-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
On New Year’s Day 2006, 31-year-old Lori Stodghill, seven months pregnant with twin boys, was vomiting and out of breath. She called her obstetrician, Dr. Pelham Staples, and he instructed her to go to the emergency room at St. Thomas More Hospital in Cañon City, Colorado. Her husband Jeremy, drove her to the hospital where Lori later suffered a cardiac arrest and stopped breathing due to a pulmonary embolism. Staples never ended up coming to the hospital. Lori’s unborn sons stayed with her.
Nearly two years later, Jeremy sued the hospital, Staples and ER doctor John Pelner for the wrongful death of his wife and twins. The hospital is one of the 78 in 17 states operated by Catholic Health Initiatives.
Regarding Lori’s unborn sons, Catholic Health Initiatives wrote that “under Colorado law, a fetus is not a ‘person,’ and plaintiff’s claims for wrongful death must therefore be dismissed.”
This legal argument, no doubt proposed by their lawyers and approved by Catholic Health Initiatives, is legally sound.
Catholic Health facilities seek to follow the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church authored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. This doctrine promises: “to respect the sacredness of every human life from the moment of conception.” This example of hypocrisy on the part of Catholic Health Initiatives cannot be used as an argument invalidating this doctrine without committing the fallacy of ad hominem tu quoque.
However, the Catholic Church has positioned itself as an authority on morality. When that morality is sacrificed for money, the Church’s authority is nullified. David Weddle, a religion professor at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, asks whether it’s “morally justifiable to defend yourself on a principle you know to be false.”
Catholic Health Initiatives asked the judge to dismiss the case since Lori would have died regardless of what the hospital did. Fremont County District Court Judge David Thorson sided with Catholic Health Initiatives and dismissed Jeremy’s lawsuit. The doctors and the hospital came after Jeremy for $118,969 in legal fees and he was forced to declare bankruptcy. He also filed a brief asking a panel of three appellate judges to reverse the district court ruling.