ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CNS) — Attorneys for a Catholic hospital were “morally wrong” to cite Colorado’s Wrongful Death Act as one line of defense in a suit brought against the hospital by the widower of a woman seven months pregnant with twins, all of whom died at the hospital in 2006, according to the hospital chain of which it is a member.
A statement issued Feb. 4 by Catholic Health Initiatives, which runs St. Thomas More Hospital in Canon City, in the Diocese of Pueblo, said its “adherence to the moral obligations of the church … were not strictly followed in this case by attorneys for the hospital.”
A separate Feb. 4 statement by Catholic Health Initiatives and Colorado’s three bishops said the state’s Wrongful Death Act “does not consider unborn children to be persons, which contradicts the moral teachings of the church.”
The bishops — Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver and Bishops Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs and Fernando Isern of Pueblo — said Jan. 24 they would investigate the matter.
In a third statement, released Feb. 4 by the bishops, they said, “CHI was unaware that legal counsel for St. Thomas More had aligned itself with an argument based upon an unjust law. CHI officials have assured us that they believed it was ‘morally wrong’ to make recourse to an unjust law.”
The joint statement said that if the case were to be appealed further, the Wrongful Death Act defense would not be used by Catholic Health Initiatives attorneys.
Jeremy Stodghill brought the suit after his wife, Lori, 31, who was 28 weeks pregnant with twin boys, died at St. Thomas More Hospital in 2006. Jeremy took Lori to the hospital on New Year’s Day that year when she complained of feeling sick. She died of a massive heart attack shortly after arriving.
Jeremy Stodghill sued the hospital and his wife’s obstetrician, contending that even if Lori could not have been saved, the doctor had the obligation to perform a Caesarean section to try to save the unborn twins. He has lost his case at both the circuit court and state appellate court levels. The case has been appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court for consideration.
Catholic Health Initiatives, in its statement, said top executives “expressed their solidarity with Lori Stodghill’s husband, Jeremy, and the couple’s daughter, Elizabeth. The prayers of CHI have been with the Stodghill family throughout this long, heartbreaking ordeal.”
“We commend CHI for its rapid acknowledgement of this situation and its commitment to rectifying any harm it may have caused,” the bishops’ statement said.
“CHI joins us in our commitment to work for comprehensive change in Colorado’s law, so that the unborn may enjoy the same legal protections as all other persons,” the bishops added. “We join CHI in affirming the fundamental truth that human life, human dignity, and human rights begin at conception.”
Catholic Health Initiatives, based in the Denver suburb of Englewood, sponsors about 170 medical facilities in 14 states, including 13 in Colorado via Centura Health, a joint project with Adventist Health System.