Roman Catholic hospital argues foetuses aren't people
One of His Grace's Roman Catholic communicants, Sister Tiberia, sends this communiqué from the other bank of the Tiber:
I was quite delighted to hear that Colorado's three Roman Catholic Bishops will be reviewing the case quoted in this Denver Post article, in which the lawyers representing a Catholic hospital defending against malpractice have argued that fetuses aren't persons. A statement that made me weep (and hopefully should have made the Bishops weep as well, given the Church's teachings that life begins at conception).
The following is quoted directly from the article in the Denver Post.
Jeremy Stodghill filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in District Court in Fremont County after his 31-year-old wife, Lori, seven months pregnant with twin boys, died of a blockage of the main artery of the lung at St. Thomas More Hospital in Cañon City on New Year's Day 2006.We seem to have a case here where God's law and Caesar's law are at polar opposites, but up till now the lawyers acting on behalf of a Catholic hospital have been content to go with Caesar's law and hope that God won't notice. Or that the Pope won't notice. Or at least that the papers won't notice. This case has been ongoing since 2006 so is this seriously the first that the Bishops have heard about it? Yes, we're all aware that they're very busy men, but even so...
Stodghill's lawyer argued that her obstetrician, Pelham Staples, never made it to the hospital — even though on call for emergencies — and there was no attempt by any medical personnel to save the Stodghills' sons by cesarian section.The unborn children died in the womb.
The lead defendant is Englewood-based Catholic Health Initiatives, which runs St. Thomas More and hospitals in 14 states.
The Catholic Church has fought for decades to change federal and state laws to protect fetuses as persons. Yet, according to court documents, Catholic Health Initiatives argued in this case that the Colorado Wrongful Death Act requires the death of a person and the statute doesn't include the death of a fetus that wasn't born or delivered.
"The defendants argue that to be a 'person' one must at some point have been born alive," wrote District Judge David M. Thorson. "The plaintiffs, on the other hand, argue that a viable fetus who dies in utero should be considered a 'person' for purposes of the wrongful death statute."
In December 2010, the court found in favor of CHI and other defendants, as did the Court of Appeals. Stodghill's attorneys have appealed to the state Supreme Court.
"From the moment of conception human beings are endowed with dignity and with fundamental rights, the most foundational of which is life. No Catholic institution may legitimately work to undermine fundamental human dignity," the Bishops have said.
Every Catholic should be delighted to hear this.
Can we then hope that the immediate follow-up to this news will be that the case will be uncontested by the lawyers at the state Supreme Court, and that a suitable rap on the knuckles will be forthcoming from the Bishops to whichever hospital authority chose to defend this case by denying one of the fundamental tenets of the Church's faith?
And let us not forget in our prayers the grieving husband of a wife whose life could not be saved, who is also the father of two little boys – not two foetuses, two children – who at a gestation of 32 weeks had a chance of life by immediate delivery, and were not given that chance. For the lawyers of a Catholic hospital to attempt to defend the case on the grounds that these two little boys were never ‘persons’ is appalling.
Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.
I also find it very sad that in direct contrast to the courtesy of His Grace who kindly offered space on this blog for a Catholic to express concerns, that His Grace is being attacked by Catholic readers both here and on Twitter for ‘attacking the Catholic Church’ without, it seems, ever addressing the concerns brought up.
Might I direct those Catholics to the wise words of His Holiness Pope Benedict who, in his World Day of Communications Message, explicitly calls for respect in social media: "Dialogue and debate can also flourish and grow when we converse with and take seriously people whose ideas are different from our own," writes the Holy Father.
He then continues: "In the digital world there are social networks which offer our contemporaries opportunities for prayer, meditation and sharing the word of God. But these networks can also open the door to other dimensions of faith. Many people are actually discovering, precisely thanks to a contact initially made online, the importance of direct encounters, experiences of community and even pilgrimage, elements which are always important in the journey of faith. In our effort to make the Gospel present in the digital world, we can invite people to come together for prayer or liturgical celebrations in specific places such as churches and chapels. There should be no lack of coherence or unity in the expression of our faith and witness to the Gospel in whatever reality we are called to live, whether physical or digital. When we are present to others, in any way at all, we are called to make known the love of God to the furthest ends of the earth" (From the Vatican, 24 January 2013, Feast of Saint Francis de Sales).