was losing weight.
Instead of taking the baby to the hospital as instructed, Markham took the baby home. The police were notified. They tried to make contact with Markham at her home but she refused to open the door. They called a locksmith to gain access. Markham said that she didn’t think she needed to acknowledge the police.
Citing veganism and her religious beliefs, Markham admitted that she didn’t giver her son the doctor-provided formula because she believed it was made with animal products. She was giving her son an organic soy formula. When asked if the pediatrician had confirmed that the formula was appropriate for her baby, she said that she knew it was safe because it came from Whole Foods. She also said that she wanted to get a second opinion from a vegan doctor.
Markham told officers that she would take her baby to the hospital because she was being forced to do so. Because she stayed home for the next hour, officers placed her under arrest. They said she didn’t seem disturbed by what was going on, even after being told that she wouldn’t be able to see her son until she goes before a judge.
The baby was treated at the hospital and placed into state custody. Markham was released from jail after posting $2,000 bond.
I don’t know much about veganism–just enough to say that I don’t see myself becoming a vegan, but never say never. I can’t say whether veganism is good or bad for infants, but my instincts tell me that it might not be the best idea for all babies.
Some babies may be fine with a vegan diet, but it should probably be closely monitored by a doctor and the baby will likely need to supplement with vitamins and minerals. Of course, at the first sign that something is wrong, the baby should consume whatever is needed to help him stay healthy.
Because veganism requires so much consideration, education, and care, I do think it’s a decision for older children, teenagers, and adults to make. Babies and children have unique nutritional needs.
This particular case isn’t about the merits or demerits of childhood veganism. My problem with it began when Markham decided not to take her son to the hospital. Dehydration is bad for anybody, but it can quickly become fatal for infants. I don’t think she took the doctor seriously. She could have taken her baby to the hospital to get a second opinion and informed them of her religious and dietary concerns.
I hate to hear about children being taken away from parents for frivolous reasons, but this case isn’t at all frivolous. Even on a temporary basis, Markham’s baby needs to be with someone else until she gets her act together.
What do you think? Is Markham guilty of child neglect? What do you think about veganism for babies and young children? Share your thoughts below.