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Catholic hospital says it was 'morally wrong' to argue fetus is not a person

By CNN Staff
updated 10:05 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Catholic hospital reverses stance in case of Lori Stodghill, who died there
  • Her husband sued the hospital on behalf of his wife and their unborn twins
  • Attorneys for the hospital argued in court that a fetus is not a person

(CNN) -- A Catholic hospital in hot water for claiming in a Colorado court that a fetus is not a person backtracked on Monday, saying it was "morally wrong" to make the argument while defending itself in a wrongful death lawsuit.

The flip-flop concerns the case of Lori Stodghill. She was 28 weeks pregnant with twins when she went to the emergency room of St. Thomas More Hospital in Canon City, Colorado, vomiting and short of breath.

She went into cardiac arrest in the lobby and died. That was New Year's Day 2006.

Her husband, Jeremy Stodghill, sued the hospital and its owner, Catholic Health Initiatives, for the wrongful deaths of his wife and their unborn sons.

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Given the Catholic Church's belief that life begins at conception, defense attorneys for the hospital and doctors then entered an unusual argument.

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They said that under state law, an embryo is not person until it is born alive.

The claim attracted widespread attention and criticism, which apparently forced the about-face.

"In the discussion with the Church leaders, CHI representatives acknowledged that it was morally wrong for attorneys representing St. Thomas More Hospital to cite the state's Wrongful Death Act in defense of this lawsuit. That law does not consider fetuses to be persons, which directly contradicts the moral teachings of the Church," Catholic Health Initiatives said in a statement.

It promised that attorneys for the hospital would not cite the Wrongful Death Act in any future hearings.

Stodghill has petitioned the Colorado Supreme Court to hear his case.

The state's bishops similarly released a statement, expressing support for CHI and for the Stodghill family.

"We join CHI in affirming the fundamental truth that human life, human dignity and human rights begin at conception. No law can ever mitigate God-given human rights," they said. "Each human life is a sacred gift, created as a unique and unrepeatable expression of God's love. Life is given by God, and the right to life is a fundamental good, without which no other rights can be enjoyed."

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CNN's Dana Ford, Ben Brumfield and Kyung Lah contributed to this report.

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