‘Utter neglect:’ Expert tells trial starving, diabetic teen likely had scurvy

A medical expert says a starving diabetic teen was literally skin and bones and appeared to be suffering from scurvy when he died at his family's home.

CALGARY — A medical expert says a starving diabetic teen was literally skin and bones and appeared to be suffering from scurvy when he died at his family’s home.

“To call this neglect, you’d need a new word,” Dr. Michael Seear said Thursday at the first-degree murder trial of the boy’s parents.

Emil Radita, 59, and his wife Rodica, 53, have pleaded not guilty in the death of their 15-year-old son, who weighed less than 37 pounds when he died in Calgary in 2013.

Seear was the attending physician both times that Alexandru Radita was admitted to the British Columbia Children’s Hospital — initially in 2000 when the child was diagnosed and again three years later.

He said he has treated countless patients over the years, but the Radita case was “sufficiently unusual” that it stuck in his mind.

Seear appeared visibly shaken as he looked at a number of photos in court, including one of Alexandru on his 15th birthday, just a few months before the boy’s death. Seear said the teen appeared to be trying to put on a brave face.

“I see he’s sitting in bed with a blanket over his legs. He is a severely malnourished boy. This boy is emaciated, miserable, with an ulcer on his neck and a bruise on his forehead. He’s very, very miserable.”

But it was pictures taken of Alexandru on the day he died that caused Seear the most distress. Several times he took a deep breath before answering.

“Aye, yi, yi. My God,” he muttered.

“The teeth have rotted down to stumps. There’s blood on his lips and blood on his gums. That is scurvy and that’s something that hasn’t been seen for a hundred years.

“This is utter neglect with this emaciated corpse in the middle of it. He has no muscle. The common expression is skin and bones. There is only tendon and bones.

“There’s nothing left.”

The doctor said the boy’s first visit to the children’s hospital years earlier was pretty much normal for a child presenting with Type 1 diabetes, but the mother was adamant that her son did not have the illness.

Seear told court the boy’s appearance had changed when he saw him again in October 2003.

“It was such a shocking sight it sticks in your mind. He was in the last stages of malnutrition,” said Seear.

“He came in the door close to death. He had a swollen belly because of the fluid. He had no ability to mount an immune response. We started him on antibiotics … and as it turned out he had blood cultures that were positive for bacteria,” he testified.

“You can see how thin his hair is. He looks almost as if he’s had chemotherapy. His hair at this stage would be falling out in clumps.”

An RCMP constable testified Wednesday about being called to the hospital to investigate a report of possible abuse. Charlene Beck said Alex was a skeleton, couldn’t lift his head, arms or legs and talked in whispers a few words at a time.

“I had never seen a child in that state,” she said as she choked back tears.

Court has heard Alexandru was put into foster care after that — and thrived — before being returned a year later to his parents, who eventually moved their family to Alberta.

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