Doctor Who Analyzes Reported Miracles at Lourdes

Interview With Patrick Theillier, Director of Shrine’s Medical Office

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LOURDES, France, AUG. 22, 2004 ( When patients attribute their seemingly miraculous cures to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Dr. Patrick Theillier steps in.

Theillier has the task of examining such claims of miraculous cures. The physician, a father of six and grandfather of 13, spoke of his work in this interview, published amid the media coverage of John Paul II’s recent visit to the shrine.

Q: What does your work entail?

Theillier: As director of the Lourdes Medical Office, I am the only permanent doctor at the shrine. I am responsible for health care during the time of pilgrimages. I am also responsible for receiving the doctors who come here and for facilitating their work. Together with them, we ensure health care and recommend patients to the hospital’s emergency services.

I am also president of the Lourdes International Medical Association, made up of patients, doctors and health care professionals. Dentists, pharmacists, etc., come to register in this association. Its participants carry out a comparative study of cases of healing, without considering people’s beliefs.

Q: What do you do with those you think have experienced a miracle?

Theillier: I have an unusual role for a doctor, as I look after persons who have been cured.

I have been entrusted by the bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes with examining people who think they have benefited from the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Obviously, I don’t analyze miracles attributed to the intercession of other saints, which are examined in Rome. Lourdes is the only place, outside of the Vatican, with a medical office in which inexplicable cures are examined.

It is not indispensable to have come on pilgrimage [to the shrine]: Of the 66 cases of recognized miraculous cures, three have never been to Lourdes, but prayed to Our Lady of Lourdes. In the case of half of those who have experienced a miracle, Lourdes water has played a part in their cure.

Q: How do you verify a miracle?

Theillier: The Lourdes International Medical Committee [CMIL], a consultation committee made up of some 20 permanent members, doctors from hospitals all over Europe, meets once a year to examine the more serious dossiers.

Of some 50 cases reported every year, about five are studying at length. The members of CMIL do the work of experts, which consists of analyzing the information contained in the dossiers.

The scientific aspect must be distinguished from the spiritual. The cure must exceed the known laws of the illness’ evolution, and the person who has experienced the miracle must also recognize the spiritual meaning of the event.

For the cure to be recognized as a miracle, it must fulfill seven criteria. It is necessary to verify the illness, which must be serious, with an irrevocable prognosis. The illness must be organic or caused by injuries. There must be no treatment at the root of the cure. The latter must be sudden and instantaneous.

Finally, the renewal of functions must be total and lasting, without convalescence.

For this reason, the recognition of a miracle takes several years. Once we have recognized it, the cure is published by the bishop of the diocese where the person resides who experienced the miracle.

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