While Catholic doctrine establishes the belief that life begins at conception, a Catholic-based hospital in Colorado is defending a medical malpractice case against it and others by alleging and maintaining that unborn babies are not persons. That position would seem to contradict the Catholic Church’s efforts for many years to have abortion in the United States outlawed because of its position that life begins before birth and “unborn persons” need to be protected.
Colorado’s Wrongful Death Act (“Act”) states in C.R.S. Section 13-21-202 (“Action notwithstanding death”), “When the death of a person is caused by a wrongful act, neglect, or default of another, and the act, neglect, or default is such as would, if death had not ensued, have entitled the party injured to maintain an action and recover damages in respect thereof, then, and in every such case, the person who or the corporation which would have been liable, if death had not ensued, shall be liable in an action for damages notwithstanding the death of the party injured.”
The Colorado courts have defined “person” as that term is used in the Act to mean only persons who are born alive. Therefore, the hospital attorneys argue, a medical malpractice claim for wrongful death cannot be brought on behalf of fetuses who were never born.
The Underlying Medical Malpractice Allegations
The medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit was brought by the surviving husband on his own behalf and on behalf of the couple’s 2-year-old daughter for the death of his 31-year-old wife who was pregnant with twins when she went to the emergency room of the Colorado hospital on New Year’s Day 2006, complaining of vomiting and shortness of breath. As she was being wheeled into an examination room, the woman passed out and efforts were begun to resuscitate her. Tragically, the woman had suffered a heart attack due to a clogged artery supplying blood to her lungs. The woman was dead within an hour after she arrived at the hospital and her twin fetuses died in the womb. The medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit claimed that the obstetrician on call should have come to the hospital and in any event, an emergency cesarean section delivery should have been undertaken that would have prevented the twin fetuses from dying (the woman could not have been saved, however).
The attorneys for the Catholic hospital have prevailed in court so far with their argument that the unborn twins were not “persons” covered under the Act. The plaintiff’s attorney has appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court, which has not yet decided whether it will consider the appeal.
If you have been injured as a result of medical malpractice in Colorado or in another state in the U.S., you should prompt seek the advice of a Colorado medical malpractice attorney or a medical malpractice attorney in your state who may agree to investigate your possible medical malpractice claim for you and file a medical malpractice case on your behalf, if appropriate.
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