An ultra-religious couple who operated a “natural foods” store in Belgium have finally been convicted after their seven-month-old baby starved to death on an “alternative diet” they put together after deciding for themselves that the baby was lactose- and gluten-intolerant.

Lucas was seven months old when he died, and he weighed only nine pounds, which is about half of what an average, healthy child that age weighs. His parents say they thought he had an eating problem, but they never took him to a doctor or sought advice. They just started making him their own DIY baby formulas out of the types of things they sold in their store.

They fed him quinoa milk, semolina milk, oat milk, rice milk, buckwheat milk, but none of those things are actually milk, and they’re not suitable for babies.

The parents had access to formula, and it probably wouldn’t have been difficult for them to get donor milk, if they preferred that. There was no good reason for any of this.

The parents said that Lucas gained weight sometimes and lost it others, and that they did not intend for this to happen or think it was a problem until the very end. Lucas’s father testified in court that they never took him to the doctor because they never noticed anything unusual. But their baby was half the size of a healthy baby, and doctors say he would have been in obvious distress and gasping for air for several days at the end of his life.

Doctors say that Lucas died of malnutrition and dehydration, and an autopsy revealed that his stomach was completely empty and there was no fat around his organs. There was a prayer card in his diaper, because apparently his parents thought that would be more helpful than a doctor.

Prosecutors said that Lucas’ death was his parents’ fault for a whole ton of reasons, including the fact that they diagnosed the supposed lactose and gluten allergies themselves and came up with their own treatment plan by themselves, because no doctor had ever actually seen Lucas. Child services didn’t even know he existed.

The only time his parents considered taking him to a doctor was when he was right on the verge of death, and even then they did not take him to their local hospital. Instead, they put him in the car and drove him all the way across Belgium to see a homeopathic doctor. That doctor–presumably shocked and horrified when the parents showed up with a baby in that state–took one look at the baby and told them to go to the nearest emergency room immediately. The baby had died by the time they got there.

The parents were charged in the baby’s death, and this week they were both found guilty. The judge appears to have decided to be extraordinarily lenient with them, for some reason, because according to CBS News, both parents were only given a six-month suspended sentence.

“It is clear that the defendants have already been severely punished because they need to proceed with life in the knowledge that they are responsible for the death of their son, who they truly loved,” the judge said in his ruling.

That stupid prayer card must have really made an impact on the judge, because a six month suspended sentence is barely punishment at all. The parents can still appeal the guilty verdict, but they’d probably be really stupid to do so, because it doesn’t seem like they’d be likely to get off any lighter than this.

(Image: iStockPhoto / tomloel)