Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Stodghill Family and "Catholic" Health Care

The Colorado Independent is one of numerous news outlets reporting on the tragic case of Lori Stodghill, her preborn sons, and Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives....
    "Lori Stodghill was 31-years old, seven-months pregnant with twin boys and feeling sick when she arrived at St. Thomas More hospital in Cañon City on New Year’s Day 2006. She was vomiting and short of breath and she passed out as she was being wheeled into an examination room. Medical staff tried to resuscitate her but, as became clear only later, a main artery feeding her lungs was clogged and the clog led to a massive heart attack. Stodghill’s obstetrician, Dr. Pelham Staples, who also happened to be the obstetrician on call for emergencies that night, never answered a page. His patient died at the hospital less than an hour after she arrived and her twins died in her womb. 
    "In the aftermath of the tragedy, Stodghill’s husband Jeremy, a prison guard, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit on behalf of himself and the couple’s then-two-year-old daughter Elizabeth. Staples should have made it to the hospital, his lawyers argued, 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.

    "The lead defendant in the case is Catholic Health Initiatives, the Englewood-based nonprofit that runs St. Thomas More Hospital as well as roughly 170 other health facilities in 17 states. Last year, the hospital chain reported national assets of $15 billion. The organization’s mission, according to its promotional literature, is to 'nurture the healing ministry of the Church' and to be guided by 'fidelity to the Gospel.' Toward those ends, Catholic Health facilities seek to follow the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church authored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops....

    "But when it came to mounting a defense in the Stodghill case, Catholic Health’s lawyers effectively turned the Church directives on their head. Catholic organizations have for decades fought to change federal and state laws that fail to protect 'unborn persons,' and Catholic Health’s lawyers in this case had the chance to set precedent bolstering anti-abortion legal arguments. Instead, they are arguing state law protects doctors from liability concerning unborn fetuses on grounds that those fetuses are not persons with legal rights.

    "As Jason Langley, an attorney with Denver-based Kennedy Childs, argued in one of the briefs he filed for the defense, the court 'should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term "person," as is used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define "person" under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses'....

    "Whether the high court decides to take the case, kick it back down to the appellate court for a second review or accept the decisions as they stand, the details of the arguments the lawyers involved have already mounted will likely renew debate about Church health care directives and trigger sharp reaction from activists on both sides of the debate looking to underline the apparent hypocrisy of Catholic Health’s defense" (John Tomasic, Colorado Independent, 1/23/13).

CNN is providing some additional details....
    "Stodghill, left behind to raise their then-2-year-old daughter alone, sued the hospital and its owner, Catholic Health Initiatives, for the wrongful deaths of all three.  
    "After about two years of litigation, defense attorneys for the hospital and doctors entered an argument that shocked the widower.
    "They said that under state law, an embryo is not person until it is born alive, according to court documents....
    "The court agreed with the argument, and Stodghill lost the suit. The court also ruled against Stodghill in the case of his wife for other legal reasons.
    "The hospital and doctors then sued him for over $118,000 legal fees and attempted to garnish his wages, according to a legal document filed on his behalf.

    "The defendants offered to forget the fees if Stodghill dropped his appeal. He refused and filed for bankruptcy to avoid having to pay the claim, which he says he can't afford as he struggles to raise his now-9-year-old daughter, Libby.

    "Stodghill has petitioned the Colorado Supreme Court to hear his case, and he'd like to hear from the Catholic Church.

    "Representatives of the Catholic bishops of Colorado declined to comment on the legal proceedings, but said they will review the litigation and Catholic Health Initiatives' practices 'to ensure fidelity and faithful witness to the teachings of the Catholic Church.'

    Catholic Health Initiatives would not speak to CNN on camera, but said in a statement, 'In this case... as Catholic organizations, (we) are in union with the moral teachings of the Church'" (Ben Brumfield and Kyung Lah, CNN, 1/26/13).

As per a press release appearing on the web site of the Archdiocese of Denver,
    "The Catholic bishops of Colorado learned recently of the deaths of Lori Stodghill and her two unborn children, which took place at St. Thomas More Hospital in Cañon City, Colo. in 2006. We wish to extend our solidarity and sympathy to Lori’s husband Jeremy, and her daughter, Elizabeth. Please be assured of our ongoing prayers.  
    "From the moment of conception, human beings are endowed with dignity and with fundamental rights, the most foundational of which is life.
    "Catholics and Catholic institutions have the duty to protect and foster human life, and to witness to the dignity of the human person—particularly to the dignity of the unborn. No Catholic institution may legitimately work to undermine fundamental human dignity.
    "Catholic Health Initiatives is a Catholic institution which provides health care services in 14 states, providing care to thousands of people annually. Catholic Health Initiatives has been accused by some of undermining the Catholic position on human life in the course of litigation. Today, representatives of Catholic Health Initiatives assured us of their intention to observe the moral and ethical obligations of the Catholic Church [Emphasis and questions added: Your Excellencies, why have you only "learned recently" of this case, which has apparently been in litigation for years?  Isn't it your responsibility to safeguard that what is said by Catholic institutions actually aligns with reality?]
    "The Catholic bishops of Colorado are not able to comment on ongoing legal disputes. However, we will undertake a full review of this litigation, and of the policies and practices of Catholic Health Initiatives to ensure fidelity and faithful witness to the teachings of the Catholic Church."

Our Own Catholic Hospitals are Beyond Reproach.  Right?

 Six "Catholic" hospitals operate within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Organizationally, 1) Holy Redeemer stands alone;  2) Mercy Fitzgerald, 3) Mercy Philadelphia, 4) Mercy Suburban, and 5) Nazareth operate under the Mercy Health System umbrella. In turn, Mercy Health System and 6) Saint Mary Medical Center fall under the umbrella of Catholic Health East of Newtown Square.  Hospitals overseen by Catholic Health East are found in 11 states, including New Jersey.  In the Diocese of Trenton, both 7) Lourdes Medical Center and 8) Saint Francis Medical Center fall under Catholic Health East.

As per the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Catholic health care services must adopt these Directives [i.e., the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services] as policy, require adherence to them within the institution as a condition for medical privileges and employment, and provide appropriate instruction regarding the Directives for administration, medical and nursing staff, and other personnel."  While our Catholic Hospitals certainly voice allegiance to Catholic teaching, your Excellencies, isn't it your responsibility to safeguard that what is said by Catholic institutions actually aligns with reality?

Why Are IVF Specialists Allowed ANY Association with Holy Redeemer? 

Holy Redeemer's website states: "If you’re pregnant or planning on having a baby, you’ve come to the right place. Our board-certified obstetricians offer the latest medical expertise that can help maintain your health and the health of your baby at a convenient location near you."  Yet, ALL of Holy Redeemer's "Reproductive Endocrinologists and Obstetricians" are IVF specialists (i.e., Drs Larry Barnat and Jennifer Nichols of Abington Reproductive Medicine; Drs Arthur Castelbaum, Martin Freedman, and Benjamin Gocial of Reproductive Medicine Associates of Philadelphia; Dr Maria Pia Platia of Fertility and Gynecology Associates) and NONE of Holy Redeemer's obstetricians are found on a list of NFP-only physicians!  Doesn't it appear that Holy Redeemer is PROMOTING providers of services condemned by Church teaching? Your Excellencies, isn't it your responsibility to safeguard that what is said by Catholic institutions actually aligns with reality?

"Reductions" and St. Mary Medical Center

Saint Mary's claims that it is "Bucks County's most trusted and preferred maternity services" with "24 OB/GYN specialists" and "high-risk pregnancy management experts."  Yet, NONE of these "24 OB/GYN specialists" (nor any of their "high-risk pregnancy management experts") are found on a list of NFP-only physicians.  In fact, ALL of St. Mary's "high-risk pregnancy management experts" are associates of Dr. Frank Craparo of Abington Perinatal Associates.  Abington Perinatal Associates is known for "reductions" - a euphemism for "abortions" (cf., See!  Doesn't it appear that Saint Mary's is PROMOTING providers of services condemned by Church teaching? Your Excellencies, isn't it your responsibility to safeguard that what is said by Catholic institutions actually aligns with reality?

Direct Sterilizations, "Reductions," and Lourdes

Dr. Sandra Hapenney "found that between 2007 and 2009, more than 20,000 women who gave birth at Catholic hospitals in New Jersey and six other states then had their 'tubes tied.' Eighty-five hospitals - almost half of those providing obstetric services - were doing sterilizations to end fertility.  Among these were...Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County in Willingboro.... Bishop David M. O'Connell of the Trenton Diocese said in an e-mail that he had talked to hospital administrators and had 'been assured that procedures at Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County were in compliance'" (Bishops decry Obama birth control plan, yet Catholic hospitals report sterilizations, Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/20/12). Your Excellency, isn't it your responsibility to safeguard that what is said by Catholic institutions actually aligns with reality?

It should be noted that NONE of Lourdes' gynecologists or obstetricians are to be found on a list of NFP-only physicians.  As per Lourdes, "Our maternal-fetal medicine specialists have subspecialty training in maternal- fetal medicine (high-risk pregnancy). These physicians are obstetricians with specialized and additional training in complicated (often called "high-risk") pregnancies. Such pregnancies may include women with pre-existing medical conditions (for example, diabetes, high-blood pressure, thyroid disease) or those with a problem in the current pregnancy such as premature labor or multiple gestation (when you carry more than one baby-twins, triplets, etc.)."  It should be noted that the only maternal fetal medicine specialist listed in Lourdes' directory has co-authored an article, in which it was claimed that "Selective reduction of multifetal pregnancies for the three indications described is an ethically justifiable option for the management of multifetal pregnancy, to which there are no public policy obstacles" (Wapner R, Davis G, Johnson A, et al Selective reduction of multifetal pregnancies. The Lancet. Vol. 335: 90-93 (1990   January )).  Unless he has had a dramatic ethical conversion, why is Dr. George H. Davis associated with Lourdes?  Your Excellency, isn't it your responsibility to safeguard that what is said by Catholic institutions actually aligns with reality?

Our Catholic Hospitals and the Memory of Terri Schiavo

  •  "24. In compliance with federal law, a Catholic health care institution will make available to patients information about their rights, under the laws of their state, to make an advance directive for their medical treatment. The institution, however, will not honor an advance directive that is contrary to Catholic teaching. If the advance directive conflicts with Catholic teaching, an explanation should be provided as to why the directive cannot be honored" (Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services).
Neither Saint Mary's Advanced Directives and Living Wills, nor Holy Redeemer's Making Your Own Health Care Decisions and Advance Directive Formnor Mercy Health System's Vendor Compliance Program, nor Lourdes' Pre Admission testing, nor St. Francis' Advance Directives properly specify 
  1. Catholic teaching with regard to nutrition and hydration, and
  2. that health care services cannot honor advance directives (e.g., non-specific directives to forego nutrition and hydration) opposed to Catholic teaching (cf., Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, Charter for Health Care Workers, 1995; Address of John Paul II to the Participants in the International Congress on "Life-Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State: Scientific Advances and Ethical Dilemnas", 3/20/04; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Responses to Certain Questions of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Concerning Artificial Nutrition and Hydration, 8/1/07; USCCB, Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (5th ed), 11/17/09).
Again your Excellencies, isn't it your responsibility to safeguard that what is said by Catholic institutions actually aligns with reality?

Conscience Protections

Dr. Hapenney prophetically noted that ""Catholic hospitals are in jeopardy of defending themselves against judicial challenges and could strip themselves of the ability to mount a political front to aid in defending the conscience clauses" (Appeal to Conscience Clauses in the Face of Divergent Practices among Catholic Hospitals).  If Catholic hospitals are not insisting upon absolute adherence to Catholic medical ethics, what hope do Catholic health care professionals in secular settings have of seeing their conscience rights protected?


For bishops, ethicists, pro life leaders, and/or any faithful Catholic to look away from the behavior of Catholic institutions strikes me as a misapplication of "cooperation," as described by the Pontifical Academy for Life.  Going further, the USCCB reminds us that "Cooperation, which in all other respects is morally licit, may need to be refused because of the scandal that might be caused....The diocesan bishop has final responsibility for assessing and addressing issues of scandal, considering not only the circumstances in his local diocese but also the regional and national implications of his decision" (Directive 71 of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services) .

Pope Benedict XVI: "prohibit that agency from using the name 'Catholic'"

If I have made any incorrect statement, I ask that this be pointed out by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and/or the Diocese of Trenton.  The Holy Father certainly seems to recognize that parents and grandparents have every right to expect authenticity from institutions which call themselves "Catholic." 
Your Excellencies, please stop abuse of God's people - particularly that of future generations - by these "Catholic" hospitals.

The Beatitudes from "Jesus of Nazareth"


Use of Emergency So-Called Contraceptives in Catholic Hospitals for Those Reporting Rape

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12/12/08 Interview with Rev. Tad Pacholczyk, Ph.D. of the National Catholic Bioethics Center

March for Life 2010