DENDERMONDE, Belgium (AP) — In a cautionary tale about alternative diets, a Belgian court convicted two parents Wednesday in the death of their infant, who succumbed to malnutrition and dehydration because his parents were firm believers in unconventional nutrition.
The court gave both a suspended six-month sentence because they failed to take adequate action to take care of baby Lucas, who died at 7 months old with organs shrunk to half their size and without any fat around them.
Judge Mieke Butstraen said the demise of the baby was "the result of the systematic offer of food that was not suitable."
Because of that, "his health was seriously impeded and he eventually died" three years ago, weighing only 4.3 kilograms (9.5 pounds), barely a 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) more in weight than when he was born.
The case has caused a major uproar about the use of alternative medicine and the responsibility of parents in raising their kids.
The parents could still appeal the sentence, but the court said it already showed some leniency by giving the minimum six-month sentence.
"It is clear that the defendants have already been severely punished because they need to proceed with life in the knowledge that they are responsible for the death of their son, who they truly loved," Butstraen said.
The parents own a natural dietary shop and backed alternative food to the fullest, applying it to their newly born third child.
Even though the baby was not diagnosed with lactose or gluten intolerance, the parents suspected Lucas had that, and started experimenting with different alternatives like rice, quinoa and buckwheat milk. They did not consult a doctor, court papers show and stopped going to social care for babies.
Instead they took advice from clients at the shop and looked on the internet.
"The defendants knew the precarious health situation of their child, yet refused to call in medical help in time," the judge said.
On the day of his death, when his situation quickly deteriorated, Lucas was first taken to a homeopathic doctor. He was dead when he finally got to a hospital.