Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma, Tonga

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Sorry, Pope, your HMO won't cover that

From this evening's online Washington Post:

Pope Undergoes Emergency Surgery

By Daniel Williams
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, March 3, 2005; 5:21 PM

ROME, Feb. 24 -- Pope John Paul II underwent an emergency operation to ease his breathing Thursday night after he was rushed to a Rome hospital for treatment of ailments related to a relapse of influenza.

WOW! Look at the time stamp below the byline: Thursday, March 3, 2005; 5:21 PM. "Yeah, but it's today, Mudhead." And today is........ 24 February 2005. Maybe the Pope sent Daniel Williams into the future to get a better perspective on health care concerns at the Vatican.

Maybe the Pope is worried that others in the Vatican will cut out his health care, and thought that advancing his story into the future might provide a little additional protection.

Why would the Pope need to worry about his health care?

Because other Vatican personnel complained last Thursday about health care consumption.

"While millions of people in the world struggle to survive hunger and disease, lacking even minimal health care, in rich countries the concept of health as well-being figures in creating unrealistic expectations about the possibility of medicine to respond to all needs and desires," said Rev. Maurizio Faggioni, a theologian and morality expert on the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life.

"The medicine of desires, egged on by the health-care market, increases the request for pharmaceutical and medical-surgical services, soaks up public resources beyond all reasonableness," Faggioni said at a news conference.

He spoke at a news conference before a debate to be held at the academy next week on politically hot issues such as the right to life and medical care.

Someone's going to have to start rationing the Pope's health care, and soon, unless the Church wants yet another opportunity to display wanton hypocrisy. John Paul II has consumed at least his share of resources. By the Associated Press's tally:

- Feb. 24, 2005: Pope undergoes successful operation to insert a tube in his throat to relieve his breathing problems, hours after he was rushed to the hospital with flu-like symptoms of fever and congestion, the Vatican says.

- Feb. 10, 2005: Pope discharged from hospital.

- Feb. 1, 2005: Pope rushed to hospital with breathing difficulties and inflamed throat while battling the flu.

- Jan. 31, 2005: Vatican announces pope has "mild" case of flu, forcing cancellation of appearances.

- Sept. 24, 2003: Pope skips weekly general audience due to an intestinal problem.

- June 15, 1999: Flu, with slight fever, keeps pope from celebrating Mass in Krakow, Poland, for 1 million people during pilgrimage.

- February 1997: Pope cancels general audience because of flu with fever.

- Oct. 8, 1996: Pope hospitalized for operation to remove an inflamed appendix.

- Aug. 15, 1996: Pope cancels general audience because of what Vatican calls an intestinal ailment accompanied by fever.

- March 13, 1996: Pope cancels Mass after Vatican says he is stricken by a similar ailment.

- Dec. 25, 1995: Overcome by fever and nausea, Pope interrupts Christmas message in St. Peter's Square and is bedridden with flu.

- April 29, 1994: Taken to hospital after breaking leg in a fall in his bathroom. Undergoes hip replacement surgery. Discharged May 27.

- Nov. 11, 1993: Dislocates right shoulder in fall down steps at Vatican audience. Undergoes operation and leaves hospital after overnight stay.

- July 15, 1992: Operation for benign tumor on colon. Leaves hospital July 28.

- June 20, 1981: Hospitalized for infection linked to injuries sustained in attempted assassination more than a month earlier. Undergoes operation Aug. 5 and is discharged Aug. 14.

- May 13, 1981: Pope shot in abdomen and hand in shooting attack by Turkish gunman in St. Peter's Square. Spends 20 days at Gemelli after undergoing surgery.

There have been other incidents of poor health as well:

September 2001:
YEREVAN, Armenia -- Pope John Paul II, looking frail and tired, broke off in the middle of a speech shortly after arriving Tuesday for a three-day visit to pay tribute to Armenia's ancient Christian church.

August 2004:
( - After accompanying Pope John Paul II (bio - news)on a weekend pilgrimage to Lourdes, Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Brussels told a Belgian daily newspaper that the Pope's health is "seriously weakened," and hinted that the trip to Lourdes may have been the last major event in the life of John Paul II.... During his visit to Lourdes, where he celebrated the feast of the Assumption, Pope John Paul showed distinct signs of physical weakness, frequently slurring his speech and at times seeming to gasp for breath.
April 2001:
Concern is growing this Easter weekend over the Pope's health. Yesterday, for the first time in over 20 years, Pope John Paul 11 sat out the traditional Good Friday carrying of the cross ceremony in the Roman Colosseum.

If you have time, you can Google numerous other references to the Pope's faltering health. My bet is that he did not go without medical attention during any of his illnesses.

I don't wish the Pope any particular harm, nor do I take pleasure in anyone's suffering, but these people are smug beyond belief (and I say that as a devout agnostic, nearly beyond all belief myself).