Pope may require feeding tube

  1. March 29, 2005, 1:30PM

    Report: Pope may require feeding tube
    Associated Press

    VATICAN CITY-Pope John Paul II may have to return to the hospital to have a feeding tube inserted, an Italian news agency reported today. It stressed that no decision had been made.

    The APcom news agency, citing an unidentified source, said the 84-year-old pope might have to have the tube inserted to improve his nutrition since he is having difficulty swallowing with the breathing tube that was inserted Feb. 24.

    APcom said the idea of inserting a feeding tube was a hypothesis that was being considered. The procedure involves inserting a tube into the stomach to allow for artificial feeding.

    Earlier today, the Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported that the pope's doctors were considering a new hospitalization next week both to perform tests on the breathing tube and to adjust his diet because of problems swallowing.

    There was no comment from the Vatican. Nicola Cerbino, a spokesman at Polyclinic Gemelli hospital where John Paul was rushed twice last month, called it media speculation.

    Another newspaper, La Repubblica, quoted the pope's Vatican physician, Dr. Renato Buzzonetti, as saying doctors are "reasonably calm" about the frail pope's condition.

    The pontiff, who was unable to preside at Holy Week events, skipped another tradition Monday-a post-Easter blessing from his window-ending the Easter holiday as silently as he began it.

    A few hundred people had gathered in St. Peter's Square in hopes that John Paul would appear as he has on each Easter Monday of his 26-year pontificate, and Vatican TV cameras zoomed in on his third-floor window at about noon.

    But the curtains remained closed as the pope continued his recovery from throat surgery.

    "Despite the regret, we're happy because it's good that he continues his convalescence without strain," said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, head of programming at Radio Vatican.

    John Paul's appearance on Easter Sunday-when he tried but failed to speak-was still on the minds of many at the Vatican, a dramatic end to a Holy Week in which the pope's suffering was clearly evident.

    John Paul had come to his studio window at the end of Easter Mass to bless the tens of thousands of people in the square below. Aides readied a microphone, and he tapped it as if preparing to speak. But after uttering a few unintelligible sounds, he made the sign of the cross with his hand and the microphone was taken away.

    Vatican Radio said Monday it would be difficult to ever forget the pope's pained "Urbi et Orbi" blessing and that it would "remain in the history of the church and humanity."

    "This silence-full of emotion and desire to speak beyond the physical ability to communicate-spoke to us perhaps as never before the universal language of love," Lombardi said. "For us it was enough. We understood what the pope wanted to say, and how much he wanted to bless us."

    John Paul last spoke to the public March 13, shortly before he was discharged from the hospital for a second time in a month. In addition to the breathing tube, John Paul suffers from Parkinson's disease, which makes it difficult for him to talk.

  2. 10 Comments

  3. by   Tweety
    Trached patients get feeding tubes all the time to supplement nutrition until swallowing ability, if ever, is obtained. No biggie, but he's old and frail. I wish him well.
  4. by   SmilingBluEyes
    this would not surprise me.
  5. by   Euskadi1946
    As a Catholic there were several things I have disagreed with the Pope non like Birth Control but as my Pope, he has been a wonderful leader and one of the most ecumenical popes traveling all over the world. He loves people and people love him. I do believe he is more loved than reviled and I wish him well. I think he is almost ready to leave and is preparing the world for his departure. I will miss him greatly when he dies.
  6. by   Mkue
    I agree, he loves people.

    As a Catholic Nurse I wish him well and hope he is able to be with us for many more years, although he is 84.
  7. by   KRVRN

    Okay, well, someone has to ask... I wonder if he has a living will regarding is wishes if...
  8. by   leslie :-D
    i've been watching the news; the Pope is extremely ill now w/a uti, high temp and dropping bp. sounds very ominous.

  9. by   KRVRN
    And he's received last rites too, very ominous I think.
  10. by   SmilingBluEyes
    He received Holy Unction, which I understand, is an annointing of the sick?
  11. by   BeachNurse
    Vatican source: Pope given last rites
    Pontiff in 'serious' condition but responding to antibiotics

    VATICAN CITY (CNN) -- Pope John Paul II's condition remained "serious" early Friday, but he appeared to be responding well to antibiotic treatment for a urinary tract infection that caused him to develop a fever, a Vatican official said.

    Thursday night, as his health deteriorated, the pontiff was given the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church, a Vatican source told CNN.

    The sacrament does not necessarily mean that the pope is dying. Last rites -- also known as the sacrament of the sick or extreme unction -- are commonly given to people who are seriously ill as well.

    The pope received the sacrament after he was shot by a would-be assassin in 1981.

    The pope is suffering from a high fever caused by a urinary tract infection, the Vatican confirmed earlier Thursday -- one day after revealing he had been put on a nasal feeding tube.

    Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a statement released Wednesday: "To improve his calorific intake and promote an efficient recovery of his strength, nutrition via the positioning of a nasal-gastric tube has begun."

    Medical sources at Gemelli hospital in Rome, where the pope has been hospitalized twice since February, told CNN that no provisions are being made for the pope to be readmitted for treatment.

    The Vatican has its own medical facilities where he could be treated.

    Video of the Vatican showed that the pope's apartments were darkened.

    The 84-year-old pope suffers from a number of chronic illnesses, including crippling hip and knee ailments, and Parkinson's disease, a progressive neurological disorder that can make breathing difficult.

    The pope was hospitalized from February 1 to February 10 for respiratory difficulties. He returned to the hospital for a tracheotomy February 24 and was discharged March 13.

    Ill health forced him to miss a number of events during Holy Week.

    On Easter Sunday, the pope tried to speak to a crowd assembled in St. Peter's Square but could not get out the words. He made the sign of the cross with his hand instead. (Full story)

    On Monday, he skipped the post-Easter Queen of Heaven prayer for the first time in his 26-year papacy. The traditional appearance on the Monday after Easter has marked the end of the Holy Week celebrations. (Full story)

    The pope's death, whenever it comes, will leave a "very large gap that's going to have to be filled," said Monsignor Kevin Irwin of Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

    "His illness has given us time to prepare ourselves," he said Thursday. "On the other hand, this is going it be a very, very significant papacy to follow.

    "This man made the papacy bigger than life," he said. "He is a man who has been an international traveler involved in many relations with other faiths."

    Also in Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick urged Catholics and non-Catholics alike to pray for the pope.

    "May he recover. We pray for that. May the Lord give him strength, and may he be able once again to communicate in the way he has done in the past, with such heart and such wisdom," McCarrick said. "But if this is not the Lord's will, then may he not suffer, because he is certainly going through a period of suffering now."

    The use of a feeding tube for the pope illustrates his position on treatment for the critically ill.

    In 2004, he wrote that doctors have a moral duty to preserve life.

    "The administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural way of preserving life ... not a medical procedure."

    The Vatican has criticized a Florida judge's order to remove the feeding tube from Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman who died Thursday after nearly two weeks without food or water. (Full story)

    CNN's Alessio Vinci contributed to this report.

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  12. by   BeachNurse
    Pope's 'Living Will' Wants Life Support to the End

    Thu Mar 31, 2:07 AM ET

    By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

    PARIS (Reuters) - Pope John Paul, now being fed through a nasal tube because of his throat problems, effectively wrote his own "living will" last year in a speech declaring some life-extending treatments a moral duty for Roman Catholics.

    Reuters Photo

    Reuters Photo
    Slideshow Slideshow: Pope John Paul II

    Reuters Video Pope Has High Fever
    (Reuters Video)

    The ailing Pontiff sharply narrowed Catholic guidelines for treating patients nearing death in March 2004 when he described tube-feeding as a normal treatment rather than an extraordinary measure that can be stopped if all hope of recovery fades.

    This indicates he would want to be kept alive by artificial means even if he fell into a coma or a persistent vegetative state, such as the brain-damaged Terri Schiavo in the United States whose feeding tubes have been removed after 15 years.

    "The Pope's statement would have to be considered the equivalent of his living will," said Father Thomas Reese S.J., editor of the Jesuit weekly America in New York. "It would be very difficult to unplug him if it came to that."

    Increasingly popular in the United States, a living will is a written statement adults make to indicate whether they want doctors to use all means possible to keep them alive at life's end or to let them die if all hope of recovery seems lost.

    As the Schiavo case shows, modern medicine can extend basic body functioning for years -- a worrying prospect for the world's largest church if that means its elected-for-life leader is incapacitated indefinitely.

    The Catholic Church has traditionally taught that doctors and families could end artificial life-extending measures in good conscience if a dying patient's prospects seemed hopeless.


    John Paul, who has long railed against a "culture of death" he saw in abortion and artificial birth control, surprised moral theologians in a speech in March 2004 by insisting Catholics can no longer make such decisions even in extreme cases.

    "The intrinsic value and the personal dignity of every human being does not change no matter what the concrete situation of his life," he told doctors and ethics experts attending a Rome conference about patients in a vegetative state.

    "The administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act," he said. Denying them this treatment would amount to "euthanasia by omission."

    "Considerations about the 'quality of life,' often actually dictated by psychological, social and economic pressures, cannot take precedence over general principles," he said.

    John Grabowski, associate professor of ethics at Catholic University of America in Washington, said the Pope had made his views clear but "left many theologians scratching their heads."

    The problem was that he expressed this in a speech, not in a doctrinal document that made it official Church policy.

    "The Pope can say any number of things but he has to tell the bishops' conferences when they have to change something," added Father James Keenan S.J., ethics professor at Boston College. "He hasn't done this."

    As a result, he said, the U.S. bishops' conference and the Catholic Health Association have not renounced the more flexible earlier position even though many Catholic leaders support Schiavo's parents' demand to continue feeding her.

    "We've spent centuries letting people figure out how they want to go to meet God, and now we have these fairly intrusive claims on a patient," Keenan said in his critical assessment of how the Pope was changing Church teaching on the end of life.

    "It doesn't seem good for the Church to rethink how to die when the Pope himself is ailing," he said. "The dying of a Pope should not set our agenda."