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Meditation 1024b
Hypocrisy II

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by: John Tyrrell

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Current Catholic teaching is that personhood begins at conception. It wasn't always that way. Once upon a time, "ensoulment" was considered to occur at "quickening," but the teaching changed. Catholic opposition to abortion is based on a fertilized egg being a person and remaining so at all stages of development through birth.

Now in the USA, there's an organization called Catholic Health Initiatives which operates about 170 hospitals across the country. As part of its mission it follows the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church as written by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. This means that in Catholic Health Initiatives hospitals, abortions are not available because a fetus is considered a person by the Catholic Church. And tough luck for any woman where a Catholic Hospital is the only hospital in town.

But those are their rules and they are clear and open about following those rules.

Until they get sued for malpractice.

According to the Colorado Independent:[1]

Lori Stodghill was 31-years old, seven-months pregnant with twin boys and feeling sick when she arrived at St. Thomas More hospital in Cañon City on New Year’s Day 2006. She was vomiting and short of breath and she passed out as she was being wheeled into an examination room. Medical staff tried to resuscitate her but, as became clear only later, a main artery feeding her lungs was clogged and the clog led to a massive heart attack. Stodghill’s obstetrician, Dr. Pelham Staples, who also happened to be the obstetrician on call for emergencies that night, never answered a page. His patient died at the hospital less than an hour after she arrived and her twins died in her womb.

Her husband is suing for wrongful death in the case of his wife and the unborn twins.

Part of the hospital's defence is that under Colorado law, personhood begins at birth, thus the hospital cannot be sued for the wrongful death of the unborn.

I agree that this is a legitimate legal defence. But - morally, should a hospital which has agreed to follow the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church, and which enforces those directives with respect to abortion use that defense?

You cannot have it both ways - refuse to perform legal abortion because the fetus is a person, then claim the fetus is not a person when malpractice kills it. To take both those positions is hypocrisy.

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  1. In malpractice case, Catholic hospital argues fetuses aren’t people, Colorado Independent, Wednesday, January 23