Parents of 12-Year-Old Vegan Girl Who Has Degenerative Condition May Face Charges

Published June 09, 2008

| London Times

The parents of a 12-year-old girl in Scotland brought up by her parents on a strict vegan diet might face police after she landed in the hospital with a degenerative bone condition that apparently left her with the spine of an 80-year-old woman.

Doctors are under pressure to report the couple to police and social workers amid concerns that her health and welfare may have been neglected in pursuit of their dietary beliefs.

The girl, who has been fed on a strict meat and dairy-free diet from birth, is said to have a severe form of rickets and to have suffered a number of fractured bones.

The condition is caused by a lack of vitamin D, which is needed to absorb calcium and is found in liver, oily fish and dairy produce. Decalcification leads to the bones becoming brittle and can cause curvature of the spine.

Dr Faisal Ahmed, the consultant pediatrician treating the child at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow, Scotland, declined to discuss the specific case.

He said, however, that he believed the dangers of forcing children to follow a strict vegan diet needed to be highlighted.

“In most instances, the parents who are imposing this very restrictive and potentially hazardous diet are not themselves brought up as vegans," said a leading nutritionist, who asked not to be identified. "They are imposing on their children something . . . which we do not know enough about to know it is safe.”

Jonathan Sher, head of policy at Children in Scotland, an umbrella group representing 400 organizations, said social workers should intervene where a vegan diet was putting children’s health at risk.

Last year, an American vegan couple were given a life sentence for starving their 6-week-old baby to death. In 2001 two vegans from west London were sentenced to three years’ community rehabilitation after they admitted starving their baby to death.

Glasgow city council said the incident involving the 12-year-old girl had not been referred to its social work department.

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