Dead teen's dad sues sect

Edmonton Sun/September 6, 2005
By Brookes Merritt

A Calgary father who claims a church group is responsible for the death of his cancer-stricken daughter hopes to reduce the distance between church and state.

"Every day Jehovah's Witnesses are dying because they refuse blood transfusions, including children," says Lawrence Hughes, a former Jehovah's Witness whose 17-year-old daughter died of leukemia in 2002.

Hughes has launched a lawsuit against the sect, also known as the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, and is hosting a noon-hour protest at the Legislature Monday to denounce the church.

He claims Bethany was taken into hiding by members of the society, treated with arsenic and led to believe it would cure her disease.

He hopes to persuade governments to limit the powers of religious groups.

"(The society) are using institutional coercion and brain-washing and intimidation to control their members," he says.

"The Watchtower is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Jehovah Witnesses, deliberately giving out misleading information ... prohibiting the use of vaccinations, organ transplants and blood transfusions."

Bethany died less than six months after she underwent a series of blood transfusions against her wishes. Alberta Child Services assumed custody of her after she refused conventional treatment.

Hughes's lawsuit alleges the Watchtower Society amounts to little more than a cult, and that they - in addition to a handful of doctors and the Cross Cancer Institute - failed to take the proper steps to try and save his daughter's life.

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