Dying wish unfulfilled

Judge can’t hear transfusion case
Calgary Sun (Canada), Oct. 18, 2002
By MELISSA RIDGEN (mailto:melissa.ridgen@calgarysun.com), CALGARY SUN

wish for teens to have the right to determine their own medical treatment is a wish family court can’t grant, a judge ruled yesterday.

“I’m saddened Bethany didn’t manage to be here with us today,” said Judge Alberta Vickery.

Vickery ruled her court has no jurisdiction to hear arguments regarding Charter Rights violations Bethany and her mother Arliss allegedly suffered when the then-16-year-old leukemia patient was made a ward of the province and forced to undergo blood transfusions last February.

Bethany — a Jehovah’s Witness — opposed receiving blood.

Vickery said family court’s involvement in the matter ended July 2 when the temporary guardianship order was terminated after doctors said the transfusions weren’t helping.

“I have no jurisdiction to continue here,” the judge said.

Bethany died Sept. 5 at age 17 and just two days before, asked lawyers to continue her court battle so other teens wouldn’t have to endure medical treatments against their will.

After yesterday’s ruling, David Gnam, co-counsel for Bethany, said lawyers would regroup and determine their next action, which could be to pursue the matter at the Alberta Court of Appeal or Court of Queen’s Bench.

“We have to think seriously in terms of what we promised Bethany,” before her death, Gnam said.

Bethany’s estate can seek financial compensation if a court decides her rights were violated.

Her mother, Arliss Hughes, is looking for compensation as she feels her rights were violated when the province took guardianship of the girl.

She and her two surviving daughters were in court yesterday, as was Bethany’s father Lawrence, who has been shunned by his family and church for supporting the forced transfusions.

The teen’s family, church and lawyers say the girl was essentially assaulted by being sedated and restrained during 4 1/2 months of blood transfusions.

Her father agrees she was brutalized, but believes the religious organization that has been funding his wife’s and daughter’s lawyers was the culprit.

He intends to launch a class-action suit against the Watchtower Society — a Jehovah’s Witness group — alleging they brainwashed his wife and children and prevented him from seeing his daughter for the last two months of her life.

“I believe it is essential, critical that these issues be settled to protect the many other potential victims,” the angry father said outside of court.


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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday October 18, 2002.
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