CALGARY — A doctor has testified that the parents of a teen who died of starvation and complications from untreated diabetes were providing fake blood-sugar readings while caring for him after his initial diagnosis.
Dr. Daniel Metzger from the British Columbia Children’s Hospital told the couple’s trial on Tuesday that they refused to believe their son had diabetes and 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,” Metzger testified.
Emil Radita, 59, and his wife Rodica, 53, have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of 15-year-old Alexandru, who weighed less than 37 pounds when he died in Calgary in 2013.
A judge, who is hearing the case without a jury, has yet to decide if evidence dealing with the family’s time in B.C. will be admitted.
Metzger, a pediatric endocrinologist, was one of the first physicians to deal with Alexandru and his parents when the boy was diagnosed at about age two.
The doctor said training the couple on the basics of diabetes was difficult and, after Alexandru’s release, a community health nurse had to visit the family’s home twice a day to make sure he was getting insulin.
It was discovered in March 2001 that the parents appeared to be taking their own blood-sugar readings and calling them in to the hospital, Metzger said. A check of the blood-sugar meter confirmed that something wasn’t right.
“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.”
The results from a non-diabetic person were being recorded, Metzger concluded.
The doctor documented his concerns to the government ministry that was looking out for Alexandru. A short time later, the B.C. Children’s Hospital was told the boy was going to be treated at a hospital in Surrey.
After another admission to hospital for malnutrition in 2003, Alexandru was placed in foster care for one year before being returned to his parents. At that point, the boy gained weight, his condition was being managed and he appeared to be thriving, said Metzger, who saw him twice a year until 2008.
A call was placed to children’s services, the doctor testified, after Alexandru failed to appear for a scheduled appointment in July 2008 and another six months later.
“Anybody who misses two visits, we would get concerned. Obviously this is a high-risk situation and so we needed the ministry to try and find him for us,” Metzger said.
“We did as many inquiries as we could do (and) … checked provincial dispensing records. At that point, it had been a year since the parents had bought insulin in British Columbia. We called the school and they hadn’t seen him in a long time.”
The family had moved to Alberta in 2008.