While a great deal of attention has been directed towards conflicts between religious freedom and access to contraception, a new suit against a Catholic hospital may have ramifications for medical malpractice law in the coming years.
This week the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Michigan federal court. The ACLU is suing on behalf of Tamesha Means and pleads that Means did not receive accurate information or treatment in a Catholic-affiliated hospital in Muskegon, Michigan.
On Means’ behalf, the ACLU alleges that she sought treatment from Mercy Health Partners, the only hospital in her county, when her water broke in the eighteenth week of pregnancy. Means says she was not told her fetus could not survive or that there were risks if she continued her pregnancy, nor did the hospital admit her for observation. She returned the next morning, bleeding and in pain, but was sent home; she returned that evening with a fever, and miscarried while at the hospital. According to medical experts who have reviewed Means’s case, the fetus had “virtually no chance” of surviving, and that in such circumstances doctors would ordinarily induce labor or surgically remove the fetus to reduce the mother’s chances of infection. Dr. Douglas W. Laube, an obstetrician from the University of Wisconsin Medical School, described Means’s care as “basic neglect.”