The death of a mother and her twin fetuses has become the center of a controversial lawsuit. The surviving husband and father filed a wrongful death suit against the hospital group that was in charge of the hospital and the medical staff where his wife and unborn children lost their lives in 2006. The controversy began when people discovered that the hospital group — Catholic Health Initiatives — chose to defend itself through Colorado’s Wrongful Death Act.
In the Wrongful Death Act, legislators passed language that indicated that fetuses have no legal standing because they are not considered people. Catholic Health Initiatives and its attorneys used this law to have the claims on behalf of the deceased twins dismissed. Many people and groups noted that this defense was in direct conflict with the doctrine of the Catholic Church. According to Catholicism, conception is the beginning of life. Still, Catholic Health Initiatives allowed the claims to be dismissed.
Since the hospital group’s legal strategy was widely criticized, it has released a statement indicating that what it did was morally wrong. Catholic bishops from the state have said that they will review the case to be sure that Catholic beliefs are being followed.
The case centers on the day that the 31-year-old mother collapsed at a hospital in Canon City, Colorado. She was seven months pregnant. A pulmonary embolism was the cause of her death; the father argues that her life and the lives of their children could have been saved if medical staff had acted differently.
After the claims for the unborn twins were dismissed, the father appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court. It is unclear if the highest court in the state will hear the case, but the hospital group has noted that it will change its defense strategy should the case be heard again. This strategy will likely center around causation, and the hospital believes that it will be able to prove that the staff was not negligent in their treatment of the mother during her stay.
Source: Reuters, “Catholic hospital group apologizes for fetus lawsuit defense,” Keith Coffman, Feb. 4, 2013