Dying Pope did not ask for Euthanasia - Doctor

Doctors assisting Pope John Paul II in his final days never suspended medical treatment and the pontiff did not ask them to do so, his personal physician said.

Published 17 September 2007
Doctors assisting Pope John Paul II in his final days never suspended medical treatment and the pontiff did not ask them to do so, his personal physician said.

Pro-euthanasia activists in Italy have said the pope refused medical treatment such as artificial respiration and feeding because he wanted to be allowed to die.

The Catholic Church forbids euthanasia, which has been at the centre of a heated debate in Italy in recent months. However, the church's Catechism says medical procedures that are "burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary or disproportionate to the expected outcome" can be discontinued with the permission of the patient or family.

Renato Buzzonetti, the late pope's long time doctor, said the pontiff's last known words, "Let me go to the house of the father", should not be interpreted as if he had asked doctors to stop treating him.

"That sentence was an act of very high prayer ... an almost unique example of his attachment to the faith of the Lord and at the same time to life, which John Paul II deeply loved until the very last moment," Buzzonetti said in an interview with daily La Repubblica.

"It is not true that the medical treatment of the Holy Father was interrupted," said Buzzonetti, who was the pope's doctor for nearly 27 years.

"He was never left alone, without monitoring and assistance, as some people wrongly want to suggest," he said.

Buzzonetti recalled the pope's final days before his death on April 2, 2005. The details have already been made public by the Vatican and have also been published in a book by Buzzonetti and other aides.

The pope was hospitalised for two periods in February and March of 2005. During his second stay, he underwent a tracheotomy and had a tube fitted in his throat to help him breathe.

On March 31, the ailing pope suffered septic shock caused by an infection of the urinary tract and cardio-circulatory collapse.

Asked why the pontiff had remained in his Vatican residence rather than return to hospital, Buzzonetti said:

"He was explicitly asked about this by his secretary, Stanislaw Dziwisz. But the Holy Father wanted to stay at the Vatican, where he could in any case count on qualified and continuous medical assistance, 24 hours a day, by highly specialised personnel."

The pope started slipping in and out of consciousness in the morning of April 2. Later in the day he muttered his last comprehensible words to a nun in Polish, before entering a coma and dying at 9:37 p.m.

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