Catholic Hospital Argues Fetuses Aren't People In Med Mal Suit

It's a tragic story, but one that reveals the hypocrisy of those same Catholic hospitals who argued against allowing their employees the right to make reproductive choices for themselves and who pressure and terrorize women at their "pregnancy centers." When it's a woman seeking legal medical assistance for an unwanted pregnancy, it's all about taking her needing to take responsibility and God's will and giving that fetus inside her personhood status. But when it's about medical negligence allowing the death of two potentially viable fetuses, well then, personhood goes right out the window.

When 31-year-old Lori Hodghill went into a Colorado Catholic hospital on New Year's Day 2006 because she wasn't feeling well, it didn't take long for things to rapidly spiral downhill. Seven months pregnant with twin boys, she passed out due to a blockage in an artery, which led to a heart attack. The obstetrician on call did not respond to his page and less than an hour after she entered the emergency room, Lori Hodghill and the twins she was carrying died.

Hodghill's husband filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the hospital on behalf of himself and their daughter, claiming that even if the obstetrician couldn't make it in, he could have instructed the ER staff to conduct an emergency caesarian section and at least save his sons when his wife couldn't be resuscitated.

That's where Catholic practices in hospital care gets a little complicated:

The lead defendant in the case is Catholic Health Initiatives, the Englewood-based nonprofit that runs St. Thomas More Hospital as well as roughly 170 other health facilities in 17 states. Last year, the hospital chain reported national assets of $15 billion. The organization’s mission, according to its promotional literature, is to “nurture the healing ministry of the Church” and to be guided by “fidelity to the Gospel.” Toward those ends, Catholic Health facilities seek to follow the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church authored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Those rules have stirred controversy for decades, mainly for forbidding non-natural birth control and abortions. “Catholic health care ministry witnesses to the sanctity of life ‘from the moment of conception until death,’” the directives state. “The Church’s defense of life encompasses the unborn.”


But when it came to mounting a defense in the Stodghill case, Catholic Health’s lawyers effectively turned the Church directives on their head. Catholic organizations have for decades fought to change federal and state laws that fail to protect “unborn persons,” and Catholic Health’s lawyers in this case had the chance to set precedent bolstering anti-abortion legal arguments. Instead, they are arguing state law protects doctors from liability concerning unborn fetuses on grounds that those fetuses are not persons with legal rights.

That, my friends, is trying to have your cake and eat it, too. I could respect Catholic Health's stance on contraception and abortion far more if it was at least consistent.


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