U.S. Catholic bishops review lawsuit saying fetuses not people

DENVER Fri Jan 25, 2013 2:03am EST

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DENVER (Reuters) - Three Colorado bishops said on Thursday they will review a Catholic Church hospital's defense of a lawsuit that argues fetuses do not have legal status - apparently contradicting the Church's teaching on life issues.

The case stems from a malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit filed by Jeremy Stodghill in the 2006 death of his seven-month pregnant wife Lori at a Catholic hospital in Canon City, Colorado. Her twin fetuses also died.

Stodghill filed the suit against Colorado-based Catholic Health Initiatives, which operates hospitals in 14 states, claiming physicians made no effort to save the fetuses by performing a cesarean section.

In its defense, counsel for the hospital said that under Colorado law, a fetus is not a person and that the twins likely would not have survived even with an emergency C-section.

In a letter, Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila, Colorado Springs Bishop Michael Sheridan and Pueblo Bishop Fernando Isern said that Catholic institutions had "a duty to protect and foster human life", which they said begins at conception.

"No Catholic institution may legitimately work to undermine fundamental human dignity," the statement said.

The bishops said that they would carry out a "full review of this litigation and of the policies and practices ... to ensure fidelity and faithful witness to the teachings of the Catholic Church."

Two lower courts sided with the hospital group, and Stodghill has appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court, which has not yet decided if it will hear the case.

(Editing by Tim Gaynor, John Stonestreet)

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Comments (3)
ErnestPayne wrote:
Frankly hilarious. I wonder how many catholics are going to be in Washington at the “pro life” rally.

Jan 25, 2013 1:34pm EST  --  Report as abuse
OneOfTheSheep wrote:
The “issue” here is not “life”. The legal penalty for someone in our society who kills a pet beloved as a family member by a neighbor is entirely different than if they had killed that neighbor’s child even though in each case a “life” is taken.

The child is conscious, aware with knowledge and understanding of it’s existence. Such “legal value” is thus far extended only to humans in our overall society. Thus far, pets are considered mere “property” and accorded little protection even most would agree that they, too, are obviously aware with knowledge and understanding of their existence.

There is no universal definition of “sentience” so I have not used the word in this debate. In a country in which the separation of church and state is purportedly absolute and understood I find it incredible that the intolerance of religious extremists of the “right to life” movement has been accepted as rational or legitimate over decades.

Jan 25, 2013 4:30pm EST  --  Report as abuse
OneOfTheSheep wrote:
A child is “people”. A fetus isn’t until it is born. That’s when life begins to write on the virgin media of the mind recording experience to store, analyze and use.

Until then one fetus is no different from another fetus any more than a blank CD or DVD from one brand to another. There is no unique “value” yet to protect. Yes, the fetus and the blank media have “potential”, but so does the mold on my bread.

The “issue” isn’t about “morality”.  It’s about CONTROL! When I hear that a Pope, Cardinal or Bishop has died in childbirth I’ll believe they have enough “skin in the game” to consider the opinions of these old men.

Jan 26, 2013 3:59pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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