In 2006, a woman 7 months pregnant with twins suffered a massive heart attack. She was taken to a Catholic hospital, and died less than an hour after arrival. The on-call obstetrician never answered his page, and the twins died in utero.
Now, her husband is engaged in a wrongful death suit against the owner of the hospital, Catholic Health Initiatives, claiming that the twins might have survived if the obstetrician had responded and performed an emergency caesarian.
This is the philosophy that is supposed to guide the hospital:
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.”
And this is their response to the wrongful death suit:
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.
As Jason Langley, an attorney with Denver-based Kennedy Childs, argued in one of the briefs he filed for the defense, 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.”
Holy Hypocrisy and Expedience!
I feel really terrible for the family. That’s just awful, and the couple had a young daughter, as well. It’s very sad.
Update: I feel that I should clarify that I do not support fetal personhood, and I’m glad that this case isn’t furthering that agenda, at least to this point–it is going to the state Supreme Court. Catholic Health Initiatives and its lawyers are making arguments based on current Colorado law, and it’s a law that I think should stand. So I’m glad that they’re following the law, because it’s a law I support, terrible as this is for the family involved in the suit. Although not specifically relevant to this case, I don’t want a precedent to be set for placing the personhood of a fetus above the personhood of a woman, and her right to access medical care (like Savita Halappanavar). But I do think it also exposes the bankruptcy of their position on personhood. They aren’t acting in a manner consistent with the beliefs they claim to espouse.
Update again: Catholic Health Initiatives now says that they will no longer use the argument that a fetus isn’t a person in the wrongful death suit. Less hypocritical perhaps, but I hope it doesn’t serve to further the cause of fetal personhood.