Vegan parents have avoided prison after their baby was left with a permanent disability due to malnutrition.
The couple – who cannot be identified – pleaded guilty to negligently causing serious injury in the County Court of Victoria on Monday.
Their daughter was left with cerebral palsy caused from malnutrition which was due to a strict plant-based diet.
In August 2018, the 12-month-old girl was rushed to Geelong’s emergency department where doctors discovered bruising, open wounds, rashes and skin discolouration.
She was also bleeding internally, had blood in her stool and required life support.
Perth Now reported how doctors discovered the baby had ‘Kwashiorkor’ – severe protein-calorie malnutrition which is often seen in children from countries experiencing a famine.
In court, it was revealed that seven days before the hospital admission, the baby’s dad wrote an email to a US-based ‘herbal’ health club for advice.
The father wrote, ‘Hi my 1 year old has stopped wanting to drink/eat and when she does it’s not staying down or she starts to cough. What can I do to help her.
‘She doesn’t have a temp. She is on a fruit diet. Please help asap.’
The consultant had responded advising they gave the baby a ‘stomach tea.’
Just a week later, the little girl was rushed to hospital, weighing just 6.04g. She remained there for a month.
It’s reported that when the baby stopped breastfeeding in 2017, the parents started to feed her a mix of coconut water and powders.
A maternal care nurse had expressed concerns about the baby’s growth, but the parents ignored the advice and skipped appointments.
They eventually stopped engaging with medical professionals, instead seeking advice from alternative websites in Queensland and the US.
In another message, the 32-year-old mother had spoken to a US consultant, discussing concern over her baby’s ‘weight loss and floppiness of her body.’
The parents, who have now split, were ordered to serve a 12-month community corrections order and undertake mental health treatment.
The girl is now in care of her mother who regularly engaged with healthcare professionals and has shown a ‘commitment and devotion.’
Judge Claire Quin said the baby’s condition had improved with the benefit of a balanced diet and proper healthcare.