February 27, 2006

Dad given OK to sue over death

By NADIA MOHARIB, CALGARY SUN

A judge's ruling has cleared the way for a wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of a teenaged Jehovah's Witness who lost her fight with leukemia.

The claim seeking $800,000 in damages was filed by Lawrence Hughes, father of the late Bethany Hughes, in August 2004.

Bethany, 17, succumbed to leukemia on Sept. 5, 2002, after a highly publicized fight against blood transfusions which she said violated her religious teachings. The civil suit was stalled after defendants sought to have the courts throw out the claim.

Now, however, a ruling by Court of Queen's Bench Justice Patricia Rowbotham on Friday means a scaled-down version of the claim by Hughes, acting as administrator of Bethany's estate, can continue against the Cross Cancer Institute, Alberta Cancer Board, doctors A. Robert Turner and Andrew Belch, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Canada and Watch Tower lawyers Shane Brady and David Gnam.

The judge ruled Hughes could not seek compensation for himself, but can sue on his daughter's behalf.

The lawyers would have to be found liable before the Watch Tower Society could potentially be held accountable, said lawyer Vaughn Marshall, who filed the original suit.

The statement of claim, as referred to by Rowbotham, alleges the Watch Tower lawyers -- members of the Jehovah's Witness faith who were acting on behalf of Bethany and her mother Arliss -- were in a conflict of interest.

The judge also wrote in outlining the claims that because of their own beliefs, they were not in a position to advise either in an objective, fully informed manner that would enable Bethany to make a free, informed decision on whether to choose to have blood transfusions. Bethany's mother is no longer named in the suit.

A statement of defence to the unproven allegations has yet to be filed in court.

 

The ruling is situated on the Alberta Courts Website:

http://www.albertacourts.ab.ca/jdb/2003-/qb/civil/2006/2006abqb0159.cor1.ed1.pdf