A mother seven months pregnant with twin boys was suffering with vomiting and shortness of breath when she arrived at St. Thomas More hospital in Canon City, CO. As she was being wheeled into an examination room, the woman passed out.
Medical staff at the Catholic hospital tried to resuscitate Lori Stodghill, 31, but were unsuccessful. Only after her death did doctor’s find out that a main artery feeding her lungs was clogged leading to a massive heart attack.
In less than one hour after arriving at the Catholic hospital, Lori Stodghill and her twin boys were dead. Her obstetrician Dr. Pelham Staples was on call for emergencies that night however he failed to answer the page from hospital staff.
As information came to light after Stodghill and her sons deaths, her husband Jeremy Stodghill filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of himself and their two year-old daughter, Elizabeth.
Stodghill’s attorney argued that Dr. Staples should have been at the hospital or answered the page from the emergency room staff and informed them to perform a caesarian section. While a testifying expert has stated that the procedure more than likely wouldn’t have saved Lori Stodghill, it might has saved her twin boys.
The Englewood based nonprofit organization, Catholic Health Initiatives, is the main defendant in the lawsuit. Catholic Health Initiatives operates the St. Thomas More Hospital in addition to 170 other health facilities, in 17 states. Last year, the hospital chain reported national assets of $15 billion.
According to pamphlets and other promotional materials, Catholic Health Initiatives mission statement is to “nurture the healing ministry of the Church and to be guided by fidelity to the Gospel.” The organization follows the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church that was written by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The directives are a hot bed of controversy due to the fact that they forbid non-natural birth control and abortions. The directives state, “Catholic health care ministry witnesses to the sanctity of life from the moment of conception until death. The Church’s defense of life encompasses the unborn.”
Of course, in the wrongful death lawsuit, the lawyers for Catholic Health Initiatives took a different stance. They argued that the current state law protects doctors from any liability when it comes to unborn fetuses.
The state law states the unborn fetuses are not persons with legal rights. One of the attorneys for the defense is Jason Langley of Kennedy Childs.
Langley filed a brief on behalf of the defense that stated the court, “should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person’ as is used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive.”
“Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses.”
Fremont County District Court Judge David M. Thorson and retired Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Arthur Roy have both ruled in favor of Catholic Health Initiatives.
In response to the lower court decisions, Beth Krulewitch and Dan Gerash, attorneys for the Stodghills’, have appealed the case to the state Supreme Court. The foundation of the appeal is that both earlier judges overlooked major facts and set bad legal precedent.
According to Krulewitch and Gerash, the precedent would open up loopholes in the state’s malpractice law. These loopholes the attorney say will relieve doctors of any responsibility to patients “whose viable fetuses are at risk.”
The Supreme Court has not as of yet decided whether or not they will take the case.
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