Published May 05, 2009
SYDNEY – Parents charged with manslaughter in the death of their baby could have saved her life if they hospitalized her sooner rather than allegedly using homeopathic remedies for a severe skin disorder, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
Thomas Sam, 42, and Manju Sam, 36, of Sydney pleaded not guilty in New South Wales state Supreme Court on Monday to charges of manslaughter in the death of their 9-month-old daughter Gloria, who died of septicemia and malnutrition in May 2002.
The Indian-born, university-educated parents face a maximum penalty of 25 years each in prison if convicted.
Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi told a jury Tuesday that they admitted their daughter to a Sydney hospital only three days before she died and "her life and her health could have been saved" with earlier proper medical attention.
He said any reasonable parent would have sought urgent conventional medical help as the baby's health steadily deteriorated over the final five months of her life due to severe eczema.
Instead, Thomas Sam, a college lecturer in homeopathy, continued to consult homeopaths and natural medicine practitioners as his daughter lost 20 percent of her body weight, Tedeschi said. She weighed just 11 pounds, 11 ounces when she died.
The parents rarely consulted conventional doctors and never contacted a skin specialist after a nurse noticed that their previously healthy baby had developed severe eczema at 4 months old, the prosecutor said.
Manju Sam, a computer professional, disregarded a doctor's advice not to take the child to India to visit relatives in the final three months of her life, Tedeschi told the court.
"The two parents were almost totally fixated on their social obligations — visiting people and traveling around — to the exclusion of any concern about Gloria's deteriorating state of health," Tedeschi said.
Homeopathy is a therapy based on a theory that diseases can be successfully treated with minute doses of substances that cause reactions in the human body similar to the disease symptoms.
Gloria became malnourished by battles against frequent infections that invaded her bloodstream through skin broken by her severe rashes.
The trial is set to continue on Wednesday.