Irreconcilable beliefs shattered family
Parents’ clash over transfusions led to divorce
A bitter clash between
religious beliefs and medical treatment led to the ultimate breakup and
bankruptcy of a
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Rosemary Nation said in her 29-page decision the catalyst for the breakup between Lawrence and Arliss Hughes and their two daughters was differing opinions on whether their oldest daughter, Bethany, should receive blood transfusions,
All members of the family
had been Jehovah’s Witnesses for nearly 20 years and were opposed to receiving
blood products when
She died at age 17 in September 2002 — about seven months later.
Lawrence Hughes changed his position after discussions with doctors and fought to have his daughter receive what he believed was the best medical care.
“There is no question that
Calgary lawyer Vaughn Marshall, who assisted Lawrence Hughes in the proceedings, said the case is important because it makes it clear the real cause of the family breakup was the opposing religious positions taken by the parents in a life-and-death decision regarding their daughter.
“You’d think their
religious beliefs would provide comfort to a husband and wife whose child was
stricken with a life-threatening illness and guide the family through the
“But, in this case, it not only failed to do that, it destroyed the family. First, Lawrence Hughes lost his daughter, then he lost his family.”
“Arliss is pleased that has been clarified and cleaned up” he said.
Brady also said Nation did
recognize in a couple of passages it was the maturity of
“Her view all the way along and the evidence led in court was that the family had problems even before Bethany got sick, and this is just one tragic, tragic result of the family’s circum stances,” said Brady.
Lawrence Hughes testified during the trial he incurred more than $200,000 in legal fees and paid $20,000 of it out of his own pocket, pushing him into bankruptcy.
“I do recognize that the religious views of the Jehovah Witness faith, as they were presented in court by the father and not contradicted in court by the mother, would lead members of the faith (which would include Mrs. Hughes and two daughters) to disagree with the position of Mr. Hughes in relation to blood transfusions and reject him because of those views,” wrote Nation.
She added, however, she did not believe either parent defending their religious belief as it relates to a matter as fundamental as the medical treatment of their child, could be considered misconduct under the Divorce Act.
© Copyright 2003 Calgary Herald