-- Members of
Jehovah's Witnesses threatened a young leukemia patient with eternal
damnation and unduly influenced the Calgary teen who made national
headlines two years ago in her fight against government-imposed
blood transfusions, a wrongful-death lawsuit claims.
The 21-page lawsuit, filed this week by the father of Bethany
Hughes, alleges that the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of
Canada, its lawyers and the teen's mother "actively encouraged" the
girl not to question her faith, otherwise "she would perish in
Armageddon and be eternally damned."
Lawrence Hughes, 53, seeks $975,000 in damages, the bulk on
behalf of his daughter's estate and a portion for himself in what
could be a precedent-setting case against the religious sect.
Bethany Hughes died on Sept. 5, 2002, after a seven-month battle
with leukemia. She was 17.
Prescribed treatment included chemotherapy and transfusions.
In keeping with her faith, she refused to accept blood products,
a decision that was supported by her mother, Arliss Hughes, and her
sisters, Athalia Larson, now 23, and Cassandra Hughes, now 17.
Mr. Hughes, a former member of the Jehovah's Witnesses, saw
things differently, as did the Alberta government, which argued
successfully in several courts that Ms. Hughes was not mature enough
to make her own decisions about health care.
Ms. Hughes was given 38 court-ordered blood transfusions. But
when doctors downgraded her hope for recovery to 10 per cent in
July, 2002, a Provincial Court judge refused to extend provincial
guardianship, despite Mr. Hughes's pleas, to force more
Mrs. Hughes moved her daughter to the Cross Cancer Institute in
Edmonton, where she was being treated without transfusions and as a
day patient in palliative care.
Mr. Hughes is also suing the doctors who treated his daughter and
their employers, alleging that they failed to give her appropriate
The allegations have not been proven in court. Statements of
defence have not been filed.