Unnecessary death: Calgary woman given 3 years for not getting help for sick son

Unnecessary death: Calgary woman given 3 years for not getting help for sick son

CALGARY — A woman who failed to take her son to the doctor for a strep infection has been sentenced to three years in prison — a punishment a Calgary judge says fits the grave crime that resulted in the seven-year-old boy's painful death.

Tamara Lovett, 48, was convicted in January of criminal negligence causing death.

Justice Kristine Eidsvik said it wasn't Lovett's fault her son Ryan got sick, but she had several days to get him proper medical care. The trial heard Lovett gave Ryan dandelion tea and oil of oregano when he developed the infection that kept him bedridden in their Calgary home for 10 days in 2013.

"Ryan suffered terribly from this inaction." she said in her sentencing decision Friday. "He died an excruciating, unnecessary death.

"Her failure to bring him to a medical doctor caused his death."

She noted that Lovett is still suffering terribly from grief and has admitted what she did was wrong.

"Her remorse, I believe, is genuine," said Eidsvik.

But the judge said she's not sure there has been a sincere shift in Lovett's beliefs that made her skeptical of the medical system.

The Crown had called for Lovett to spend up to five years in prison while her lawyer proposed one year behind bars and one year probation.

Prosecutor Jonathan Hak said outside court the sentence sends a clear message.

"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."

Defence lawyer Alain Hepner said Lovett's prison term will pale in comparison to what she has already suffered.

"She's received a life sentence already for being responsible for the death of her child," he said outside court.

After Lovett's conviction earlier this year, Hepner argued the case should be dismissed because it took too long from the time Lovett was arrested until her conviction in January.

Last year, the Supreme Court of Canada set out a 30-month time frame for superior courts in what has become known as the Jordan decision. But the high court allowed some flexibility for cases in which charges were laid before its order in July 2016.

Lovett's case took 38 months to run its course, but Eidsvik said she subtracted six months for delays she attributed to the defence.

That still leaves 32 months, but Eidsvik ruled the transitional exception applies.

"The parties were clearly operating under the old regime," she said Friday. "In my view, it would not be just to set aside a conviction here and enter a stay."

Eidsvik said during the trial that Lovett "gambled away" Ryan's life by treating him herself and not seeking medical help.

Lovett said she thought he had a cold or the flu and didn't think his swollen lymph nodes, an oozing ear infection and jaundiced eyes were anything she couldn't handle.

The trial heard that Ryan was dead well before his mother called 911 to say he had stopped breathing.

Alberta's chief medical examiner testified the boy's body was full of group A streptococcus bacteria, which caused most of his major organs to fail.

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press