We previously reported that at around 4.30 pm on May 19 this year, two Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) workers, accompanied by four NSW police officers, entered Newcastle’s Church of Ubuntu, and removed a boy, who’d been residing there with his parents.
The 5-year-old non-verbal boy suffers from spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. After a long period of continuing ill health whilst being treated by pharmaceutical medicines, the boy was treated with alternative therapies such as medicinal cannabis and was said to be improving.
The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was being treated by the church’s external consultant, a doctor well-versed in the administration of cannabis medicines. It was reported that under the treatment of cannabis oil, the boy had gone fifty days without an epileptic seizure.
It’s now been over six months since the boy was removed from the care of his parents. And those advocating for the return of the child are concerned that since the boy has been placed in out-of-home care his health is greatly deteriorating.
Life threatening reports
Karen Burge is the vice president of the Church of Ubuntu, which has been described as an “all-encompassing multi-faith group.” Ms Burge contacted Sydney Criminal Lawyers® this week, as she is fearing for the “spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being” of the child.
According to Ms Burge, the church has cited photographic and documented evidence that proves the boy’s “health has regressed, and he is suffering side effects from the synthetic food and medicine that is being forced into his body against his parents’ wishes.”
Prior to his removal, the boy had been on an organic diet, along with other plant-based treatments, since August last year. His mother has expressed that pharmaceutical medicines had had an adverse impact on her son’s health prior to the change in treatment.
Ms Burge states that documents she has seen reveal that the boy is now on multiple pharmaceutical medicines, which in her words are effectively “poisoning him.” She’s afraid that the boy, who is living in “a motel room with strangers devoid of love and quality of life,” is in serious danger.
A blood test revealed the boy’s potassium levels were at a “critically abnormal level” in late April. It was recommended he have this checked again by May 17. At the time he was removed, it’s said his mother was going to take him to a doctor’s appointment booked for the following Monday.
FACS officers removed the child, under the provisions of section 43(1) of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998, which allows for the warrantless removal of a child or young person if the FACS secretary or police deem the individual to be “at immediate risk of serious harm.”
Following the removal, the NSW Supreme Court issued an order on July 18 prohibiting the various parties involved from publishing the child’s name or image, mentioning medical practitioners involved or any Children’s Court proceedings. This article adheres to those provisions.
However, Ms Burge said that the boy was taken from his parents based on the evidence of blood tests that were outdated. She claims that an email had been sent to the FACS caseworker on the day of the removal reporting that the boy’s potassium levels had improved.
The crux of the matter seems to be that a young boy with ailing health is unfortunately at the centre of a controversial public debate over the benefits of alternative therapies versus those of traditional western medicines.
The boy’s parents remember him being born a normal, healthy baby. But, after he was administered with a vitamin K injection, his seizures began. And they state that subsequent doses of hepatitis B vaccine led to a further decline in his health.
Despite reports to the contrary, his mother is adamant that she is not an anti-vaccination advocate. She merely stopped her son being vaccinated once she noticed it was having an adverse effect on him. Indeed, the boy’s older sister was vaccinated.
An illicit medicine
But, on the other side of the debate is the use of medical marijuana. The Church of Ubuntu were raided on December 1 last year, as, at the time, they were one of the largest suppliers of cannabis medicines in the country. They had over 2,000 clients.
The church was supplying patients with small plants to grow at home, so they could treat their cancer or epilepsy symptoms. And the church had been quite open about providing medicinal cannabis to people in need. They’d notified the NSW police, as well as former premier Mike Baird.
The federal government passed the Narcotic Drugs Amendment Act in February last year. It provides the framework for the legal cultivation and manufacture of domestically produced medicinal cannabis products.
However, the process of making domestic products available has been drawn out and shrouded in red tape. The government has pledged to provide legal access to cannabis medicines. But, in the meantime, it’s also been focused on shutting down any unauthorised providers of the medicine.
And whilst there are conflicting stories as to the state of the boy’s health when he was forcibly removed from his parents. One version is that his health was greatly improving due to an illegal medicine that was being supplied by a church that had been raided by police months earlier.
A desperate plea
Ms Burge is well-acquainted with the family of the boy. She recalls a time when the child, after benefiting from the new medications he was taking, “became conscious of his surroundings” and “learnt to wave for the first time.”
She hopes the boy is returned to his parents and resumes organic medicines. “It’s highly unethical for a treating doctor to withdraw a medicine that provides health benefits, a feeling of well-being and overall better quality of life, particularly when the benefits outweighed the risk,” she concluded.
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Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He has a focus on human rights issues, encroachments on civil liberties, drug law reform, gender diversity and First Nations rights. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, he wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.