POSTED: 4:17 pm EST November 3, 2005
UPDATED: 5:44 pm EST November 3, 2005
Nutritionist Testifies Raw Food Formula Could Be Adequate For Baby
Defense Expert: Baby Died Of Natural Causes, Not Malnutrition
MIAMI -- A 5-month-old baby fed a diet of raw food died of natural causes brought on by a compromised immune system that was not the result of malnutrition, a medical expert testified Thursday in the manslaughter trial of the infant's parents.
"What we have is a natural disease that killed someone," said Dr. John Marraccini, a former Palm Beach County medical examiner and Harvard University-trained forensics expert who is being paid for his testimony.
Attorney Says Birth Defect Caused Baby's Death
wrong impression is what this case is all about," Marraccini told jurors.
Marraccini is the key expert for the defense in the trial of Joseph and Lamoy Andressohn, who face more than 17 years in prison each if convicted on charges of aggravated manslaughter and child neglect in the May 2003 death of 6-month-old Woyah.
Prosecutors contend that the infant, who weighed only about 7 pounds, or half of normal weight, died of complications from severe malnutrition because she was fed a diet of wheat grass, coconut water and almond milk. The Andressohns adhere to a lifestyle that involves eating and feeding their children only natural, uncooked foods.
Marraccini said his review of Woyah's autopsy, medical and police records indicated that she suffered from acid reflux disease, which commonly causes heartburn in adults but can cause greater complications in infants. The baby also had pneumonia and a fungus infection in her esophagus that indicated an immune deficiency.
That deficiency, Marraccini concluded, could have been caused by DiGeorge syndrome, a rare chromosomal disorder in which a person is missing the thymus gland that produces T-cells needed for a healthy immune system. Woyah had some T-cells, but Marraccini said they may not have functioned properly because of the disorder.
"Something's up with this child, and it's not just malnutrition," Marraccini said.
Miami-Dade County's medical examiner concluded that Woyah's thymus gland might have withered away because of inadequate diet and made no mention of DiGeorge syndrome.
Prosecutor Herbert E. Walker III sought to poke holes in Marraccini's testimony, asking him repeatedly why he came to these conclusions if he is not an expert in nutrition or DiGeorge syndrome.
"Isn't that you making assumptions that you aren't qualified to make?" Walker asked.
Marraccini replied that being a physician is a constant learning process that involves review of new medical developments and procedures. "We use other people's opinions. If we didn't, our patients would die," he said.
Earlier Thursday, nutritionist Meryl Brandwein testified for the defense that it is possible to make adequate baby formula out of raw foods.
"Absolutely. Some of the raw food formulas are nutritionally superior to those on the market," Brandwein said. "I would rather make my own."
Walker asked Brandwein if a baby could get adequate nutrition if fed only grass.
"Nobody could live on grass by itself. It's ridiculous," she said.
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