A Catholic health care group in Colorado is affirming its belief that human personhood begins at conception after its lawyers erroneously argued in a court case that human fetuses are not persons.
CNA/EWTN News is reporting that lawyers representing Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) cited the state’s Wrongful Death Law in a case involving a mother and her unborn twin babies who died at St. Thomas More Hospital in2006.
The incident occurred on January 1, 2006 when Lori Stodghill was brought to the hospital’s emergency room complaining of nausea, vomiting, and shortness of breath. She suffered a heart attack as a result of a blood clot that had traveled to her lungs. At the time, Stodghill was 28 weeks pregnant but her obstetrician, who was on call that day, failed to arrive at the hospital. As a result, Lori and her two unborn sons, Samuel and Zachary, died.
Lori’s husband, Jeremy, is suing the hospital for the wrongful death of his wife and sons.
During the trial, which occurred two years ago, lawyers for the hospital argued that Colorado’s Wrongful Death Law does not apply to the unborn because the state does not recognize fetuses as people deserving of rights.
When the two year-old court filing surfaced last month, it triggered an avalanche of criticism from the faithful and the Church, which does not consider the law to be just. It also added to the mounting scandals associated with the hospital which allowed a practicing abortionist to serve on its ethics board.
Colorado’s three bishops met with four executives of CHI last week to discuss the Stodghill case after promising that they would review the matter and make sure CHI was giving faithful witness to Church teaching.
On Februrary 4, CHI representatives publicly acknowledged that “it was morally wrong for attorneys representing St. Thomas More Hospital to cite the state’s Wrongful Death Act in defense of this lawsuit,” adding that “it is an unfortunate and regrettable point of fact that Colorado law, as it now stands, fails to adequately protect the rights of the unborn.”
They went on to call the Wrongful Death Act “unjust” and affirmed their “strict adherence to one of the Church’s most basic moral commitments – that every person is created in the image and likeness of God and that life begins at the moment of conception.”
Even though the bishops were disappointed with what happened, CHI recognized the error and has committed itself to “moving forward and to changing their course,” said J. D. Flynn, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Denver.
“Institutions and people make errors, but the Christian life is to take responsibility for what we’ve done and move forward, and so we’re thankful for that,” he said.
Two courts have ruled in favor of CHI, but Jeremy Stodghill is appealing these rulings to the state supreme court, asking the court to decide “the issue that the Court of Appeals refused to decide,” whether physicians are immune to malpractice suits when their negligence leads to the death of a viable fetus before its birth.
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