New evidence refused in wrongful death case involving religious group

Calgary, Canada - A father cannot present new evidence on behalf of his daughter's estate in an at-tempt to prove her death was caused in part by conflicting legal or medical advice from lawyers and members of the Watchtower Society.

The Alberta Court of Appeal, in a written decision released Monday, determined there was no error by the chambers judge who concluded last year that Lawrence Hughes' claim was doomed to fail on that point.

The province's top court, however, dismissed counter claims by the Watchtower Society and its lawyers, David Gnam and Shane Brady, that they be removed from Hughes' wrongful death lawsuit.

Bethany Hughes was 17 when she died in September 2002 from acute myeloid leukemia following a legal battle over whether she should receive blood transfusions, contrary to her Jehovah's Witness faith.

Following the church's teachings, Bethany refused the blood and thus became a temporary ward of the province. She died four months later despite receiving 80 blood transfusions against her will.

Hughes had sought to introduce evidence suggesting his daughter was receiving improper advice and might have died because of it.

The scaled-down claim will now go back before a case management judge as it moves toward trial.

Hughes declared the appeal court's decision "a victory."

"I see this as a win,"Hughes said outside court. "The court has accepted throughout that the lawyer-priests, Gnam and Brady, are employees of the Watchtower Society.

"This judgment decided that they have to answer for their actions in preventing Bethany from getting the best medical care. I couldn't prove that the lawyer-priests' conflict of interest caused her death, but that doesn't mean there was no conflict of interest."

The court did allow appeals by church members Merrill Morrell and Thomm Bokor to have their names removed from the statement of claim.