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Father sues over death of 17-year-old daughter

Jehovah's Witness rejected blood products

Saturday, August 28, 2004 - Page A7

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CALGARY -- 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 transfusions.

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 care.

The allegations have not been proven in court. Statements of defence have not been filed.

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