It is one of the mysteries of life that anyone can rely on the Catholic Church as a source of moral teaching. They demonstrate time and time again that their so called ethics do not apply to the church. Another of their blatant “do as I say, not as I do” moments was brought to light in Colorado.
First of all, we all know that the Church preaches that abortion is wrong in all cases because life begins at conception, and at that moment the foetus has all the rights of a fully grown person. They hold that to be absolute, until it comes to their responsibility to patients at their hospitals.
In Colorado courts, they have successfully argued that foetuses are not persons, so they are not liable for the deaths of twins. The Colorado Independent has the details.
Lori Stodghill was 31-years old, seven-months pregnant with twin boys and feeling sick when she arrived at St. Thomas More hospital in Cañon City on New Year’s Day 2006. She was vomiting and short of breath and she passed out as she was being wheeled into an examination room. Medical staff tried to resuscitate her but, as became clear only later, a main artery feeding her lungs was clogged and the clog led to a massive heart attack. Stodghill’s obstetrician, Dr. Pelham Staples, who also happened to be the obstetrician on call for emergencies that night, never answered a page. His patient died at the hospital less than an hour after she arrived and her twins died in her womb.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, Stodghill’s husband Jeremy, a prison guard, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit on behalf of himself and the couple’s then-two-year-old daughter Elizabeth. Staples should have made it to the hospital, his lawyers argued, or at least instructed the frantic emergency room staff to perform a caesarian-section. The procedure likely would not have saved the mother, a testifying expert said, but it may have saved the twins.
This is a tragic incident and I am not going to delve into the legalities as to whether or not the hospital should be held liable. What is notable about this story however, is the defence used by the Roman Catholic organization in fighting the suit.
The lead defendant in the case is Catholic Health Initiatives, the Englewood-based nonprofit that runs St. Thomas More Hospital as well as roughly 170 other health facilities in 17 states. Last year, the hospital chain reported national assets of $15 billion. The organization’s mission, according to its promotional literature, is to “nurture the healing ministry of the Church” and to be guided by “fidelity to the Gospel.” Toward those ends, Catholic Health facilities seek to follow the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church authored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The argument they used to avoid paying the the Stoghill family?—foetuses are not persons and therefore do not have the same legal rights as those outside of the womb.
This is the law in Canada and in many US states, including Colorado, so the defence is perfectly applicable. However, the Church has a history of pushing ‘personhood’ laws that would have made a great difference in how this case unfolded.
This is not an instance of a single individual making an immoral choice, this is a case of a catholic based organization very deliberately developing a plan that would ignore their own preaching on the topic in favour of their own financial rewards.
I really don’t know what did, didn’t, or should have happened on that day when Lori Stodghill died. I do know that any time I hear pronouncements of morality from the Catholic Church, I figure the ethical thing to do is to head in the other direction.