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Vegan parents on trial in death of baby fed only breast milk

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In a case that is likely to spark heated debate, a vegan couple are on trial in France this week facing charges of "neglect or food deprivation" in the death of their 11-month old baby.

According to the Guardian, Sergine and Joel Le Moaligou called an ambulance to their home in the village of Saint-Maulvis - 90 miles north of Paris - in March 2008 after their daughter Louise became listless, according to the Guardian newspaper. By the time paramedics arrived, the baby had died, the paper reports.

A postmortem showed the child weighed 5.7kg when she should have been about 8kg.

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It appears a number of factors had a role.

The child was fed only breast milk, no solids. She was also suffering from deficiency of vitamins A and B12, which may have left her susceptible to infection, experts have suggested. She died of a pneumonia-related illness.

Although the prosecution is reportedly treading lightly around the question of lifestyle, a lawyer on the team told the paper, "The problem with a vitamin B12 deficiency could be linked to the mother's eating habits."

But the parents also had a mistrust of traditional medicine and preferred to treat their children's complaints with advice from books, the Guardian reports. It may have led them to ignore signs that the baby was in distress.

"The couple did not follow the doctor's advice to take the baby to hospital when they went for her nine-month checkup and found she was suffering from bronchitis and was losing weight," said their lawyer.

"Instead they treated her with cabbage poultices, mustard and camphor and washed her with earth and clay instead of giving her baths, the court heard."

Does this case deal a blow to those who practice veganism and alternative medicine? Or do extreme cases like this misrepresent those practices to a public ready to pounce? Is there middle ground?

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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