Court Declines Case Where Catholic Hospital Said Unborn Baby Not a Person

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 24, 2013   |   6:22PM   |   Denver, CO

The Colorado Supreme Court has decided not to take an odd case in which a Catholic hospital originally claimed an unborn child is not a person.

As a Denver-area blog reports:

The Colorado Supreme Court has declined to hear a case in which Englewood-based Catholic Health Initiatives argued that it couldn’t be held liable for the deaths of two unborn babies at one of its hospitals because fetuses are not people. The case was the focus of our recent cover story “The Meaning of Life.” The decision is a win for the hospital, which admitted that its legal argument was “morally wrong” after being chastised by Colorado’s Catholic bishops. But it’s a loss for Jeremy Stodghill, the Canon City man whose pregnant wife and unborn twin sons died in 2006.

“I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to ask why they didn’t try to save my boys,” Stodghill says. “The main question I wanted to ask is, ‘Why?’

“All they had to do was try,” he adds.

Stodghill’s wife Lori was 28 weeks pregnant when she died of a pulmonary embolism after collapsing in the emergency room at St. Thomas More Hospital in Canon City. Doctors decided not to do an emergency Cesarean section to try to save the babies — a move that Stodghill believes was a terrible mistake. So he sued Catholic Health Initiatives and St. Thomas More for the wrongful death of his wife and unborn sons, whom he and his wife had already named Samuel Edward and Zachary James.



Catholic Health Initiatives, which operates 78 Catholic hospitals in seventeen states, petitioned to dismiss the lawsuit. Its most shocking argument? “Under Colorado law, a fetus is not a ‘person,'” Catholic Health Initiatives wrote in court documents, “and plaintiff’s claims for wrongful death must therefore be dismissed.” The district court judge sided with the hospital and dismissed the lawsuit. But Stodghill wasn’t ready to give up, and he filed an appeal. However, he lost that, too.

In February, after nationwide criticism, the Catholic hospital in Colorado reversed course and said it would no longer argue in court in response to a lawsuit filed against it that an unborn child is not a person worthy of legal protection.