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Swedish parents jailed for almost starving vegan child to death

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Swedish parents jailed for almost starving vegan child to death
The girl was fed a diet consisting primarily of breast milk, brown rice and potatoes. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
11:12 CEST+02:00
A court in Sweden has sentenced a couple to three months in jail for gross negligence causing bodily harm, after their 18-month-old child was reportedly so undernourished she was close to death.

The Gothenburg court's judgment on Thursday morning, seen by The Local, ruled that the parents' "serious negligence had put their daughter in a life-threatening situation". They were therefore sentenced to three months in jail and ordered to pay 60,000 kronor (approximately $6,000) in damages to their daughter. 

Her father was also sentenced for several other minor crimes including drugs offences and drink driving.

The girl was brought to emergency care at a hospital in Gothenburg, western Sweden, in February in serious condition and a non-responsive state.

The child had never been registered with Swedish authorities, and the family, who themselves followed a vegan diet, reportedly fed the girl a restricted diet consisting primarily of breast milk, brown rice and potatoes.

In the judgment, the court wrote that the parents' choice of lifestyle should never be prioritized above a child's fundamental needs.

"According to their ideological belief that the daughter was a citizen of the world, her parents did not even report the birth to any authority, have her checked at a paediatric centre, or even weigh or measure her growth. Nor has the girl been vaccinated or examined by a doctor," a statement from the court said. It added that the food the girl was fed "was far from sufficient or adapted for such a small child".

The presiding judge, Per Nordén, noted that the parents did what they believed what was best for the child and "did not intentionally harm their daughter". However, he said the parents had some "remarkable" views, referring to a statement from the girl's mother that she believed people could live without food or water following long-term mental and physical training.

After around three weeks at the hospital, the girl was placed into care, and her foster mother told the court that the child had already begun to recover.

Prosecutor Ximena Bene had requested two or three years' jail for the parents, arguing that the girl was malnourished and this led to her life-threatening medical condition. Doctors said the child was "hours from dying", and according to judges, the three doctors involved in her care said her condition was due to "prolonged starvation".

One doctor at the hospital said the girl's condition was "worse than anything we have seen at the hospital before".

The lawyers representing the parents had said it could not be proved that the girl's condition was due to anything other than a stomach bug. Her weight was described as comparable with that of a typical six-month-old when she arrived at the hospital, something her parents attributed to her natural small size and the recent five-day stomach illness.

After the court, the parents will spend eight weeks living with the girl at a supervised residential care facility for further monitoring by social services.

 
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