Why did USCCB defend a dangerous forced c-section


As I said, ""As to why the USCCB defended the actions of the hospital administration, the court, and the ultimate C-section, it’s hard to say given the information I can find about the case."

Had the situation been different from what I currently know about it, but medically similar, the C-section would have been all right because.the principle of double effect would have come into play.

To make the issue clearer, in the case of a woman who is definitely dying and in a coma, and no one knows who she is. And she is 8 months pregnant and the baby is perfectly OK.

It would be morally fine to perform a C-section, even if it would probably hasten her death, to save the baby.

Why? The intent of the operation is to save the baby’s life, and the hastening of her (already inevitable) death is a type of unintended side-effect.

This differs from a procured abortion, which is a procedure which directly targets the unborn child.


As long as an act is fairly certain to cause death, it is ordered towards death.
Only if the act offers the person who is acted upon their only chance of further survival or if the person who is acted upon has a reasonable chance of surviving the act, can the act be said not to be ordered towards death.
If neither is the case then the act is ordered towards death.


I don’t know much about this case, other than what I just read here and in the NYT article posted.

However this is my take.

  1. the hospital’s motivation seemed to be that they were only concerned with a lawsuit, which isn’t always the best motivation. But even if their motivations were not pure, they were attempting to do something good.

  2. sounds like the mother was actively dying. Nothing was going to stop that.

  3. it sounds like the doctors THOUGHT they might be able to save the baby and that the baby might have been old enough to survive.

From the sounds of this, it was a judgement call in order to attempt to save the baby’s life. In this case, their judgment call turned out being wrong, no one lived. However, the only one who had any chance of living was the baby.

My assumption is that the USCCB sided with the hospital because the hospital was making a judgment call that was ordered towards the good.

Also, let’s look at this from a mother’s point of view (even though I’m a dad). If a mother knows she is going to die shortly, and there is NOTHING that can save her life, what kind mother wouldn’t want a c-section to attempt to save her baby’s life - even if it sped up death?

To me, the family’s law suite was wrong and example of why the US needs tort reform.

The mother was dying. Nothing could stop that. The baby had a chance to live. If the hospital did nothing, both the mother & baby would have died. The result is the same. But if the baby would have survived, then the family would still have had the child.

In this case, it seems to me that the doctors TRIED to do the morally correct thing (assuming the professional consensus was that the baby had a shot as survival).

God Bless


Not necessarily.

Let me create an extreme scenario for you.

Let’s say two people are stuck on a unstable cliff on a mountain side. The supporting rocks are crumbling and it’s only a matter of time before it gives out and both die.

In a daring helicopter rescue a man is suspended from the helicopter via rope.

Due to many factors, he can only save one at a time. Also, there is a fear that if the victims move, it will case the whole thing to collapse.

So the emergency responder makes a judgement that he thinks his chances of saving at least one of them is to grab the one on the right.

But again, they know if they do that, the cliff might fall immediately. But if they do nothing, it could fall in minutes, hours or days; they just don’t know when.

So they grab the one on the right and seconds later the ledge collapses and the other dies.

In my fictional situation - they could have done nothing and the one wouldn’t have died right away. But eventually, both would have died. The responders made a judgment call to act in order to save at least one. And even if the rescue attempt failed and they both died, it’s better to try to save at least one instead of leaving them both to die.

The situation with this mother is the same. I hope this helps a little

God Bless


Not really. In the example I gave, the mother is certain to die. She will whether she has the operation or not.

The act is ordered towards the life of the baby, who has a chance of continued life if the operation is performed.


It is not so clear-cut. C-sections are not always done to save the mother’s life; they are often performed for the potential good of the baby, even though there is known increased risk to the mother. Even if the baby is not (yet) in distress, doctors often make a judgment call that there is a substantial chance that the baby will, at some point, experience distress.


That is true, but in those circumstances the mother, unlike the case here it seems, has a reasonable chance of surviving the operation.


The USCCB filed an amicus brief in the appeal (In re A.C., 573 A.2d 1235, 1990 D.C. App. LEXIS 90 (D.C. Apr. 26, 1990)). They filed under the name United Catholic Conference because that is what they were called then. Obtain a copy of the amicus brief and read it and you will then know their reasoning.


For the double effect to apply the evil effect has to be result of some treatment on the person to be saved.
In cases where the double effect applies to ectopic pregnancies & uterine cancer, the treatment on the mother involves the removal of a cancerous or soon to be damaged organ, that is, treating the mother’s condition.
Hence the treatment must treat the baby’s condition in the same way that treatment on mother must treat the mother’s condition.
Cutting the mother open doesn’t treat the baby, only the removal of the baby from the mother’s dying body does. Cutting the mother open is a means of gaining access to treat the baby, not an unintended consequence.


There’s a difference between saving one whilst leaving the other on the crumbling cliff, and say, pushing one of the cliff to make it somehow easer to save the other.
So while performing some treatment on the baby whilst not intervening for the mother is fine, cutting the mother open doesn’t treat the baby, it only makes it possible to treat the baby.


I know, in the old days c-sections were performed on dead mothers. Aquinas taught against performaning them on live mothers for the very reason that they were dangerous.
Today they’re perfectly safe, with the exception of this particular case.


You are allowed to give treatments that will hasten death provided death is not the goal. Morphine doses can be increased for cancer patients for example as long as the goal is pain relief and not giving a lethal dose.


Yes, but in those cases the the act itself must relieve the dying person of pain.
In this case the act of cutting her open doesn’t itself offer pain relief, neither does it itself help the baby, it only makes it possible to help the baby.


The point is that the Bishops, while teaching against endangering the unborn for the sake of the mother, defended a procedure that endangered a mother for the sake of the child. This implies that it is immoral to kill a baby by delivering a pre-viable baby but moral to kill a mother via a c-section.

Hastening the dying mother’s death would be euthanasia.
Also, if a mother risks dying during a prolonged miscarriage (S.Halappanavar, T Means), it’s ‘immoral’ to deliver the pre-viable baby even though both will die if the baby isn’t delivered.

To be an unintended side effect death of the mother would have to have resulted from the baby being removed from her body, not from an act performed on the mother herself.

For an act to be ordered towards saving the baby’s life the act has to be performed on the baby themself. While the act of removing the baby from the mother’s body treats the baby, the act of cutting the mother open doesn’t itself treat the baby but rather directly targets the mother. So this act isn’t ordered towards the baby’s life.


You still misunderstand. A procured abortion (what was requested for Mrs. Halappanavar and the lack of criticized for on Ms Means’s case) is not “delivering a pre-viable baby.” It is killing the baby, then removing the corpse.

If an act is moral and proportionate but has the chance of hastening death, it is not euthanasia. Euthanasia is committing an act which causes death in and of itself.

A frequent example is giving enough painkiller to quell the pain but which might hasten death.

Giving twice as much painkiller would be euthanasia, because the sole purpose of giving that amount would be to kill the patient.

This is incorrect.

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