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Sat, August 28, 2004

Transfusion lawsuit panned

Jehovah's Witness members claim wrongful death allegations redundant




Shunned Jehovah's Witness Lawrence Hughes' lawsuit against the church is doomed to fail, a lawyer for the denomination and one of the defendants suggested yesterday. Shane Brady, who helped fight against forced blood transfusions for Calgary teen Bethany Hughes, said the issues raised in the lawsuit have already been dealt with.

"He's entitled to his day in court, but he's already had his day in court," said Brady, of Hughes' two-year fight against his ex-wife and his former church.

"Every one of these issues was raised and decided," said Brady, from his Georgetown, Ont., office.

"Mr. Hughes raised these same arguments in the child welfare matter and then he recycled them in the divorce matter."

Brady acted for Bethany's mother, Arliss, in both her fight against the forced blood transfusions -- which violate Jehovah's Witnesses beliefs -- and her later divorce from Hughes.

Hughes filed a wrongful death lawsuit Wednesday claiming Jehovah's Witness members, including the mom and Brady, pressured the teen to fight transfusions.

The girl, then 16, was diagnosed Feb. 13, 2002, with acute myeloid leukemia.

When the mother refused to consent to transfusions as part of Bethany's treatment, a court order was granted allowing doctors to proceed.

Hughes lawsuit alleges that after Bethany was released from hospital in Calgary, she was taken to Edmonton where alternative treatments were employed.

The claim says church members used the fear of damnation in Armageddon to influence Bethany not to question her beliefs and seek transfusions.

She died from congestive heart failure Sept. 5, 2002.

The lawsuit on behalf of her estate seeks damages of almost $1 million.

Lawyer Vaughn Marshall, who acts for Hughes in the latest litigation, said the issue of whether someone should be held accountable for Bethany's death has never been placed before the court.

"This lawsuit gives Bethany a voice on the circumstances ... that led to her death," Marshall said.

"When all is said and done in this matter, the court will speak for Bethany when Bethany couldn't speak for herself."

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