This week, Emil and Rodica Radita are on trial in Calgary for the first-degree murder of their 15-year-old child, Alexandru (“Alex”), who had Type 1 diabetes. Prosecutors allege that the Raditas withheld insulin and starved the child until he was 37 pounds, according to a CBC report. By the end of his life, Alex was wearing a diaper and his body was covered with sores.
The Raditas were trying to cure his Type 1 diabetes through prayer, and had attempted to wean him off insulin. This wasn’t the first time they had attempted this, as Alex was taken away from them in 2003 for the very same act of neglect and placed in a foster home, where he thrived. He was returned to his family a year later, and they then moved from the province of British Columbia to province of Alberta. Once in Alberta, they never saw a doctor; social workers, apparently, didn’t pick up their trail.
The Raditas aren’t the only ones to have killed their child through diabetes ignorance. In 2015, an Australian 7-year-old died after his parents opted for slapping therapy instead of insulin. And in 2013, a U.S. court upheld the conviction of a Wisconsin couple who tried to pray away their 11-year-old daughter’s undiagnosed Type 1 diabetes rather than seek medical help. I’m sure that there are many more children who have died from untreated Type 1 diabetes in similar ways, only the cause of death was less obvious or the diabetes was undiagnosed.
Like many, I want to condemn the Raditas and turn the page, but I can’t, not fully. That’s because in some ways I was once like them.
I didn’t withhold insulin, but I did withhold vaccines until my child was five. My reasoning was quasi-religious: I was on a quest to raise my daughter as “naturally” as possible, and I bought into the now-debunked theory that vaccines caused autism and other harm to many children. My child is a healthy, thriving 11-year-old, but that’s because of the grace of good sanitation and collective herd immunity, not because of my parenting decisions. Without these, she could have died an equally horrible death as Alex.
While children should be removed from their homes if parents fail to treat their medical conditions properly, and parents should be prosecuted if their lack of treatment causes harm, how do you reach the misguided before they hurt their children this way?
With me, out-and-out condemnation didn’t work. I wore a suit of armor of self-righteousness that made me immune to facts and criticism. Instead, my mind changed slowly over time. People who loved me kept the vaccination conversation simmering; they were persistent, but knew when to back off and never condemned me for my choice. Also, the public discourse over vaccinations slowly whittled away the anti-vaxx argument until it was me and Jenny McCarthy on one side, and the rest of the world on the other. This process took patience, but my first child is now fully vaccinated, and my second child was vaccinated at birth.
We may not have been able to personally reach out to the Raditas and help them understand the consequences of the terrible choices they were making, but we as a Type 1 community can and should push back against any quackery about Type 1 diabetes that we find online. It’s our duty to respectfully engage with others when such false treatments are suggested in online forums and report links taking you to videos with far-fetched promises of diabetes cures as spam.
Shining a light in the darkness is a never-ending task, but the efforts we make may be able to tip the scale to fact-based treatments and save a child like Alex from a terrible death.
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