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Editorial: Parenting on trial

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The trial of two Queens Village parents on charges of nearly starving their baby to death raises profound and disturbing questions that call into question that complex relationship between parents, the state and modern medical science.

Joseph and Silva Swinton face up to 25 years in prison if they are convicted on charges of first-degree assault and child endangerment. The couple claim to be vegans and they had attempted to raise their baby and one newborn without meat or dairy products.

When police found Ice, their emaciated 16-month old baby, she weighed only 10 pounds and could not vocalize except for soft crying. Doctors say that if the baby had not been rescued when she was, she would have died.

To make matters worse, when it was clear that their child was ill, perhaps near death, the couple failed to seek appropriate medical attention. The problem in this sad case is that it appears that the Swintons were trying to be good parents. Silva Swinton spent two hours a day preparing a soy-based formula for the girl.

But are good intentions enough? The Swintons nearly killed their child. It should have been apparent to any parent that the special vegan diet wasn’t working and that this baby was sick.

The guilt or innocence of the Swintons will be decided by a jury. If they are found guilty, it will be hard for the district attorney to argue that this couple belongs in prison. Consistent with their vegan world view, they were doing what they thought was for their children. It will be equally hard for the Swintons’ attorney to make the case that Joseph and Silva should ever get their two children back. At best, they have shown remarkably poor judgment. It is only miracle that this is an assault and not a murder trial.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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