(Photo: AP Photo / Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
Catholic Health Initiatives, the network of hospitals under fire for positioning in a lawsuit that a fetus is not a human being, admitted that they were "morally wrong" to make the legal argument.
"In the discussion with the Church leaders, CHI representatives acknowledged that it was morally wrong for attorneys representing St. Thomas More Hospital to cite the state's Wrongful Death Action defense of this lawsuit. That law does not consider fetuses to be persons, which directly contradicts the moral teachings of the Church," CHI said in a statement released on Monday.
The case in question goes back to 2006, when Jeremy Stodghill lost his wife and his unborn twin sons at St. Thomas More Hospital in Canon City, Colo., on New Year's Day, after emergency respondent staff failed to detect any fetal heartbeats. The doctors on the scene declined to perform a perimortem Cesarean section on 31-year-old Lori Stodghill, who was 28 weeks pregnant and died at the scene following a massive heart attack.
The subsequent lawsuit filed by Jeremy Stodghill argued that such a procedure could have saved his unborn children. He lost the case in January 2013, however, after CHI's lawyers successfully argued that that a fetus is not the same as a person.
The decision sparked a river of controversy, with observers noting that such an argument directly contradicts the official Roman Catholic Church doctrine that positions that unborn life is sacred.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was also made aware of the case, and its Colorado diocese revealed that they will be launching a review of the Catholic Hospital's argument in the case.
"From the moment of conception, human beings are endowed with dignity and with fundamental rights, the most foundational of which is life," the bishops said in a statement on the issue. "No Catholic institution may legitimately work to undermine fundamental human dignity."
Following the outcry, CHI admitted that their lawyers did not take the correct approach in the case.
"The representatives also 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," CHI's statement continues, as it expresses its condolences and prayers for Jeremy Stodghill and his family.
The Colorado bishops said in another statement that they recognize "the exceptional care provided to Lori Stodghill at St. Thomas More Hospital," and added that both the Circuit Court in Fremont County and the Colorado Court of Appeals "have supported the position of CHI and St. Thomas More Hospital that nothing done by doctors, nurses and other staff members would have changed this case's tragic outcome."
The Colorado Supreme Court is considering reviewing the case, and if the justices make a decision to take it up, they will have to decide whether the medical personnel at St. Thomas More Hospital were negligent in caring for Lori Stodghill, and whether indeed there was any chance for the twin boys to be saved.