Dad fights to control daughter's estate
Thursday, February 24, 2005
A judge will decide Friday whether a Calgary father will remain the overseer of his daughter's estate, which could allow him to pursue a lawsuit against the faith he believes helped kill her.
Lawrence Hughes, a former Jehovah's Witness, blames the church and his wife, Arliss Hughes, for allowing their daughter Bethany to refuse blood transfusions to help treat her leukemia.
"If you conduct yourself in a way that you are legally complicit in a death of an individual, then that claim should remain after the death," said Vaughn Marshall, Lawrence Hughes' lawyer.
At question in Wednesday's Court of Queen's Bench hearing was whether Hughes should remain the administrator of his 17-year-old daughter's estate -- a position he was appointed to last Aug. 25.
Hughes then launched a $1-million wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Bethany's estate against the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Canada, Edmonton's Cross Cancer Institute, several doctors and several Jehovah's Witnesses. To date, the society has not been formally served with the lawsuit.
Winnipeg lawyer Allan Ludkiewicz, who is fighting Hughes' claim, argues that the judge who appointed him as the administrator didn't have all of the information necessary to make that ruling -- including the fact Bethany was a firm believer in the Jehovah Witness faith and the Watchtower Society.
Bethany Hughes died on Sept. 5, 2002 -- less than six months after she underwent a series of blood transfusions against her wishes when Alberta Children's Services assumed custody of her after she refused conventional treatment for the disease. Lawrence Hughes also fought for her to have the transfusions.
Bethany fought the treatments, trying to pull the medical tubes from her arms while bedridden at Alberta Children's Hospital.
"He (Lawrence) will not recognize the validity of Bethany's instructions, so he should not be the administrator of her estate, especially since he and Bethany had taken completely opposite actions," Ludkiewicz told Justice Ged Hawco.
Marshall argues there is no one else who will take on this battle and time has elapsed for a new statement of claim to be filed.
"The estate will lose that right if this order is not upheld," Marshall told the judge.
Earlier in the day, a handful of Hughes' supporters in his crusade against the Watchtower Society protested outside the downtown courthouse.
"This protest is for Bethany and all the other Bethanys who haven't had blood transfusions," said Hughes while waving a placard reading "Save the Children."
Hawco will make his ruling on the application Friday afternoon.
© The Calgary Herald 2005
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