Father of dead teen back in court and ready to fight

Montreal Gazette/February 23, 2005
By Grady Semmens

Blames religious order for girl's death; 17-year-old refused conventional treatment because she was a Jehovah's Witness

A father who blames the Jehovah's Witnesses religious order for the death of his teenage daughter is back in court today in his quest to have the church held responsible for her refusal of medical treatment.

"If you compare it to a boxing match with 10 rounds, this is the first round," Lawrence Hughes said yesterday.

Hughes will appear in Alberta's Court of Queen's Bench this afternoon to fight an application by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society and his estranged wife to strike down an earlier court order that made him the administrator of his daughter Bethany's estate.

Hughes launched a $1-million lawsuit against the society, Edmonton's Cross Cancer Institute and several doctors and Jehovah's Witnesses after the 17-year-old Calgary girl died of acute myeloid leukemia on Sept. 5, 2002.

Bethany Hughes died less than six months after she underwent a series of blood transfusions against her wishes after Alberta Child Services assumed custody of her when she refused conventional treatment for the disease.

A former Jehovah's Witness, Lawrence Hughes blames the church and Bethany's mother for the girl's death since the religious group is opposed to vaccinations, organ transplants and blood transfusions.

Winnipeg lawyer Allan Ludkiewicz, who is fighting Hughes's claim, said the parties deny they are responsible for Bethany's death and that the Watch Tower Society has yet to be served with the lawsuit.

"Basically, there's no cause of action at law for what he's claiming," Ludkiewicz said.

"Everything he has in his statement of claim has been decided by other courts, sometimes more than once."

Hughes said he and his supporters will protest outside the Calgary courthouse at noon in hope of "educating the public and protecting children."

"This isn't the first time this has happened," he said.

"Normally (Jehovah's Witness), parents hide their children away to die and they are honoured for refusing blood transfusions.

"I think the Canadian public needs to know about it."

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