Published on June 9, 2008 at 5:01 AM
The parents of a young British girl brought up on a strict vegan diet could face court after the child was admitted to hospital with a degenerative bone condition.
Doctors say the 12 year old has a severe form of rickets and has suffered a number of fractured bones, they also say she has the spine of an 80-year-old woman.
The girl from Scotland has been brought on a strict meat and dairy-free diet since birth and it is suspected that by pursuing their dietary beliefs, her health and welfare may have been compromised.
Rickets is caused by a lack of vitamin D, which is needed to absorb calcium, it is found in liver, oily fish and dairy produce.
A serious lack of the essential vitamin causes decalcification and the bones become brittle and curvature of the spine can also occur.
Dr. Faisal Ahmed, the consultant paediatrician treating the child at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow, has declined to discuss the specific case but says the risks involved in forcing a child to adhere to a vegan diet ought to be made clear.
Expert nutritionists say many parents who impose such restrictive and potentially hazardous diets on their children were not themselves brought up as vegans and not enough is known about the effects of such dietary regimes on children.
There have been calls from many for the police and social workers to become involved but Glasgow city council says as yet the incident had not been referred to its social work department.
The organisation Children in Scotland which represents 400 other groups says where a vegan diet was putting children’s health at risk social workers should intervene.
In previous cases a six-week-old baby starved to death in the U.S. and the vegan parents were given a life sentence and in 2001 two vegans from west London were sentenced to three years’ community rehabilitation after they admitted starving their baby to death.
Rickets is uncommon in developed countries but is common in developing countries where malnutrition is widespread.