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The Lourdes Medical Bureau is a medical organisation based in Lourdes in France. It as an official organisation within the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, but is administrated and run only by doctors. Its most celebrated function is the medical investigation of apparent cures associated with the shrine of Lourdes.The term Medical Bureau is also given to a special meeting of doctors, which may be called to investigate such claims of inexplicable healing.
History The apparitions at Lourdes took place between 11th February and 16th July 1858. After this time, reports of apparently miraculous cures began to accumulate. In 1859, Professor Henri Vergez from the Faculty of Medicine at Montpellier was appointed medical consultant to the Episcopal Commission of Inquiry, to investigate the claims. Vergez decided that seven of the cases were genuinely inexplicable, prompting calls for the Roman Catholic Church to recognise these events as miracles.In 1883 a body called the Bureau des Constatations Médicales was established by doctors affiliated to the sanctuary. This was the forerunner of the current Medical Bureau. Its first titular head was the nobleman Baron Dunot de Saint-Maclou. Ruth Harris, Lourdes: Body and Spirit in the Secular Age, Penguin Books, 1999, pp. 18, 325.In 1905, Pope Pius X decreed that claims of miraculous cures at Lourdes should "submit to a proper process", in other words, to be rigorously investigated. At his instigation, the Lourdes Medical Bureau was formed.
Current Administration The bureau is led by a single doctor. The current head is Dr. Patrick Theillier. The bureau has a modest office within the Domain (the large area of consecrated ground surrounding the shrine and owned by the Church), on the second floor of the building known as the Accueil Jean Paul II.Any doctors practising in or visiting Lourdes may apply to become members of the Lourdes Medical Bureau. Additionally, nurses, physiotherapists, pharmacists and members of other allied health professions may apply to become members. Members are given (and invited to wear) a small but distinctive badge displaying a red cross on a white background surmounted by the word Credo ("I believe"). However, members of any religious affiliation or none are welcomed.Members are requested to notify the bureau of any visits which they make to Lourdes.The Lourdes Medical Bureau publishes its own quarterly journal, Fons Vitae ("Fountain of Life") which is circulated to members. Additionally, case-reports of interest are circulated to members for perusal.
Investigation of apparent cures Approximately 35 claims per year are brought to the attention of the Lourdes Medical Bureau. Most of these are dismissed quickly. Three to five each year are investigated more thoroughly, by drawing up a Medical Bureau, comprising any doctors who were present in Lourdes at the time the apparent cure took place (this is the rationale for all members to notify the bureau of their visits to Lourdes).The Medical Bureau investigates the claim, by examining the patient, the casenotes, and any test results (which can include biopsies, X-rays, CT scans, blood test results, and so on).If this conference decides that further investigation is warranted, the case is referred to the International Lourdes Medical Committee (abbreviated in French to CMIL), which is an international panel of about twenty experts in various medical disciplines from around the world (and of different religious beliefs). CMIL meets annually. A full investigation requires that one of its members investigates every detail of the case in question, and immerses him/herself in the literature around that condition to ensure that up-to-date academic knowledge is applied to the decision. This investigator may also consult with other colleagues about the case.This information is presented at a CMIL meeting. Also present at the meeting are the head of the Lourdes Medical Bureau and the Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes (currently this is Jacques Perrier). The cured subject is not normally present.For a cure to be recognised as medically inexplicable, certain facts require to be established:
Jeanne FretelVisited Lourdes: 10th May 1948.Age 31, a student nurse from Rennes, France. Tubercular peritonitis with complications for seven years, extreme emaciation and oscillating fever. Comatose when brought to Lourdes, was given a tiny fragment of the Eucharist and awoke. Reported being "instantly and permanently cured" later that night while lying in her wheelchair beside the spring. She had not yet bathed in or drunk the water. Her cure was recognised officially on 11th November 1950.
Brother Léo SchwagerVisited Lourdes: 30th April 1952.Age 28, from Fribourg, Switzerland. Multiple sclerosis for five years. His cure was recognised on 18th December 1960.
Alice Couteault, born Alice GourdonVisited Lourdes: 15th May 1952.Age 34, from Bouille-Loretz, France. Multiple sclerosis for three years. Her cure was recognised on 16th July 1956.
Marie BigotVisited Lourdes: 8th October 1953 and 10th October 1954.Age 32, from La Richardais, France. Arachnoiditis of posterior fossa (blindness, deafness, hemiplegia). Her cure was recognised on 15th August 1956.
Ginette Nouvel, born Ginette FabreVisited Lourdes: 21 September 1954.Age 26, from Carmaux, France. Budd-Chiari syndrome (supra-hepatic venous thrombosis). Her cure was recognised on 31st May 1963.
Elisa Aloi, later Elisa VarcalliVisited Lourdes: 5 June 1958.Age 27, from Patti, Italy. Tuberculous osteoarthritis with fistulae at multiple sites in the right leg. Her cure was recognised on 26th May 1965.
Juliette TamburiniVisited Lourdes: 17 July 1959.Age 22, from Marseilles, France. Femoral osteoperiostitis with fistulae, epistaxis, for ten years. Her cure was recognised on 11th May 1965.
Vittorio MicheliVisited Lourdes: 1st June 1963.Age 23, from Scurelle, Italy. Sarcoma (cancer) of pelvis; tumour so large that his left thigh became loose from the socket, leaving his left leg limp and paralysed. After taking the waters, he was free of pain and could walk. By February 1964 the tumour was gone, the hip joint had recalcified, and he returned to a normal life. His cure was recognized on 26th May 1976.
Serge PerrinVisited Lourdes: 1st May 1970.Age 41, from Lion D'Angers, France. Recurrent right hemiplegia, with ocular lesions, due to bilateral carotid artery disorders. Symptoms, which included headache, impaired speech and vision, and partial right-side paralysis began without warning in February 1964. During the next six years he became wheelchair-confined, and nearly blind. While on pilgrimage to Lourdes in April 1970, he felt a sudden warmth from head to toe, his vision returned, and he was able to walk unaided. His cure was recognised on 17th June 1978.
Delizia Cirolli, later Delizia CostaVisited Lourdes: 24th December 1976.Age 12, from Paterno, Italy. Ewing's sarcoma of right knee. Offered amputation by her doctors, her mother refused and took her to Lourdes instead. On returning to Italy, her tumour rapidly regressed until no remaining evidence existed, although it left her tibia angulated, which required an operation (osteotomy) to correct. Her cure was recognised on 28th June 1989. She went on to become a nurse.
Jean-Pierre BélyVisited Lourdes: 9th October 1987.Age 51, French. Multiple sclerosis. His cure was recognised on 9th February 1999.
Patrick Theillier Dr. Patrick Theillier is the twelfth doctor to head the Lourdes Medical Bureau. He received his medical degree from Lille in 1964.
Medical Care of Visitors Somewhat surprisingly, the medical bureau is not responsible for the direct medical care of pilgrims and visitors to Lourdes. Legally, the position is that the general practitioners and hospital in Lourdes are responsible for the medical care of anyone visiting Lourdes.Despite this position, many pilgrim groups (especially those with large numbers of sick pilgrims) include their own doctor(s) and/or nurse(s), who take on the day-to-day medical care of their own group. Most are volunteers who give their time and services for free.The Domain includes a treatment area called the Dispensary, also in the Accueil Jean Paul II, which contains several bays for the treatment of acute problems. Although most such problems are minor (such as cuts and grazes), the Dispensary is equipped with full resuscitation facilities, airway equipment and a defibrillator. It also has a small electric ambulance.The Dispensary is open during daylight hours and is staffed by nurses.
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