A wrongful death lawsuit involving a pregnant mother and her unborn twins has prompted a battle between the law and ethics. The wrongful death lawsuit, which was filed by the father, claims that a Catholic hospital was negligent when it failed to deliver the twins via emergency cesarean section.
However, the hospital denied responsibility, saying that it is not liable for the deaths of the fetuses because they are not considered “people” under state law. So far, courts have agreed with the hospital as the state’s Wrongful Death Act does state that a fetus is not a ‘person’.
But the defense has raised eyebrows because Catholic teaching maintains that human life is sacred and valid from the moment of conception. Some advocates within the pro-life arena have even gone so far as call the defense morally invalid.
The case was originally filed in 2007 and has since made its way up to the state Supreme Court on appeal. Both the state district court and the court of appeals agreed with the hospital, Catholic Health Initiatives, that the wrongful death claims filed on behalf of the twins should be dismissed.
Courts agreed with a different Catholic hospital in a similar case out of another state. In 1996, another state Supreme Court held that a mother could not sue a Catholic-affiliated hospital over the death of her unborn child because of a similar wrongful death law.
Ohio is a state that allows wrongful death lawsuits to be filed on behalf of viable fetuses. The decision was made in a 1985 state Supreme Court case called Werling v. Sandy, 17 Ohio St. 3d 45 (1985). That case involved a mother who sued a hospital for negligence after her child was stillborn.
Source: USA TODAY, “Fetuses not people, Catholic hospital says in court,” Bob Smietana, Jan. 24, 2013