In January 2006, 31-year-old Lori Stodghill died of a heart attack in the emergency room at St Thomas More Hospital in Canon City, Colorado.
Despite being paged multiple times by the hospital, Lori’s on-call obstetrician never arrived. Lori was 28 weeks pregnant with twin boys at the time.
And tragically, her unborn children died with her.
Lori’s husband, Jeremy Stodghill sued the hospital and its owner, Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) for malpractice and the wrongful deaths of his wife and sons.
Following two years of litigation, the Catholic hospital’s defense lawyers issued a truly astounding argument: that according to state law, an embryo is not a person until it is born alive.
One of the fundamental teachings of the Catholic Church is that all human life – whether born or unborn – is sacred. And yet, the second-largest Catholic health provider in the United States has blatantly contradicted this doctrine during the wrongful death lawsuit that Jeremy Stodghill brought against them.
This baffling turnaround has seen the Catholic Church put a legal argument that a fetus should not be considered a person until it is actually born.
So, does the Catholic Church’s ‘foetus is a person’ position only apply when it doesn’t cost them any money?
Lori and Jeremy’s twins had already died when they were extracted from their mother’s body, and opposing counsel argued that even with an emergency C-section they likely would not have survived. Ultimately, the court agreed with this, causing Mr Stodghill to lose his case. The hospital then counter-sued him for over $118,000 in legal fees.
On his chest, Jeremy Stodghill has a tattoo of the footprints of Samuel and Zachary, the twin boys he never met. “I didn’t even get to hold them. I have an autopsy picture. That’s all I’ve got,” he says.
Mr Stodghill – who believes a C-section might have saved the twins – and his attorneys are now seeking to have their case heard by the Colorado Supreme Court.