A story from this past week was a tough one for those of us who live and breathe pseudoscience debunking to stomach. Mercifully, we were thrown a bone just when we thought that hope was gone.
A man who is no stranger to the world of pseudoscience, David Stephan, was scheduled to speak at a number of upcoming Wellness Expos and events in different areas of Canada.
But, Stephan is no ordinary snake oil salesman. He was also convicted, along with his wife Collet, in failing to provide the necessities of life for their child, Ezekiel.
The story of Ezekiel Stephen is too tragic to bear. In short, he was a 19-month old boy who had a bacterial infection that his parents, David and Collet, treated with natural remedies instead of seeking medical treatment. What happened is not a big surprise - he developed meningitis and died a completely needless death. ACSH president, Hank Campbell, covered it here, if you want to read the heartbreaking details.
The Stephens couple has been in the news on and off, since Ezekiel's death in 2012. Their court case drew attention and their subsequent appeal to the Supreme Court has kept their story in the limelight.
Given his past, it is shocking that Stephan was invited to speak at all. His scheduled seminar, entitled “Achieving Brain & Thyroid Health — Rising to your Potential,” focuses on improving mental health and promoting hormone balance through nutrient supplementation. To no surprise, he happens to also sell the supplement, EMPowerplus, "daily multi-vitamin replacement" capsules, which are meant to help with mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, ADD/ADHD and stress.
When the word got out about Stephan's invitation, an onslaught of criticism online ensued. At first, the owner of the Health and Wellness Expos of Canada defended the decision to invite Stephan to speak. "The issue that Dave had in terms of being arrested have nothing to do with his healthcare product that he's selling."
However, after much of the twitter-storm became directed to the sponsors of the expo, including Sobey's, the second largest food retailer in Canada, the sponsors started to pull out. And, when the money started walking away, the pressure was on the expo to rethink their decision.
Sobey's posted this comment on Twitter, "Sobeys has withdrawn its sponsorship from Health and Wellness Expos of Canada and will not be associated with future events."
Another large sponsor, Flaman Fitness withdrew their support writing, “We will not support an event which has David Stephan as keynote speaker and are withdrawing our sponsorship of this event and all future associated events."
And, rethink they did. Stephan is no longer scheduled as a speaker at the expos.
In response, Stephan posted a 24 minute Facebook live post as a reaction to the cancellations, blaming “pharma trolls” for the pressure put on the sponsors.
Well, we're going to take this point for the pro-science community. Our outrage and vocal admonishment of the choice to give Stephan a platform for his dangerous ideas made a difference. We removed what would certainly have been a large payday and captive audience for him. Even more, let's hope that this means that David Stephan's time in the spotlight is over. Perhaps the next time that we see his name in print, it will be news that he is finally serving the jail time that he was sentenced.
Note: David Stephans wrote a letter to the jury, after being found guilty in his son's death.
"Dear Jury, I deeply Love each one of you and appreciate the tremendous sacrifice that you have made over the last 8 weeks. I only wish that you could've seen how you were being played by the crowns deception, drama and trickery that not only led to our key witnesses being muzzled, but has also now led to a dangerous precedent being set in Canada. The flood gates have now been opened and if we do not fall in line with parenting as seen fit by the government, we all stand in risk of criminal prosecution. Remember what the crown prosecutors closing remarks were to combat the fact that the ill equipped ambulance resulted in Ezekiel's brain death. She communicated that this was not about him dying, but rather about whether or not his life was endangered at any point due to our actions. How many parents have lost children for various reasons, all of which could be concluded that the child's life was endangered and that the parents should have been able to foresee it? How many parents have had close calls to losing a child, wherein it could be concluded that the child's life was endangered and the parents should have been able to foresee it? Whether medical attention is sought or not and your child lives, it is of no consequence. It is only about whether or not it can be proven that at some point your child's life was endangered, and if so you may find yourselves in the same boat as us.
The flood gates have now been opened and my main concern is no longer for Collet and I, but rather for Canadian's as a whole.
May Heaven help us all!"