Parkinson's Miracle Cure Puts John Paul on Beatification Track


2011-01-14 09:16

Medical professionals say there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but a French nun, Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre, has been deemed cured because of intercession by Pope John Paul II. This Parkinson’s miracle cure puts John Paul on track for beatification, set for May 1.

Parkinson’s disease is treatable but not curable by medicine

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, progressive motor system disorder that is the result of the loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain. Dopamine is critical for transmitting signals within the brain. As brain cells die or become impaired, patients with the disease grow increasingly unable to control their movements.

Although there are a variety of medications that can significantly improve symptoms, no drug can stop progression of the disease. For some patients, symptoms are so severe that medications do not provide enough relief, and quality of life is extremely poor. Side effects associated with the medications can also have a significant negative impact on quality of life.

Individuals with severe Parkinson’s that does not respond well to medications can turn to surgical treatments. These can include pallidotomy, in which surgeons make a lesion in an area of the brain that controls movement (globus pallidus). This procedure reportedly can reduce involuntary movements by 70 to 90 percent.

Deep brain stimulation is another option, and it involves implanting an electrode into the brain. A pulse generator implanted in the patient’s chest sends mild signals to the brain, which can help control symptoms.

A Vatican-appointed panel of doctors, theologians, and church officials declared that the French nun was cured of Parkinson’s, who said her symptoms disappeared two months after John Paul died. This declaration followed an investigation into whether Marie-Simon-Pierre’s original diagnosis had been accurate. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints announced that Vatican physicians had determined the nun’s cure had no scientific explanation.

The nun and her fellow sisters had prayed to John Paul, who also had suffered from Parkinson’s. John Paul II was suspected of having Parkinson’s disease for several years, especially after a fall in 1993 and another in 1994, after which he rarely walked in public. The Vatican confirmed the diagnosis in 2003, after keeping it secret for 12 years.

The declaration by Pope Benedict XVI that the French nun’s recovery from Parkinson’s was a miracle was the last step necessary for John Paul’s beatification. One more miracle is needed for John Paul to be made a saint.