In Wrongful Death Suit, Colorado Catholic Hospital Argues Fetuses are Not Viable Persons

hypocrisy-meterOn New Year’s Day in 2006, 31 year old Lori Stodghill went to the emergency room at St. Thomas More Hospital in Cañon City, Colorado, short of breath, vomiting, and seven months pregnant with twins. As they wheeled her into the examining room, she passed out. The ER staff tried to resuscitate her, but a blockage in the main artery going to Lori’s lungs caused her to have a massive heart attack, killing her and her twins less than an hour after she arrived at the ER.  Her obstetrician, who was supposed to be on call for emergencies that night, never answered a page. Stodghill’s husband subsequently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner of the hospital, Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) based in Englewood, Colorado. Catholic hospitals do not offer abortion services or even contraception based on their belief that legal personhood starts at contraception, not at birth, and that fetuses are viable people. CHI even has an advocacy website that implores visitors to help them oppose the provision in Obamacare that requires employers to pay for contraceptives, because “Our mission and our ethical standards in health care are rooted in the Catholic Church’s teachings about the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.” But to get its client out of this wrongful death suit, CHI’s lawyers are arguing the opposite — that Lori’s fetuses weren’t really viable persons. In a brief the defense filed with the court, CHI’s lawyers say the court “should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person,’ as used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define a ‘person’ under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on the two unborn fetuses.” 

Source: Colorado Independent, January 23, 2013

Updated Jan. 26, 2013

  3 comments for “In Wrongful Death Suit, Colorado Catholic Hospital Argues Fetuses are Not Viable Persons

  1. The Catholic lawyers are not arguing that fetuses are not viable persons they are arguing that by definition, passed by the Colorado State legislature, that fetuses are not viable persons. If they lose this case they potentially win theologically because the courts in Colorado, in each future case, will have to seriously consider whether a fetus is a viable person. Most courts in our country do not consider a fetus to be viable. If the Colorado Supreme Court sides with the father than that is just more support for the pro-life agenda because a Supreme Court of a state will have either expressly or impliedly asserted that a fetus is a viable person.

    I see no hypocrisy in this unless you consider lawyers, by profession, to be hypocrites, which I do not.

  2. Such hypocrisy! Apart from the fact that a 7-mo. fetus is viable, the lawyers are disputing the official church position in asserting that it is not “a person”. I find myself in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with them, but from a strictly logical view they really can’t have it both ways. If they win their case based on what they say Colorado law is, they lose theologically; if they lose, theology wins. So it’s a lose-lose case for them!

  3. Anne, I think you should consider issuing a correction to the phrase “religious belief that human life starts at contraception….”

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