Father takes protest to Legislature

Accuses 'cult' of killing daughter

Edmonton Sun/September 13, 2005
By Max Maudie

A Calgary father accusing the Jehovah's Witnesses of killing his cancer-stricken daughter says the federal government needs to stop the "cult" before more children die.

"In former times, thousands of youths died for putting God first," says Lawrence Hughes, a former Jehovah's Witness whose 17-year-old daughter, Bethany, died of leukemia in 2002.

"They are still doing it, only the drama is played out in hospitals and courtrooms, with blood transfusions the issue."

Hughes launched a lawsuit - still to be resolved - against the sect last year, also known as the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Along with two supporters, he yesterday protested on the steps the Alberta Legislature.

He claims Bethany was taken into hiding by members of the society, treated with orange juice and arsenic and brainwashed into believing it would cure her disease.

Arsenic is a recognized treatment for leukemia, but not for the type of leukemia Bethany had, Lawrence said.

Bethany, then 16, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia on Feb. 13, 2002. Doctors recommended chemotherapy supported by blood transfusions, against the tenets of the Jehovah's Witnesses' faith.

Because the teen's mother, Arliss Hughes, would not consent to the treatment, a court order was issued allowing doctors to commence the transfusions.

The transfusions began "over a week" after the doctor's recommendations, Lawrence said yesterday. Bethany died less than six months after she underwent the transfusions against her wishes.

"The cult members responsible should be charged with murder," Hughes said, adding he plans to protest at Parliament Hill next month.

Lawyer Shane Brady, who's named in Lawrence's lawsuit and is a member of the society, yesterday said "Mr. Hughes is trying to play on a stereotype when it comes to religious organizations."

He added that Bethany did get the blood transfusions, but died nonetheless.

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