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Fr. Patrick PullicinoChristian Concern

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(LifeSiteNews) – A prominent pro-life priest-physician in Britain has been cleared by his professional college of misconduct following a complaint stemming from his actions in the 2020 “RS” end-of-life case.  

On February 9, 2024, it was revealed that Fr. Patrick Pullicino, a consultant neurologist who has practiced medicine for almost 50 years, had been cleared of misconduct by the U.K.’s General Medical Council (GMC).  

Pullicino, registered in the U.K. as a doctor since 1975 and on the specialist register for Neurology since 2005, was ordained as a priest in 2019. In December 2020, he was asked by the birth family of a Polish Catholic man known to the British public only as ‘RS’ to give his medical opinion regarding RS’s condition. RS, who was lying in hospital with a disorder of consciousness, was in danger of death by dehydration and starvation, as a court order had given doctors permission to remove his artificial hydration and feeding tubes (CAHN). According to RS’s birth family, this cessation of life-sustaining treatment violated RS’s previously stated wishes and pro-life beliefs. RS’s wife disagreed. 

RELATED: Polish gov’t intervenes on behalf of its citizen in ‘vegetative state’ in UK, he’ll receive water and nutrition until Jan. 7  

Pullicino’s expert testimony about RS’s chances of improvement was dismissed by the judges in the case. Celia Kitzinger, an advocate for advance medical care planning present at the hearing, agreed with the judges that Pullicino’s actions were not in RS’s best interests. Believing that the neurologist might have deliberately misdiagnosed RS to save his life, Kitzinger made a complaint to the GMC on April 12, 2021. 

After a lengthy investigation, the GMC “decided to close the case with no action,” as the case examiners found compelling evidence for only one of Kitzinger’s allegations, the minor matter of inadequate note keeping. 

“We determined that only allegation 1(d), that Dr Pullicino failed to make full and accurate notes of his assessment of Patient RS, is likely to be capable of proof to the required standard,” they wrote. 

“However, on its own, this isolated record keeping failure is not sufficiently serious to satisfy the realistic prospect test.”  

“Nor does it approach the level of seriousness to require a formal warning. This was a single allegation of substandard record keeping, in unusual circumstances, almost three years ago. There is no suggestion of any similar concerns either before or since these events. A formal warning is not required or proportionate in these circumstances,” they concluded.  

RELATED: A man was starved to death in the hospital. The ‘official’ cause of death will surprise you  

Fr. Pullicino told LifeSiteNews via email this week that it seemed that the court had not been interested in listening to the evidence behind his prognosis of RS.  

“The judge kept saying I was not a reliable witness,” he wrote.  

“Part of this was because I had not had experience in court and was not briefed on how to answer questions. [It was] also because I had very little time to prepare a proper report.” 

“However, they didn’t listen to the hard scientific evidence I gave them about his prognosis from the literature and that he had a 50% chance of being independent at home. It appeared that they had made up their mind that the decision to remove CANH was not going to be changed.” 

Pullicino recalled that he was treated to a barrage of questions and that the courts seemed “distracted” by the fact he was a Catholic priest.  

“When my answers came up short, the judge said that he would not put credibility on me as a witness so as to discredit my testimony,” he wrote. “It seems the fact that I was a priest distracted them from my medical qualifications and experience and the literature I quoted which were actually the key part of my testimony.” 

“It was as though [they thought] I had a built-in bias as a priest.”  

Celia Kitzinger, the retired professor who made the complaint, told LifeSiteNews today that she was not, as was reported in the Times, motivated by Pullicino’s religious, pro-life beliefs. 

“I strongly reject this characterisation of my actions,” Kitzinger said by email.  

I wrote a ‘Letter of Concern’ to the GMC about Dr Pullicino’s conduct in the RS court hearings because I was concerned to hear so many judges make such very negative observations about his role as a medical witness to the court – first in the Court of Protection and then in the Court of Appeal.” 

Kitzinger, who has carried out academic work with Britain’s Coma and Disorders of Consciousness Research Centre, believes that she knew Pullicino’s credentials when she made the complaint but was concerned that he had not met the criteria for an “Expert PDOC [Permanent Disorders of Consciousness] physician.” 

“I absolutely do not believe that medical personnel who believe that life is sacred from conception until natural death should either change their beliefs or leave the profession,” she told LifeSiteNews. “That would be to deprive the medical profession of many fine doctors and other health professionals, and it would be an unconscionable threat to their freedom of belief.” 

Kitzinger also told LifeSiteNews that she would not have made the complaint without the “strong and clear” judicial criticism of Pullicino. 

In an unrelated case, Pullicino was rewarded £10,000 damages in March 2023 from an NHS trust. He had been fired from his part-time position as a mental hospital’s Catholic chaplain. Pullicino believes the trouble arose when a patient asked him about same-sex marriage and then, apparently disliking Pullicino’s guarded answer, made a complaint. In a letter to the complainant, the acting chief executive of South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust wrote that she would ensure Pullicino understood “that Trust policy on Equality and Diversity policy takes precedence over religious beliefs.”  

Regarding the RS case, Fr. Pullicino told LifeSiteNews that doctors who are faithful Christians are neither supported by the law nor by the GMC, and that both the law and medical professional bodies think that the lives of patients in “low consciousness states” are not worth living.  

It seems that the law, the professional bodies (GMC, RCP [Royal College of Physicians], BMA [British Medical Association) and NHS [National Health Service”] work in tandem in patients with low awareness states as all are convinced that their lives are not worth living,” he wrote.  

“The NHS starts these cases going to court in particular to save money.” 

Before suffering the heart attack that led to his disorder of consciousness, RS had regularly attended Mass and had made his pro-life, anti-euthanasia views known to his family. His case became a cause celebre in Poland, and the Polish government pledged to support the Polish citizen’s right to life. A Polish clinic specializing in disorders of consciousness had offered to treat him. When initial diplomatic approaches to Britain failed, the Polish government issued RS a diplomatic passport, ostensibly to take him out of the jurisdiction of the British courts.  

However, despite a flurry of activity on the part of the Polish government, there was a long delay in negotiations that proved fatal to RS. He died Tuesday, January 26, 2021. 

RELATED: English cardinal pleads for life of Pole dying of hunger, thirst in British hospital 

For more information about the RS case, please click here. 

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Editors’ note: This article previously described RS as being in a coma. However, by the time of the hearings, physicians disagreed over whether RS was in a vegetative or minimally conscious state. LifeSiteNews regrets the error.