Parents ripped apart by
They sit in court, and
separated by an aisle that might as well be as wide as a mile, exhibit stark
evidence of a house forever divided.
It is not unusual for
families ripped apart by circumstances or events or a combination of both to
end up in either a criminal or civil courtroom setting.
When it does happen,
there can be much at play, but the deep-seated problems involved would most
often and most likely be rooted in such causes as abuse, for instance, or alcohol,
drugs, neglect, assault, or even homicide.
But seldom does it occur
in the name of God . . . or rather, as on this occasion, the consequence of
diametrically opposing interpretations of His word and His teachings.
Oh yes, sadly, there is
a death involved here.
It is that of
17-year-old Bethany Hughes who died of leukemia in highly controversial
circumstances Sept. 5, 2002.
The teenager passed away
less than six months after she underwent a series of blood transfusions,
allegedly against her wishes, when Alberta Children's Services assumed
custody of her after she refused conventional treatment for the disease.
Various court hearings
have heard that Bethany, a devout believer in the Jehovah's Witness faith and
in the Watch Tower Society, fought the transfusion process to such an extent
that she had been known to rip medical tubes from her arms in Calgary's
Alberta's Children's Hospital.
When she contracted the
cancer, her father Lawrence Hughes left the Witnesses and proceeded to battle
to allow her to receive the transfusion he was convinced that, if applied
early enough, might save his daughter's life.
On the other hand
Hughes, backed by her
religion and senior proponents of it, wanted the procedures terminated in
accordance with their faith's belief that blood transfusions are inherently
wrong and unacceptable.
In the wake of Bethany's
death, the courtroom has become a family battleground with Lawrence Hughes-- he
has been granted the role of overseer of his daughter's estate -- attempting
to launch a $1-million wrongful death lawsuit against the church,
Hughes, and doctors for allowing or persuading his
daughter to refuse the transfusions.
Hughes, in his personal capacity as well as Administrator of the Estate, is represented
by Calgary lawyer Vaughn Marshall].
In Court of Queen's
Bench Friday, Justice
ruled that Lawrence Hughes' status as estate overseer should stand and that
therefore he should be allowed to proceed with his case -- although the judge
did emphasize the fact that "Whether the claim is legitimate or not is a
decision to be made by this court on another day."
And so, for now, the
impending lawsuit will stand.
bitterness, the agony, and all the torment involved in addition to the
natural and shared grief at the awful loss of a child is captured in the
words of the respective and now estranged parents.
Somewhat mildly and
perhaps in understatement,
Hughes begins by
saying: "I am a little disappointed with today's procedural decision.
"Not a day passes
without me thinking of my wonderful daughter Bethany. Her exuberance,
thoughtfulness, and maturity brought much joy to our family, her friends and
She says: "It is
unfortunate Mr. Hughes still cannot come to grips with the reality that
Bethany's tragic death was due to her terminal leukemia . . . it is offensive
and deeply disturbing for Mr. Hughes to now blame Bethany's death on me,
Bethany's friends, her doctors, the hospital in Edmonton (where Bethany
ultimately died) and our faith."
Hughes is pleased at this day's procedural victory.
Then, with scarcely
concealed passion and intent, he vows: "I will now continue this fight,
for Bethany's sake, until there is no breath left in my body . . . or until
my two other daughters are safely out of harm's way."
He swears Bethany was in
no condition to make wise decisions about her treatment herself . . . saying
that the Watchtower Society had "pressured and brainwashed her"
against accepting the blood transfusions.
"I would have gone
to hell and back for Bethany, and I did. I would go to hell and back for my
other daughters, and, if I have to, I will."
He says his victory
means he can bring forth more evidence about the crucial treatment decisions
made in Bethany's case, her final days, and expose the fact that his daughter
did not really accept she must not have transfusions.
"And hopefully when
that happens it will be Bethany's first opportunity to tell her story in a
sense . . . for people to hear her speak through that evidence."
For Bethany, the pain is
But as this complex,
grave and emotive case now moves forward into new chapters, it is obvious
that the pain and acrimony of the divided family she left behind will not
only endure but intensify.
Calgary Herald 2005
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