Jehovah’s Witness teen’s dad lashes out at church

Lawrence Hughes says he’ll sue over blood transfusion refusal he says cost daughter her life
The Edmonton Journal (Canada), Sept. 7, 2002

A day after she died of leukemia, Bethany Hughes’ long fight with her father and the courts took a series of dramatic twists.

First, her grieving father held a news conference in Edmonton announcing he intends to sue the Jehovah’s Witnesses, claiming it destroyed his family and caused his daughter to fight against blood transfusions that could have saved her life.

David Gnam, a Jehovah’s Witness lawyer, interupted Lawrence Hughes, argued with him and accused him of lying during the news conference.

Meanwhile in Calgary, Bethany’s own lawyer announced that Bethany herself would be speaking from the grave — through a video she taped in the summer to be used in court if she died — to ensure no young Canadian has to go through what she did.

“She told me shortly prior to her death that she wished me to pursue all reasonable legal avenues, right through to the Supreme Court of Canada, in an effort to vindicate her charter rights,” said lawyer David Day.

Day and Gnam, who worked for the Calgary teen, will appear in Alberta family and youth court on Tuesday to argue for her case to be heard despite her death on Thursday.

Bethany, 17, asked her lawyers to argue for the constitutional right of a mature minor to make his or her own medical decisions.

The staunch Jehovah’s Witness opposed blood transfusions because of her faith.

She was forced to have a treatment for a rare and aggressive form of leukemia, but fought the order in court.

Her father, Lawrence, announced Friday he is launching a class-action lawsuit against the Watchtower Society, the legal group that represents the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Speaking on the steps of Edmonton’s Cross Cancer Clinic where his daughter died a day earlier, Hughes says he was excommunicated and shunned after fighting the church’s stance against blood transfusions for Bethany.

“It’s been a long nightmare,” he said.

“A lot of times I thought I’d wake up and it would all be gone. It’s basically destroyed my life and ruined me financially as well.”

He said he received a phone call in Calgary from his estranged wife, Arliss Hughes, an hour before Bethany’s death.

“I wish she would have called me the day before so I could have seen my daughter.”

Lawrence contends that since mid-July, when Bethany went to Edmonton for chemotherapy treatment without blood transfusions for her acute myeloid leukemia, he had no access to his daughter other than by telephone.

Lawrence had split with the religious group and his family, soon after consenting to blood transfusions for the teen.

His wife and daughter moved from the Calgary home last June and Lawrence has since filed for divorce, which includes seeking custody of his youngest daughter.

“I’m holding the Watchtower Society responsible,” he said.

Lawrence blamed the church for the lost contact with his daughter and said they delayed her treatment when she was hospitalized.

Gnam, who was standing to the side as Lawrence spoke to reporters, challenged the father on a number of points.

“I understand that he’s a grieving father and he’s lashing out, I can understand because maybe I’m lashing out too,” Gnam said shortly after the heated exchange.

Gnam agreed that Hughes didn’t have a phone number to call Bethany and

didn’t know where she was staying, but he said that Bethany had agreed to meet her father a few days ago.

Gnam denied the church delayed treatment and said Lawrence declined to come to meet his daughter.

Bethany will be buried in Calgary next week.


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Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday September 7, 2002.
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