Vegans starve baby with extreme diet
Vegan parents starved their baby of nutrients in an extreme plant-based diet and left their daughter with a "devastating" permanent disability.
The couple, who cannot be identified, avoided jail after pleading guilty to negligently causing serious injury in the County Court of Victoria on Monday.
They were both ordered to serve a 12-month community corrections order and undertake mental health treatment, Judge Claire Quin ordered.
Their daughter was left with cerebral palsy caused from malnutrition because of the strict diet.
The 12-month-old baby was rushed to Geelong's emergency department in August 2018 where doctors discovered bruising, open wounds, rashes and skin discolouration.
They found she was bleeding internally, had blood in her stool and needed life support.
They also found the baby had severe protein-calorie malnutrition known as "Kwashiorkor", which is often seen in children from countries experiencing a famine, the court was told.
Seven days before the dad, 34, rushed the infant to hospital he wrote an email to a US-based "herbal" health club for advice.
"hi my 1 year old has stopped wanting to drink/eat and when she does its not staying down or she start to cough. What can I do to help her keep it down and allow her to drink. She doesn't have a temp. She is on a fruit diet. Please help asap," the father wrote in an email to the US-consultant.
Instead of advising the man to take his child to hospital, the consultant suggested a "stomach tea" for the baby.
A week later the girl, who weighed just 6.040kg, was in intensive care. She remained there for a month.
The parents started to feed the baby a mix of coconut water and powders instead of formula after the infant stopped breastfeeding in 2017.
Despite growing concerns from their maternal care nurse about the baby's growth the parents ignored medical advice and skipped appointments.
"The coconut mixture is definitely not appropriate as this is not nutritionally adequate for an infant," the nurse told the couple in an email amid growing concern.
They eventually stopped engaging with medical professionals and turned to alternative websites in Queensland and the US for advice.
In one message the mother, 32, sent to her partner, she asked if he would raise the issue about their daughter's "weight loss and floppiness of her body" with the consultant in the United States.
But the parents, who have since separated, were spared jail.
The girl is now in the care of the mother, who shows a "commitment and devotion" to her daughter and engages with healthcare professionals.
"The exercise of mercy is warranted," Judge Quin told the court as the mother wiped tears from her eyes.
But she told the parents their daughter had a long road ahead of her, but her condition had improved with the benefit of a balanced diet and proper healthcare.
"She faces a difficult and challenging life," the judge said of the now three-year-old girl.
If either parent breaches the community corrections order or the conditions they would have to face court again for a re-sentence.
Originally published as Vegans starve baby with extreme diet