Mercy killing?

Vatican accused of hastening death of John Paul II

Editorial Staff
October 4, 2007

A recent allegation of euthanasia by the Vatican has sent shock waves through the Catholic Church. In a controversial article published in the Italian journal Micromega, Dr. Lina Pavanelli, an anaesthesiologist and director of the intensive care school at the University of Ferrara, argues that Pope John Paul II’s death was accelerated due to the lack of a permanent feeding tube. By the time one was inserted, just days before his death on April 2, 2005, there was no chance of saving the ailing pontiff, according to Pavanelli. She also believes that the pope himself likely refused the feeding tube that would have prolonged his life.


In the article, entitled ‘The sweet death of Carol Wojtyla’, Pavanelli revisits the events leading up to John Paul’s death and questions why Vatican doctors did not abide by the Church’s own principle to use every means possible to avoid death and prolong life. Pavanelli contends that the pontiff’s significant weight loss and difficulty swallowing was not adequately addressed by Vatican doctors. ‘The patient had died for reasons that were clearly not mentioned. Of all the problems of the complicated clinical picture of the patient, the acute respiratory insufficiency was not the principal threat to the life of the patient. The Pope was dying from another consequence of the effects on the throat muscles from his Parkinson’s Disease not treated: the incapacity to swallow’, alleged Pavanelli.


Longtime Vatican physician Renato Buzzonetti quickly refuted the accusations in the national daily La Repubblica, affirming that doctors did everything possible to preserve the pope’s life: ‘His treatment was never interrupted. Anyone who says otherwise is mistaken’.

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