Midwife Convicted For Starving Baby With Water-Only Diet
A breastfeeding mum whose own baby nearly died of starvation after she began following a naturopath's water-only diet has avoided imprisonment, with a magistrate handing her a suspended sentence of 14 months.
The woman, a university-trained midwife at a Sydney hospital, was given a 14-month good behaviour bond at Campbelltown Local Court on Wednesday.
Magistrate Ian Guy also lifted a strict AVO condition which had denied the woman unsupervised access to the now two-year-old son since he was admitted to Westmead Hospital on the brink of death in May 2015.
"The case against the defendant demonstrates a serious example against her training and against the telltale signs which would have been blindingly obvious to anyone," Mr Guy said.
"I accept she was following advice.
"That does not mean that she was somehow seduced, tranced into blindly following."
When the woman took her eight-month-old son to hospital last year, he weighed just 6.5kg, was emaciated and severely dehydrated, had sunken eyes, dangerously low sodium levels and flexed hands and feet.
"Had he not presented at hospital at that time, he would have died within days," Mr Guy said.
The explanation for his condition was that the woman had been treating her son for severe eczema.
The infant was often covered in blood from scratching his eczema and the washing line was constantly full of bloodied sheets that had to be washed, a close friend of the woman said in evidence.
During sentencing submissions, defence lawyer Richard Kouchoo said his client was a loving mother who was desperate to put an end to her son's discomfort and, after orthodox medical treatments failed to improve his condition, sought advice from naturopath Marilyn Bodnar.
Photo: Naturopath Marilyn Bodnar
Bodnar advised a "raw food diet" and eventually "water only" for the woman, who was exclusively breastfeeding her son.
At one point, she modified the water-only rule by eating only watermelon for three days.
Mr Kouchoo said his client was herself a victim because she had been influenced by the "opportunistic" Bodnar.
However, DPP prosecutor Alex Brown said the boy was "the most vulnerable victim in the care of a mother" and that he was deprived nutrition for four weeks.
The woman's family noticed the child's and her own weight loss and told her to stop the diet, but she did not, Ms Brown said.
"Nothing but imprisonment is warranted in this matter," she told the court.
Bodnar is due to face trial next week on reckless grievous bodily harm and aiding the failure to provide care to a child.
The mother will give evidence during the trial, which was a critical fact in Mr Guy's sentencing decision.
Mr Guy said the case was an "extraordinarily serious example" of failing to provide care to a child.
The woman can no longer work as a midwife, but hopes, once this is all over, to have a job working with children, Mr Kouchoo said.
Her son is showing "great progress" in his development and health, he said.