A father whose criminal neglect caused the death of his very ill diabetic daughter has been jailed, while her mother has been spared an immediate prison term.

The death of the 14-year-old triplet, who only weighed 28 kilos when she died, was preventable if only her parents had made a single phone call to a doctor, said Justice Kevin Nicholson on Thursday.

Richard David Edward, 50, and Debra Marlene Edward, 53, who split up after the death, pleaded guilty in the South Australian Supreme Court to causing Dawn Edward's death by criminal neglect.

"Dawn's death should never have happened," the judge said.

He jailed the "controlling and dominating" father for four years six months, with a non-parole period of three years seven months.

He placed the "weak and cowardly" mother on a three year good behaviour bond, after suspending a three year four month jail term.

Dawn, who suffered from type 1 diabetes and was insulin dependent, died on August 9, 2009, at the Adelaide home she shared with her parents and four siblings.

She died of hyperglycaemia and dehydration.

In the eight days before she died, Dawn was "extremely sick and obviously in need of urgent medical attention", the judge said.

The couple's criminal neglect involved "a stubborn failure, during that last week, to take heed of the obvious signs, of which you had been warned, and take the simple step of getting assistance."

Both parents were intellectually-disabled, with the mother's IQ putting her in the bottom 0.5 per cent of the population, and their five children also had disabilities.

Families SA had received 26 notifications from 1994 to 2009, relating to the children's dirty clothing, head lice, and other matters, but the father refused all offers of assistance.

The judge said the father dominated and controlled the household, while the mother spent her time watching TV in her bedroom having given up "any sense of yourself as a a parent".

He made all the decisions and the mother later admitted being a coward, saying "I didn't stand up to my husband enough".

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