Father sues Jehovah's Witnesses, hospital over teen's death

Father sues Jehovah's Witnesses, hospital over teen's death

A Calgary man who waged a bitter battle to have his daughter receive a blood transfusion – against her wishes – is suing his former church bretheren and doctors at an Edmonton cancer treatment centre.

"I was B's father. I had a right to see my dying daughter. I had a right to know what her treatment was," Lawrence Hughes, painting his case as David vs Goliath, said Friday. "I had a right to tell her I loved her. If I had been with her, she might still be alive today."

Bethany Hughes died of leukemia two years ago, after making a public stand for her Jehovah's Witness faith, which prohibits blood transfusions.

Her father broke with his church and his wife over treatment for the 16-year-old.

He fought a lengthy court battle to have Bethany given blood, which she finally received after being made a temporary ward of the province.

Now he is suing his former wife, the Watchtower Society of Canada – the organization that represents the Jehovah's Witness religion – and doctors at the Cross Cancer Institute.

In a statement of claim, Hughes alleges that Bethany's mother and other Jehovah's Witnesses misled his daughter about the merits of blood transfusions.

* Coverage from CBC Calgary

He claims they exerted undue influence by telling the teen she would be eternally damned if she agreed to the transfusions.

Hughes also says in his statement of claim that they moved Bethany to the Cross Cancer Institute, which he says gave her an alternate treatment without proper consent.

Bethany Hughes was moved to the new hospital after being discharged from the Alberta Children's Hospital in July 2002, where doctors said she was too ill to continue being treated with chemotherapy and transfusions.

She died less than two months later, just after turning 17.

"It makes me sick today to think that Bethany would still be alive if she had received the proper treatment and blood transfusion," he said. "What they did was immoral, criminal, evil."

None of the statements in the claim have been proven in court. Those mentioned in the lawsuit – some of whom haven't been served notice – weren't prepared to comment.

But Shane Brady, a lawyer with the Watchtower Society, said Hughes has made similar claims before, notably during his divorce.

"Hughes is entitled to his day in court, as anyone is, but he's already had his day," Brady said.