The Catholic Bishops of Colorado…

The Catholic Bishops of Colorado… January 26, 2013

…Respond to Hospitals’ Claim of Unborn Twins Personhood

Frank Weathers has the scoop.

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  • Jamie R

    If the case was dismissed for failure to state a claim, why is there deposition testimony? Why would the hospital have discovery, which is expensive, on a claim that doesn’t exist under state law? Until we see the actual filings, we should withhold judgment.

    Something about this is fishy. Why would Jeremy’s lawyer sue for something he knows isn’t a cause of action in Colorado without telling his client that the law at present is against the client and pretty well established? And why do the news stories seem to be quoting the plaintiff and not the filings? Again, journalists are as capable of reporting on the law as they are on religion or science.

    That said, 3 other points: 1. the Defendant’s moral principles don’t create legal liability, just like Warren Buffett’s principles don’t expose him to greater tax liability. A common law, there’s no duty to rescue. If you fail to rescue someone, can their estate sue you because the church teaches that sins of omission are just as bad?

    2. Personhood for legal and moral purposes are different. Catholic Health routinely also argues that it is a person. Even if abortion were illegal, that wouldn’t make fetuses persons for purposes of wrongful death.

    3. Wrongful death and abortion are conceptually unrelated. You know what would not end if fetuses were persons for purposes of wrongful death? Abortion. Wrongful death isn’t about the rights of the decedent. The action isn’t bring brought by the two boys’ estate. Wrongful death is about compensating survivors for their loss. A doctor providing an abortion would be protected from wrongful death liability. It isn’t like fixing the definition of person with regards to wrongful death is going to change it for every (or any) other legal question.

    • Jason C.

      Yep–good points. And like I mentioned in Mark’s other post, there is the insurance defense aspect of this (assuming the hospital is not self-insured): if the hospital covered by insurance, the insurance company hires the lawyers and, while they represent both the insurance company and the hospital, the hospital is contractually obligated to participate in the defense of the policy proceeds. That means they don’t get to come in and say they’re opposed to the insurance company making all the arguments available under the law, which might include arguing that a fetus is not legally a person for purposes of wrongful death.

  • JeffreyRO5

    Jeremy’s lawyer might have pursued a lawsuit, assuming the hospital would settle out of court, in order to remain consistent with their supposed principle that life begins at conception. Clearly that didn’t happen. Jeremy threw the dice for some big money, and lost. The lesson is, when money is involved, the catholic church’s principles don’t mean a thing.

    • Jamie R

      Or maybe the lesson is that you shouldn’t sue people for non-existent torts.

  • carlamariee

    A husband and father lost his family. I’m not willing to ascribe anything more to his actions than an aggrieved person seeking justice. You’re right though, betting on a Catholic institution holding with principle rather than the money is a bad bet these days. Weddle in the article makes the best and clearest point. All the lawyerly quibbling about the meaning of “is” just disgusts most people. What a mess.

  • Oregon Catholic

    We all know that what is legal is not necessarily moral according to Catholic teaching – just look at abortion. IMO, the Church affiliated hospital has a higher moral duty than the letter of the law and should compensate this man for the loss of his children if they were negligent.

    Don’t forget that it was the hospital who asked to have the case thrown out because the fetus wasn’t a person. They didn’t have to do that and in fact according to another article posted on The Deacons Bench, that was not their initial response to the lawsuit. They cannot escape the complete moral incompatibility between their legal argument and the Church’s moral teaching. Perhaps it’s time for Catholics to get out of the health care business if we are going to have to serve 2 masters.

    I can see that cases like this and the inevitable caving-in by some Catholic institutions on the contraceptive mandate is probably going to be just as damaging to the Church as the scandal of immorality of archbishops hiding pedophiles.

    • Oregon Catholic

      Ooops. That article was linked on Why I am Catholic, not Deacon’s Bench.

    • Jamie R

      There is no incompatibility. Personhood for purposes of whether you can legally kill someone and personhood for purposes of a statute are independent questions. Their lawyers also routinely act as if the hospital is a person, which it is for statutory purposes, but not for moral purposes. “Person” as a statutory term and “person” as a moral term are equivocal terms.

  • HokiePundit

    It’s interesting how all the lawyers reading the blog are saying “Not really a big deal; it’s just the way things work in American law. Whether the hospital has no say over the argument or they’re just doing what they can to get a baseless case dismissed as quickly as possible, people are reading too much into it.” As the same time, non-lawyers are saying that the hospital should be using this as an excuse to preach that life begins at conception. Just like the gun issue, people are talking past each other.

    • “joe”

      true, but one side is in the moral right.

      • Jamie R

        There aren’t sides that are in opposition to each other. Both “sides” are making incommensurable points.

        Those who know more than nothing about the legal system realize that “person,” as a legal term is almost completely independent of “person” as a moral/philosophical term. Wrongful death has literally nothing to do with the decedent’s right to life, and changing the legal definition of person for purposes of wrongful death will have absolutely no impact at all on the definition of person for purposes of abortion.

        The other side has apparently never encountered the phrase “term of art.”

        “Person,” as a legal term, is a term of art. It is not the same word as “person” in the personalist philosophy of John Paul II. It isn’t the same term as “person” in the Aristotelian philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas. “Person” as a legal term doesn’t necessarily refer to anything with moral standing at all – like corporations, which are persons. “Person” as a legal term certainly doesn’t apply to a very large number of persons – angels and the three persons of the trinity, none of whom can be subject to the jurisdiction of a court.

        You can’t will yourself into the moral right by wilfully misunderstanding what’s at issue.

        • Jamie R

          Or rather, the side that’s in the moral right is the side that thinks the hospital shouldn’t divert money from saving lives to defending against nonexistent torts, since no other pro-life issues are implicated by this suit.