Police are investigating reports claiming that a mother allowed her 3-month-old baby to die from pneumonia when she refused to call a doctor. Instead, she allegedly consulted members of an online community who promote alternative forms of medicine.
The story has been burning up the Russian blogosphere for several days. It started off with a collection of screenshots from a discussion at a closed online community, which brings together people afraid of receiving treating in hospitals.
The mother, who consulted with other members on how to treat her daughter, was advised to use herbal decoctions and inhaler remedies to treat what was in fact acute respiratory disease. It was not until a week later, when the baby’s condition had already became critical, that the woman called a certified doctor. Nevertheless, the girl died.
The discussion, apparently, leaked out through one of the members disturbed by the reported death and has been widely publicized on the web.
On Friday, Russia’s Investigative Committee announced that it has launched a probe to establish how much truth there is behind the story. The woman, identified as Yulia Mikova, 32, is suspected of criminal negligence, which can result in up to tree years in jail, the statement says. A court may also strip her of custody of her other two underage children.
“I believe her guilt is apparent. The question is whether everything happened the way it was reported,” commented Russian children ombudsman Pavel Astakhov.
Meanwhile, activists are calling for the prosecution of the moderators of the community, where Mikova reportedly sought medical advice, though they deny any responsibility for the baby’s death. As some bloggers report, the rules of the forum explicitly forbid advising people from turning to “official” medicine, although the wording was changed from “not allowed” to “not recommended” after the scandal.
Attempting to treat any disease or ailment without first consulting a qualified doctor is extremely dangerous, medicial experts say. Alternative remedies are often much less effective than modern, scientifically tested drugs.
Moreover, many practitioners, who lack any formal medical training, are likely to misdiagnose the disease, especially if they don’t even see the patient in person, as apparently was the case with Mikova’s baby.
Valentina Shirokova, Head of the Health Ministry’s Department for Children’s Healthcare Development and Maternity Obstetric Services, warns that one should never completely trust web sites, especially in cases where there is any doubt as to the doctor’s authenticity.
“It may be that in some emergencies, when no one is around, a mother could ask for advice from an online doctor, but they must make sure it is a real doctor,” she said as quoted by RIA Novosti news agency.
Gennady Sukhikh, Director of the Kulakov Center for Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Perinatology and a member of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, calls it a medieval approach when mothers chose to consult social networks to treat their babies rather than seeking treatment from a qualified doctor.
“It is ok to ask for advice from your social network on the Internet – but only in addition to seeing a doctor,” says Sukhikh, pointing out that with doctors, one can always ask for a second opinion.