Catholic hospital admits wrong to argue in court, fetuses not persons

(Photo: Reuters / Jessica Rinaldi)A four dimensional ultrasound is seen at a pregnancy clinic in Arlington, Texas November 26, 2007.

Executives of a U.S.-based Catholic hospital have acknowledged it was "morally wrong" for its attorneys to cite a law in court that does not consider fetuses to be persons.

The argument, unveiled by local media in Colorado nearly two weeks ago, directly contradicts the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

Kevin Lofton, CEO of Catholic Health Initiatives and other senior  hospital officials met last week with three Catholic bishops including the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Denver, the Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila. They discussed the matter after accusations that the hospital's legal argument undermined the church's position on human life.

"[R]epresentatives acknowledged that it was morally wrong for attorneys representing St. Thomas Moore to cite the state's Wrongful Death Act in defense of this lawsuit," CHI said in a statement on Monday. "Although the argument was legally correct, recourse to an unjust law was morally wrong."

CHI won a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by plaintiff Jeremy Stodghill stemming from a 2006 incident.

The suit involved his wife, Lori, who was 28-weeks pregnant at the time. She died of cardiac arrest from a pulmonary embolism in the lobby of the emergency room. The lawsuit alleged that the hospital failed to sufficiently try to save Ms. Stodghill and her unborn children.

Stodghill's appeal is being considered for review by the state's Supreme Court.

A District Court determined that nothing done by doctors, nurses and other staff members would have changed "this horrible outcome," CHI said. The hospital executives don't expect the "unjust law" cited will emerge in any further litigation.

"While cited as a point of law by attorneys for St. Thomas More Hospital, the Wrongful Death Act, which both CHI and Church officials consider to be unjust, has played no role in the appeal process," CHI said.

In statement by the bishops released Monday, they said CHI executives had been unaware that their lawyers had made the argument and said they "will no longer utilize this unjust law if the case is heard before additional courts."

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