Mother Sentenced to Prison After Son Dies from Strep Throat

Family Health

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

A mother being sentenced to prison after her child dies of illness? Sounds like a complete nightmare. But this is the reality for Tamara Lovett, a 48-year-old Canadian mother whose 7-year-old son died from strep throat in 2013.

Authorities said Lovett refused to take her son to a doctor for what appeared to be a treatable strep throat infection.

Lovett was recently sentenced to three years in prison for criminal negligence. And some are asking: what message does this send to all the parents out there?

“The message is so clear and that is that if your child is not getting better you are legally and morally bound to take that child to an actual doctor for actual medical care,” said Jonathan Hak, the Crown Prosecutor on the case.

While Lovett’s son was sick, he collapsed on the floor. Lovett called 911, but it was too late. Reportedly, the little boy died just 10 days after he got strep throat.

Strep throat is a bacterial infection of the throat caused by the bacteria group A streptococcal (group A strep, for short). This infection usually causes pain and inflammation in the throat. Additional symptoms may include fever (usually 101 degrees or above), enlarged lymph nodes, painful swallowing, red and swollen tonsils (sometimes with white pus), headache, rash, nausea and vomiting (more common in younger children) and body aches.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are several million cases of strep throat each year in the U.S. It is more common in children, but is treatable and usually not life-threatening in otherwise healthy people.

While many sore throats will get better without treatment, some throat infections—including strep throat—may need antibiotic treatment,” according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

According to reports, Lovett treated her son with holistic remedies including dandelion tea and oregano oil.

Doctors said he could have been treated with antibiotics to prevent the spreading of infection, and he would likely still be alive today.

Evidence from the trial showed that Lovett’s son also had meningitis (inflammation of brain and spinal cord, usually due to infection) and pneumonia (lung infection), in addition to strep.

If left untreated, strep may also cause additional complications, including kidney inflammation and rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever may also cause heart valve damage.

Lovett regrets her bad judgement and said if she could go back in time, she would have taken her son to a doctor.

So how can we be proactive about strep throat?

Like the common cold, you may contact strep throat through contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze. You can get the infection from touching surfaces or through direct physical contact with the infected person. 

Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth when possible. Teach your children the importance of handwashing and not sharing drinks and personal items, like chapstick, with other people. You are now in the traveling holiday season, so it is especially important to wash your hands as you move through germ breeding grounds, like airports and airplanes. 

Go to the doctor or a competent healthcare professional to get a “rapid strep test,” which simply involves swabbing your throat to test for strep. If the results come back positive, antibiotics will be prescribed.

In the event the rapid strep test comes back negative but there is still suspicion of evidence of strep, you will get a throat culture. Swabs of the throats culture are usually sent to a lab to see if the bacteria will grow from the sample. This takes a bit more time but will give a definitive answer on whether you have strep or not. These tests are also available at urgent care centers and minute clinics.

If you have a sore throat that is painful (you can usually tell when something feels more intense than the common cold or sore throat), don’t wait it out, seek medical attention. Monitor children closely to determine whether they have a fever and are complaining of a sore throat. Be on the safe side, and get them tested for strep. 

You should start to feel better just a day or two after first taking the antibiotics. You should also give the antibiotics at least 24 hours to work into your system, and for your fever to subside if you have one, before returning to work or school. Part of being proactive about strep involves not putting others at risk for getting the infection.  

It is also very important to keep your immune system in top shape, functioning at its best, so that your body can better fight off infection. And one of the ways you can keep your immune system strong is through a healthy diet which includes all of the essential nutrients.

Here are some essential nutrients that may also help:

  • Zinc is important for a healthy immune system. It can help you get sick less often or get well quicker. Oysters are the highest source of zinc. You can also get zinc from red meat, poultry, crabs, shrimp, lobster, oatmeal, whole grains, cheeses, yogurt, beans and nuts.
  • Selenium may have anti-infection benefits. Dietary sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, oysters, whole grains and meats.
  • Copper surfaces possibly have powerful disease fighting properties and copper is also something we all should have in our diets to help boost your immunity. Organ meats, shellfish, nuts, seeds, wheat-bran cereals and whole grain products are good sources of copper.
  • Iron can have an impact on your body’s ability to mount a normal immune response. There are two types of iron -- heme and non-heme. Heme iron is rich in lean meat and seafood. This is more bioavailable, meaning your body can use it better. Non-heme iron is found in nuts, grains, vegetables and other fortified products.

Drinking water is equally important for good immune function. Water helps carry oxygen to all the cells in your body. And when your cells have oxygen, your body’s systems, including the immune system, may function more adequately.

Additionally,  it is necessary to get nutritional testing to make sure everything is balanced in your body. And get a comprehensive test for gut health and digestive functions. Ensuring your gut is good is important, because it will provide a welcoming environment for those essential nutrients. They can be better absorbed by your body and help keep you at your healthiest state.

Finally, the takeaway from the Lovett case.  It is critical as a healthcare consumer that you understand the difference between wellness care and sickness care. If you or a family member are sick, it is important that you go to a medical doctor and get professional help. After your illness disappears, then you can go back to “wellness care” and strengthen your immune system to prevent further illness.  

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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