A 33-year-old mother from Sydney whose infant nearly died of starvation and dehydration after following a water-only diet has avoided jail time. The unnamed mother, who is a trained midwife, was instead handed a 14-month suspended sentence by a magistrate in Campbelltown Local Court on Wednesday.
Apparently, the mother was simply following the advice of naturopath Marilyn Bodnar for her son’s eczema. In February 2015, Bodnar told the mother that a raw food diet was the only solution to her baby’s worsening condition. The mother was later advised to fast entirely and consume only water.
The baby boy started to vomit but the naturopath insisted the mother maintain the water-only diet to increase her son’s vitality. However, the baby became lethargic and immobile and his eyes were sunken so the mother became anxious and took him to the hospital in May 2015.
Physicians found that the infant’s weight dropped to 6.5 kilograms. The boy was only days from starving to death.
Prosecutors sought imprisonment for the mother. However, Magistrate Ian Guy gave her a 14-month suspended sentence. Guy also allowed the mother to see his now two-year-old son unsupervised.
“In this case, there was a failure to provide a level care to the point where the child was days away from dying,” says Guy. “She went against her training, and against the telltale signs which would have been blindingly obvious to anyone.”
The mother’s lawyer Richard Kouchoo maintains that she was innocent. She is a loving mother who was desperate to improve her son’s condition but was taken advantage by the naturopath.
Still, DPP prosecutor Alex Brown says that the mother deserves imprisonment. Brown said that the mother ignored her family’s suggestion to stop the diet.
Marilyn Bodnar will face trial on reckless grievous bodily harm next week. The mother can no longer work as a midwife.