Pro-life or no? The Church can’t decide in this case

Bus reading today produced a story in my Facebook feed from the Colorado Independent regarding a sad malpractice case against St. Thomas More Hospital in Canon City. Here’s the skinny:

In 2006, a young woman, seven-months pregnant with twins, arrived at the hospital in distress. Her OB, who was also the doctor on call that night, didn’t answer his pager and for some reason the story doesn’t explain, no one else at the hospital attempted to save the babies after efforts to save Momma failed. Her husband has filed a wrongful death lawsuit and is claiming three deaths – those of his wife and the twins. He argues that the doctor should have made it to the hospital or –

“… at least instructed the frantic emergency room staff to perform a caesarian section. The procedure likely would not have saved the mother, a testifying expert said, but it may have saved the twins.”

Armchair quarterbacking happens in more than football and, in this case, it is easy to say what should have been done or at least question what happened. Why didn’t the doctor answer the page? Why wasn’t another doctor called? Why didn’t the emergency room team do what emergency room teams often do – make decisions right here, right now, for the sake of life?

But more pressing for any Catholic is the fact that the lawyer fighting the malpractice case is arguing (get ready, pew people!) that the two unborn babies are not people.  His argument holds up under current Colorado law, which does not define life as beginning at conception. Indeed, science and most law books calls in-utero beings “fetuses.” But, you may recall from your basic Catechism, the Church has consistently called in-utero beings “unborn children” and has fought valiantly to have them receive the rights of personhood. This is the Church’s official stand, stated multiple places and in multiple ways: Life begins at conception, not birth, and those lives are people, not anything else.

The primary defendant in the case is not the Catholic Church, but rather Catholic Health Initiatives, a Colorado nonprofit that owns Thomas More Hospital. However, the Catholic Church is connected to CHI in more than name only, and CHI advertises itself, according to the story, as being faithful to the gospel. Additionally, Catholic hospitals are held to the standards articulated in documents by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops regarding healthcare, and those standards include a defense of all life – including that of the unborn.

I’m shocked that the bishops in the Colorado Catholic Conference – who surely know about this since the case is being appealed to the Supreme Court and involves one of their hospitals – would allow such a defense against life to occur.  Someone had to hire that legal team. Someone had to agree to the defense. Someone had to say, “Ok, sure, go forward.” Shame on them.  This, IMHO, is the height of hypocrisy where pro-life ministry is concerned.

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