Jehovah's Witness members used the fear of damnation
in Armageddon to convince a young leukemia victim to shun blood transfusions, a
lawsuit claims. And the influence exerted on Bethany Hughes by her mother and
other Jehovah's Witnesses directly led to her death two years ago, the court
The lawsuit, launched by the Calgary teen's
father, Lawrence Hughes, on behalf of himself and her estate, seeks damages of
nearly $1 million.
The claim -- a copy of which was obtained
yesterday by the Sun -- names the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Canada
and several Witnesses as defendants.
Also named is the Cross Cancer Institute in
Edmonton and doctors there who treated Bethany up to the time of her Sept. 5,
"The Watch Tower defendants committed
the (civil wrongs) of deceit and undue influence, all of which contributed to
and led to the circumstances causing the death of Bethany," it says.
"By prayer service and other means,
(they) actively encouraged Bethany to not question her faith."
Among the beliefs she was encouraged not to
reflect upon was that "it was against God's law to take a blood
transfusion and that if she did, that she would perish in Armageddon."
Bethany, then 16, was diagnosed with acute
myeloid leukemia on Feb. 13, 2002, and doctors recommended chemotherapy
supported by blood transfusions.
Because the teen's mother,
Hughes, would not consent to the treatment, a court
order was granted allowing doctors to commence the transfusions.
But society members, including lawyers David
Gnam and Shane Brady, who fought the court order, tried to convince Bethany to
fight the transfusions, the claim alleges.
"All overtly influenced Bethany to
believe that the blood transfusions were wrong and would not help cure her
cancer," it states.
"These defendants misled Bethany by
intentionally misstating to her that her treatment protocol was experimental
when in fact it was not."
After her July 15, 2002, release from
Alberta Children's Hospital Bethany was secretly moved to the Cross Cancer
Institute where she received a non-transfusion regimen, the suit claims.
She died from congestive heart failure
caused by a lack of healthy blood, it says.
to the unproven allegations have not yet been filed.
Lawyer Vaughn Marshall, who filed the
lawsuit Wednesday, declined comment until after the defendants have been served
and had a chance to see the claim.
The Edmonton Sun