Catholic Hospital Chain Argues A Fetus Is Not A Person To Win Malpractice Suit, Despite Long-Standing Beliefs
Lori Stodghill was seven months pregnant with healthy twin boys the day that she suffered a cardiac arrest and died. Her husband, Jeremy, reports that although doctors had the time and opportunity to deliver Lori’s babies, they refused.
The babies were pronounced dead along with their mother.
Two years after the 2006 deaths, Jeremy decided to sue the St. Thomas More Hospital emergency room, doctor on call, and his wife’s obstetrician in a wrongful death suit, claiming that his two unborn boys could have been saved.
The major Catholic health provider, however, successfully managed to dismantle the case, by arguing that a fetus is not the same as a person, and a wrongful death suit must be made on behalf of a person.
This comes as a shock to many Catholics — and non-Catholic observers — since the Catholic church has long-maintained that life begins at conception, advising its members against abortion and terminating pregnancies.
However, in the case of the malpractice suit, however, the Catholic organization seems to have changed its mind — at least where the case of Jeremy’s unborn sons is concerned.
Lori was 31 years old and 28 weeks pregnant when she began vomiting and complaining of shortness of breath. Her husband called her obstetrician, who told them to head to the nearest emergency room. At the emergency room, Lori slipped out of consciousness. She was suffering a cardiac arrest and had stopped breathing due to a pulmonary embolism caused by a blood clot that traveled from her leg to her lungs. Lori was both obese and pregnant, making her risk for the deadly condition much higher.
Earlier that day, she had been feeling fine, according to her husband, and they both had watched as her belly jolted from the kicks of the two healthy boys inside her.
Lori’s obstetrician never came to the hospital. Instead, he spoke with the distraught father on the phone. Dr. Pelham Staples — who also happened to be the on-call obstetrician that night — allegedly asked, “Well, what do you want to do? Take the babies? Take the babies?” Jeremy remembers answering, “I’m not a doctor!”
The ER staff, meanwhile, detected no heartbeat from the unborn boys, and the decision to perform a perimortem C-section to get the babies out of their deceased mother fell to doctors at the scene, who decided against the procedure.
Jeremy believes that the procedure would have saved his twins, and filed a suit.
While Catholic Health Initiatives is the second-largest faith-based system in America, they abandoned their stance that “life encompasses the unborn” to win the malpractice suit.
The lawyer CHI, Jason Langley, maintained in court that wrongful death cannot involve a fetus, because it is not a person:
“[The court] should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person,’ as is used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define ‘person’ under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses.”
Jeremy’s attorneys are now seeking to have their case heard by the Colorado Supreme Court.
Catholics are known for their staunch conviction against abortion. In recent news, doctors at a Catholic hospital in Ireland refused to terminate the pregnancy of a woman who was in the process of miscarrying. The woman died of blood poisoning, her baby with her.
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