SYDNEY, Australia – A husband and wife were jailed Monday for the manslaughter of their baby, who died after they chose to use homeopathic remedies rather than conventional medicine to treat her severe skin disorder.
Thomas Sam, a 42-year old college lecturer in homeopathy, and his wife Manju, 37, of Sydney, were convicted in June of the manslaughter of their nine-month-old daughter Gloria, who died of septicemia and malnutrition in May 2002.
The Indian-born, university-educated parents had faced a maximum penalty of 25 years each in prison if convicted. Instead, New South Wales state Supreme Court Justice Peter Johnson ordered Thomas Sam to serve at least six years in jail, with a maximum sentence of eight years, and Manju to serve at least four years in jail with a maximum of five years and four months. The couple wept as they were sentenced.
Johnson said it was clear homeopathy wasn't sufficient for dealing with Gloria's severe eczema, and said there was a "wide chasm" between her parents' approach and the action a reasonable parent would have taken.
Thomas Sam's "arrogant approach" to his preference for homeopathy and Manju Sam's deference to her husband led to their daughter's death, he said.
Prosecutors said 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 four months old.
Instead, prosecutors said Thomas Sam continued to consult homeopaths and natural medicine practitioners as his daughter's health continued to plummet and her black hair turned white.
Gloria became malnourished by battles against frequent infections that invaded her bloodstream through skin broken by her severe rashes. Her parents finally admitted her to a hospital, where doctors said she was severely ill. The doctors gave her morphine for the pain and began treating an eye infection that had started to melt her corneas.
Gloria died three days later.
Homeopathy is a therapy based on the 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 was subjected to significant pain over an extended period of time and the omission of the offenders to seek proper assistance for her may be characterized accurately as cruelty," Johnson said. "Each offender fell profoundly short of their parental obligations to their infant daughter."