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Catholic Hospital Argues 'Fetuses Are Not Persons' in Malpractice Case

(Updated) Bishops pledge to review hospital's polices as suit heads to Colorado Supreme Court.

Update (Feb. 5): After a windfall of criticism last week, Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), a nonprofit that runs St. Thomas More Hospital in Colorado, has backtracked on its legal argument that, under state law, a fetus is not a person with legal rights.

According to NBC News, "On Monday, the hospital and the state's bishops released a statement acknowledging it was 'morally wrong' to make [that] legal argument."

RNS has the full story.

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A Catholic hospital in Colorado faces a wrongful-death malpractice lawsuit for the deaths of two unborn twins–but the hospital is arguing that, under Colorado law, "those fetuses are not persons with legal rights."

The lawsuit against Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), a nonprofit that runs St. Thomas More Hospital, cites Colorado's Wrongful Death Act in its allegations that physicians at the hospital "failed to perform an emergency cesarean section to save the fetuses." But lawyers for the hospital have argued that the Wrongful Death Act does not apply because, according to existing law, fetuses are not people.

Two lower courts have agreed with the hospital's lawyers, but plaintiffs now are appealing their case to the Colorado Supreme Court.

Though two judges have ruled in favor of the Catholic hospital, its argument "effectively [turns] the [Catholic] Church directives on their head," according to the Colorado Independent. "The details of the arguments the lawyers involved have already mounted will likely renew debate about Church health care directives and trigger sharp reaction from activists on both sides of the debate looking to underline the apparent hypocrisy of Catholic Health's defense."

The Catholic bishops of Colorado already have issued a statement regarding the lawsuit, saying they will make a full review of the hospital's policies. According to the statement:

"Catholics and Catholic institutions have the duty to protect and foster human life, and to witness to the dignity of the human person–particularly to the dignity of the unborn. No Catholic institution may legitimately work to undermine fundamental human dignity.

[CHI] is a Catholic institution which provides health care services in 14 states, providing care to thousands of people annually. It has been accused by some of undermining the Catholic position on human life in the course of litigation. Today, representatives of [CHI] assured us of their intention to observe the moral and ethical obligations of the Catholic Church.

Salon notes that the move is hypocritical for a Catholic organization, but it means that CHI "is finally following the law, rather than fighting it."

CT has previously reported on personhood, including a look at the moral status of fetuses and a 2004 cover story examining the issue of when personhood begins.

Related Topics:Catholicism
Posted:January 25, 2013 at 11:26AM
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