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Catholic Hospital Says Fetuses Have no Rights in Malpractice Suit

A Catholic hospital is under criticism this week after they defended themselves in a malpractice lawsuit by saying unborn fetuses have no rights. 

Catholic Health Initiatives is a nonprofit that runs 170 health facilities in 17 states. Until recently, they have made it their mission to protect the unborn, "from the moment of conception until death."

All Catholic Health facilities follow the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church. The rules have caused much controversy, particularly the ones that forbid non-natural birth control and abortions. 

They have fought to change federal and state laws that fail to protect "unborn persons" for years, but this lawsuit had them do a complete 180 on their "commitment to the unborn."

The lawsuit involves the tragedy of one family after they lost two unborn twin boys and their mother. 

Lori Stodghill, 31, was seven months along in her pregnancy when she started feeling ill. She was taken to the St. Thomas More hospital in Canon City on New Years Day of 2006. 

Stoghill was vomiting, short of breath, and passed out before she was taken into the ER. They tried to revive her, but they discovered later that a main artery feeding her lungs was clogged. This led to a massive heart attack. 

Her obstetrician, Dr. Pelham Staples, was not responding to pages that day. Stoghill died in the hospital along with her twins. 

Jeremy Stoghill, Lori's husband, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit which argued that her obstetrician should have made it to the hospital or at least instructed the medical staff to perform a cesarean section. While the c-section may not have saved Lori, it could have saved the boys. 

Stoghill named his wife and the unborn boys in the lawsuit. 

To defend themselves in the case, Catholic Health's lawyers said that state law protects doctors from liability when unborn fetuses are involved because "those fetuses are not persons with legal rights."

Attorney Jason Langley argued that the court should not question the term "person" because under the Wrongful Death Act, the state says the word "person" refers to "only those born alive." 

Langley said the Plaintiffs can't "maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses."

The attorneys have won decisions from Fremont County District Court, but Stoghill's lawyers appealed the case to the state Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court is currently deciding whether or not to take the case. In the meantime, arguments will likely develop over the seemingly hypocritical defense.

Catholic Health has not commented on the matter.



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