Was Pope's Death A Mercy Killing?
Medical Professor Says John Paul II Was Euthanized, If Church's
Own Teachings Applied
ROME, Sept. 26, 2007
(CBS) In a highly provocative
article that has caused a firestorm in Italy, a doctor claims the Catholic
Church in effect practiced what it would class as euthanasia on Pope John
Paul II by failing to insert a feeding tube into the ailing pontiff in time.
As CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey reported on The
Early Show Wednesday, the pope's slow demise was watched by hundreds of
thousands who jammed St. Peter's Square, and by the rest of the world on TV.
The physician leveling the mercy killing allegation, Dr. Lina Pavanelli,
heads the intensive care medical school at Italy's University of Ferrara.
"The doctors had done something, the doctors didn't inform the pope
completely, or the pope decided," Pavanelli told CBS News. "These are the
three conclusions that I reached."
She based her conclusions, Pizzey
points out, on TV coverage, press reports, and a book by the pontiff's personal
A feeding tube wasn't inserted into John Paul II until three
days before he died, which Pavanelli charges was far too late.
the effects of the late stages of Parkinson's disease, which afflicted John Paul
II for years, is an inability to swallow.
In her article, Pavanelli
writes that, "I let my perceptions conform to the hope of recovery and the
official version, without confronting the clinical signs that I was seeing."
John Paul II's successor, Benedict XVI, recently issued a document
denouncing cutting off food and water to patients in a vegetative state.
The Vatican took that stance in the case of Terri Schiavo, the severely
brain-damaged American woman who was eventually taken off a feeding tube and
died. The Vatican ruled that, "The administration of food and water, even by
artificial means is, in principle, an ordinary way of preserving life."
The Vatican also ran into controversy when it refused to grant a church
funeral for an Italian man who successfully petitioned to be allowed to die
after being on life support for nine years.
The euthanasia allegation
will be almost impossible to prove, Pizzey says, not in the least because Dr.
Pavanelli wasn't part of the pope's medical team.
All the Vatican will
have to do, Pizzey adds, is point to John Paul II's insistence on suffering in
public to show his belief that all life has value.
And Father Thomas
Williams, a CBS News consultant and Catholic theologian based in Rome,
dismisses Pavanelli's conclusions.
"I think," he told Early
Show co-anchor Harry Smith Wednesday, "it (failing to insert the
feeding tube for so long) was a medical decision. It could have been a good one
or bad one. But euthanasia, remember, is the intentional acceleration of the
death of a person. And, I think, to allege that they intentionally accelerated
Pope John Paul's death is really farfetched. I don't think anyone wanted that --
not the pope himself, and not anyone who was close to him."
spoken with a number of doctors, both ... in Italy and in the United States
about this," Williams continued, "and there's no consensus there. Dr. Pavanelli
is definitely in the minority in saying the tube should have been inserted
earlier. In fact, the tube is only put in when the patient is no longer able to
ingest food and liquid by his or herself. And the pope was able to do that until
shortly before his death."
Williams observed that, "Everybody loves a
conspiracy theory, especially when it relates to the Catholic Church. I remember
back in 1978, when Pope Paul VI died, everyone started putting forth theories
that he was poisoned or killed in some way. The same thing happened after the
death of John Paul I, so I'm not really surprised."
There's been no
official Vatican reaction to Pavanelli's article yet and, "I don't think there
will be, unless the reaction to this reaches a critical mass where the Vatican
feels that it's obliged to make some sort of a statement," Williams says. "There
has been an immediate statement by the pope's personal doctor ... who was there
at the pope's bedside up to the point of his death. He said these allegations
are simply false."
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