Reports: Catholic Health Initiatives Claims Fetuses Not ‘Persons’ in Wrongful Death Suit

A Colorado family is asking that state’s Supreme Court to consider whether twin fetus who were lost when a pregnant woman died can be part of a wrongful death lawsuit against Catholic Health Initiatives — which has thus far successfully argued that the fetuses were not “persons,” The Colorado Independent reports. 

That stance taken by Catholic Health Initiatives’ lawyers raises questions about CHI’s proclaimed adherence to the Ethical and Religious Directives issued by the U.S. bishops. Those directives, in part, state:

Catholic health care ministry witnesses to the sanctity of life “from the moment of conception until death.” 20 The Church’s defense of life encompasses the unborn and the care of women and their children during and after pregnancy.

In 2011, Catholic Health Initiatives attempted to merge with the University of Louisville Hospital and Jewish Hospital. Gov. Steve Beshear nixed UofL Hospital’s involvement after widespread concerns were raised about CHI’s adherence to the Ethical and Religious Directives.

In November, UofL Hospital announced a partnership with the CHI-controlled KentuckyOne Health; Attorney General Jack Conway said the deal kept control of the hospital with the state. The partnership still had its critics, despite those assurances.

In the Colorado case, CHI’s attorneys are making an argument based on state law. Two judges, so far, have agreed with CHI’s interpretation, The Colorado Independent reported. The Colorado Supreme Court has not decided whether it will hear the case.

Here’s what the Colorado Independent reported on what happened:

Lori Stodghill was 31-years old, seven-months pregnant with twin boys and feeling sick when she arrived at St. Thomas More hospital in Cañon City on New Year’s Day 2006. She was vomiting and short of breath and she passed out as she was being wheeled into an examination room. Medical staff tried to resuscitate her but, as became clear only later, a main artery feeding her lungs was clogged and the clog led to a massive heart attack. Stodghill’s obstetrician, Dr. Pelham Staples, who also happened to be the obstetrician on call for emergencies that night, never answered a page. His patient died at the hospital less than an hour after she arrived and her twins died in her womb.

Gawker notes that the lawsuit has caused many Catholics to side against Catholic Health Initiatives.

Here’s Denver Westword’s examination of the situation:

The guide goes on to list dos and don’ts for health-care providers. Do encourage natural family planning. Don’t allow the use of contraceptives. Do counsel couples toward adoption. Don’t offer “reproductive technologies that substitute for the marriage act.” Never perform an abortion. Never perform a vasectomy. Always provide prenatal care to expectant mothers. Do induce labor if the mother is suffering from a medical condition and the baby is viable.

Given those beliefs, Catholic Health Initiatives’ legal argument is hypocritical, says Miguel De La Torre, a professor of social ethics at Denver’s  School of Theology. “What t hey should be arguing is, ‘Oh, no, all life, from the moment of conception, is life and therefore must be protected,’” De La Torre says. “When you establish yourself in this culture as a moral voice, even when it works against you, you have to maintain that moral voice.”

But Sister Maloney says that the intersection of religious beliefs and law isn’t that simple.

The hospital’s attorneys aren’t “trying to argue whether unborn children should be recognized as persons,” she says. “They’re just arguing that they are not in Colorado law.”

Joseph Lord

Joseph Lord is the online managing editor for WFPL.

@joseph_Lord

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