Doctors testify at trial for parents accused in death of diabetic son
Alexandru Radita, 15, was found dead in his family's CItadel home in May 2013. His parents face first degree murder charges,
The trial for a couple accused of killing their 15-year-old son continues in a Calgary courtroom and a physician from B.C. testified on Monday that the teen’s parents were reluctant to accept a diabetes diagnosis when he was admitted to hospital 13 years earlier.
Alex Radita died in May 2013 from complications associated with neglect, starvation and unmanaged diabetes and weighed less than 17 Kg at the time of his death.
His parents, Emil and Rodica Radita are on trial for first-degree murder in connection to the teen’s death.
Last week, the first police officer who saw Alex dead in the home, Constable Larry Pugliese, told the court the teen was ‘like a skeleton’ and his ribs were protruding through his body.
Pugliese said that Alex had scabs on his legs and his stomach was bruised.
He said that there were about 20 other people in the home when he arrived including the couple’s seven other children.
The officer said he asked Emil why he didn't take his son to the hospital or call 911 sooner and that Emil told him Alex didn't want to go because he had a bad experience at the hospital when was a child and that his son was diabetic.
Rodica Radita told the officer that she checked on Alex earlier that day and that he had a pulse and his stomach was moving. She also said Alex had the flu and diarrhea and that she had been feeding him baby food and formula for two weeks.
Alberta’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Jeffery Gofton, conducted the autopsy and said that the boy was in the fifth percentile for his body weight, had very little musculature and virtually no fat reserves.
Dr. Gofton said it was hard to tell when the boy died and that the official time of death was 10:16 p.m. on May 7, 2013 but that he could have died as much as 24 hours before that.
On Monday, Dr. Laura Stewart told the court that the Raditas were hesitant to give Alex insulin after he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in Vancouver in 2000 and that he tested at the severe end of diabetic ketoacidosis.
Alex’s parents weren't allowed to take him home until they had proven they were capable of administering insulin and checking his blood sugar.
"What I remember is the mother still not accepting the diagnosis of diabetes and initially did not want to learn how to manage it. Eventually she did comply on how, to get the child home, but never did acknowledge the diagnosis."
Stewart said that the teen gained weight and appeared to be healthy and that his height and weight were normal for his age when he came for an outpatient checkup in February 2001 just after his third birthday.
Alex was seen by Stewart again in October 2003 when he was readmitted at a hospital in Surrey, B.C.
"Alexandru was so severely malnourished at the time of admission it was felt by the attending staff at the time that he was not safe to be in the care of his family," she said.
Stewart said children's services in British Columbia were notified and Alex was "apprehended" from his parents care while he was still in hospital.
Dr. Paul Korn, a pediatric emergency specialist, was called to consult on the case and said he talked to the Raditas and was told that Alex was fine two weeks earlier.
"I was already aware that Alex was a very sick boy. It was hard for me to really understand how a child could be totally well and fine and, over the next two weeks, deteriorate to the point where he is going into hypotensive shock," Korn said.
Dr. Korn testified that the child was "profoundly malnourished", with a swollen abdomen and fluid in the lining of the lungs and around his heart. He said he has never seen a patient as malnourished as this in his career.
“I've certainly read about these cases and seen this all on television in terms of countries that have famine," he said.
On Tuesday, Dr. Daniel Metzker, also with the British Columbia Children's Hospital, told the court that the couple had to be pressured by child and family services to treat him before he could be released from hospital in 2000.
"The major thing that I remember is the initial resistance: that I was wrong about the diagnosis of diabetes, that we hadn't done the right tests, that we still were not correct with the diagnosis," Metzker testified.
Metzker said it was discovered in March 2001 that the parents appeared to be taking their own blood sugar readings and calling them into the hospital.
"At one point, the blood sugars were very consistently the same. I've been doing this for 23 years. We have a lot of teenagers who fabricate blood sugars. You start to recognize patterns," he said. "I concluded that somebody was probably falsifying the blood sugars, perhaps doing their own finger pokes, because you have to put a sample on the meter to get a reading."
Alex was put into foster care when he was discharged from hospital and the Raditas moved from B.C. to Alberta in 2009.
The judge in the case, Justice Karen Horner, has yet to rule if the evidence from B.C. will be admitted at trial.
The trial is in its third week and is expected to continue until June 17, 2016.
(With files from The Canadian Press)