The vegan parents of a baby girl pleaded guilty to negligence causing serious injury after they ignored warnings about their strict diet and she suffered brain damage as a result.
A County Court of Victoria sentenced the Australian couple on Monday to undergo mental treatment but they will escape jail time. They will also have to serve a community sentence of 12 months.
The 12-month-old baby girl was reportedly rushed to an emergency clinic in August 2018 by the 34-year-old father. Doctors said she suffered from extreme malnutrition, with disturbing symptoms including open wounds, rashes, bruises and discoloration of her skin.
She also had internal bleeding and blood in her stool. Doctors said her condition was like that found in babies being raised in countries experiencing famine.
Investigators found that the father had sought help from a herbal health club about his daughter's condition a week before rushing her to the clinic.
"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," he reportedly wrote in the email. "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."
Instead of sending the father and daughter to the hospital, they recommended a "stomach tea."
The parents also reportedly stopped consulting with health experts after they were told that the baby needed more than the coconut water and powders that they were feeding her.
Instead, they sought advice from alternative health outlets in the U.S. and Canada.
The baby girl spent a month in intensive care. Her condition had improved with the benefit of a balanced diet and proper healthcare.
"She faces a difficult and challenging life," said Judge Claire Quin.
The disturbing case bears a striking resemblance to that of a Cape Coral, Florida, couple who were charged with the death of their 18-month-old son in 2019. The child was on a strict vegan diet and had not seen a doctor after the mother gave birth at home.