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Catholic health group affirms Church teaching on unborn
By Carl Bunderson
Courtesy of Catholic Health Initiatives.
Courtesy of Catholic Health Initiatives.

.- Catholic Health Initiatives has joined Colorado's bishops in calling for protection of unborn children after the group's lawyers argued in a wrongful-death lawsuit that human fetuses are not persons.

“The bishops are disappointed by what happened, without a doubt...but Catholic Health Initatives has recognized an error and has committed to moving forward and to changing their course, and that really does deserve to be commended,” J.D. Flynn, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Denver, told CNA Feb. 4.

“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.”

In 2006, Lori Stodghill and her two unborn children died at a hospital operated by Catholic Health Initiatives. Lawyers for the health system argued that Colorado's wrongful death legislation does not apply to fetuses.

On Feb. 4, the Catholic bishops of Colorado “expressed their support for Catholic Health Initiatives after the national health care organization acknowledged that it was 'morally wrong' for attorneys to cite the state’s Wrongful Death Act in defense of a lawsuit involving one of its affiliated hospitals.”

Last week, Colorado's three bishops met with four executives of Catholic Health Initiatives to discuss the Stodghill case. The bishops had pledged on Jan. 24 to review the matter to ensure faithful witness to Church teaching.

“CHI representatives 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,” Catholic Health Initiatives stated Feb. 4.

Catholic Health Initiatives called Colorado's Wrongful Death Act “unjust” and said that they will not use it in potential future litigation of the Stodghill case.

In addition, Catholic Health Initiatives “unequivocally affirmed CHI's 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.”

“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,” Catholic Health Initiatives said.

Colorado's bishops affirmed that the Stodghill's received “exceptional care” at St. Thomas More Hospital. Two courts have found that nothing done by the hospital's staff could have saved the lives of Lori and her sons.

On Jan. 1, 2006, Jeremy Stodghill took his wife Lori, 28 weeks pregnant, to St. Thomas More Hospital's emergency room in Cañon City. She was complaining of nausea, vomiting, and shortness of breath. There, she suffered a heart attack due to a blood clot which traveled to her lungs.

Her obstetrician, Pelham Staples, was on-call that day, but failed to arrive at the hospital. Both Lori and her unborn sons, Samuel and Zachary, died.

A nurse listened for the boys' heartbeats, and not hearing any, doctors decided against performing an emergency C-section.

Stodghill chose to sue the hospital, its owner Catholic Health Initiatives, Staples, and the emergency room doctor for the wrongful death of his family members.

The Fremont County Circuit Court and the Colorado Court of Appeals both decided in favor of Catholic Health Initiatives.

Stodghill has appealed to the state's supreme court. He asked that the Colorado Supreme Court 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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