David Stephan was scheduled to speak at The Health Show this weekend. If you aren’t familiar with him, he was convicted of failing to provide the necessities of life to his kid. His infant son died of meningitis after Stephan chose to treat him with natural “remedies” and didn’t take him to the hospital until it was too late. Stephan has argued the conviction the entire time, trying to rally people around him and collect donations to defend himself and for further legal action. He has also continued to run his family company TrueHope, which sells supplements for mental health treatments and has also been taken to court by Health Canada .
Stephan’s been scheduled to speak in Calgary at 3 different health expos in the past 12 months. The media has reported on all of these scheduled appearances prior to the expos and a social media campaign against him has ensued, prompting organizers to pull him. While this may seem like a success, it seems doubtful that the third time will be the charm. Here’s three things that we need to realize from this.
1)Know that health/wellness expos suck and don’t support them. They aren’t really about health and wellness, they’re about trying to sell you stuff that doesn’t work and convincing you that you have health problems that aren’t legitimate. There may be a few reputable businesses at these poor shows but the rest are all MLM schemes or snakeoil salespeople. As is evidenced by David Stephan, there is no fact checking and zero standards for who is speaking or exhibiting. If you have a business don’t sponsor or book space at these shows, if you do get asked by a show or an event inquire about their standards and make it clear that you only want reputable companies there. For everyone else, don’t go to these shows and encourage others to do the same.
2)We need better government regulation. While most people vilify Stephan for letting his son die, his company Truehope may be partially responsible for a murder. Jordan Ramsey murdered his father after being taken off antipsychotics for the vitamins that Truehope sells and claims will help you beat autism, anxiety and bipolar disorder, among other things. While Health Canada issued an advisory against the vitamins and tried to take TrueHope to court, most of the charges were dropped.
Unfortunately there’s all sorts of unproven claims in the alternative medicine industry and the government doesn’t have good regulation or legislation to stop this yet. Health Canada does have plans in place for better labelling of alternative health products and more control over the claims they can make but the natural health industry is still fighting against this.
3)While the social media campaigns are great and have caused Stephan’s cancellation, decreased show attendance and the loss of sponsors, we are still failing to get alternative medicine aficionados and those that just want to make money to realize that anything is wrong. Originally all of the shows defended their choice of having Stephan speak. None of the shows thought booking Stephan raised any issues and they only reluctantly pulled him. Most sponsors didn’t take a strong stance on the issue until after their was a lot of public pressure on them. Truehope is scheduled to be at a few health shows in the upcoming months, including another one in Calgary.