News| Law | Vegan Parents on Trial for Baby's Death

News| Law | Vegan Parents on Trial for Baby's Death

Published February 11, 2008

Posted Nov. 3, 2005 – Two vegan parents are on trial in Miami for allegedly starving their 6-month-old daughter to death with a vegan diet.

An autopsy concluded that their daughter Woyah Andressohn died from "accidental malnutrition," Court TV reported.  When paramedics found her body on the floor of her parents' living room on May 14, 2003, she weighed less than 7 pounds and was 22 inches long, Court TV reported.

The Andressohns have also been charged with child neglect for allegedly malnourishing their four other children, who were reportedly smaller than 99 percent of average children their age, according to Court TV. Each faces 30 years in prison for Woyah's death and an additional 20 years on four counts of child endangerment, according to the network.

By their own admission to police, the couple described that they had been following a "living foods lifestyle" for six years when Woyah died, rearing all five children on uncooked organic foods, raw-vegetable meals and wheatgrass enemas, Court TV said. 

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Prosecutors told Court TV that an investigator with the Florida Department of Children & Families was told by neighbors that the children's stomachs were bloated and that they could see their ribs protruding.

But lawyers for the Andressohns, reportedly members of a controversial religious sect known as the Black Hebrew Israelites, will defend the "living foods lifestyle" as healthy and sustainable, according to Court TV.

"A parent has the right to feed a child as she wishes," defense attorney Robert Barrar, who is representing the couple pro bono with co-counsel Ellis Rubin, said in Miami-Dade Circuit Court Tuesday. "They thought the diet was best for the health of their children."

Instead, they contend that a rare genetic disorder is to blame for the infant's death.

"The baby died of aspiration, and also had a fungal and a genetic disorder, all of which combined contributed to the death," Barrar said in court.

The defense has enlisted experts in nutrition and pathology to support the theory that Woyah died not from malnutrition but from DiGeorge syndrome, a failure in the thymus gland, which is responsible for fighting off infections.

What do you think?  Are the Andressohns negligent parents or were they just following their religious beliefs?  Click on “Discuss Now” and start talking.

Written by BET-Staff


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