A British mother and father who invoked religious teachings to refuse medical help for their young son will be spending up to three years in jail.
The five-month-old boy, Ndingeko Kunene, died of rickets, a bone condition caused by vitamin D deficiency.
Nkosiyapha Kunene, 36, and his wife, Virginia, 32, admitted the manslaughter of their son Ndingeko. Mr. Kunene was jailed for three years, and his wife for two years, three months.The pair repeatedly rejected medical treatment and ignored the advice of relatives to seek help after their son became ill, stating that only God gives life.Ndingeko later died after contracting rickets as a result of a severe vitamin D deficiency caused by the strict vegan diet followed by his parents.
The presiding judge wasn’t shy about dismissing the couple’s religious excuses.
“The courts of this country apply the secular law of the land. They do so equally to all who come before them. The law respects the right of everyone to freedom of thought and belief. However, the right to manifest one’s religion is not absolute. It is limited in particular by the rights of others. The state has a particularly important duty to protect the right to life, especially when a young child is concerned.”
The baby, who had been unwell for months, died in June of 2012, after family members had repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to persuade the Kunenes to call a doctor.
Mr. Kunene responded by saying “we are praying” and “we can’t do anything about it until the lord sanctions.”On 14 June 2012, he called 999 saying his five-month old child had no signs of life. Police were called to their home, where they tried to resuscitate the baby, but he was pronounced dead later that evening. …Mr. Kunene realized, when he returned home from work on that day, that Ndingeko might die, but he did not call for medical assistance. His wife said that on that day she did wish to seek medical attention but her husband said it would be a sin.
The parents appear to have followed a stricter interpretation of religious doctrine than the Seventh-Day Adventist Church deems desirable. After Ndingeko’s death, church authorities released a statement emphasizing that church members ought to seek medical advice and follow it.