My husband was watching the news on Al-Jazeera (I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so I was only listening). They were covering the imminent beatification of Pope John Paul II. I caught the phrase “… who died of Parkinson’s Disease”.
The statement is repeated in this article on their Web site, where it says:
He died on April 2, 2005 from his acute case of Parkinson’s.
That’s wrong. You don’t die of Parkinson’s Disease. It can severely affect your quality of life, and may sometimes contribute to a cause of death (falling, for example), but it doesn’t actually kill. Complications of the later stages of disease can cause death (respiratory problems, for instance), or (in some cases) side effects of the medication may contribute to mortality.
Al-Jazeera’s archived article about the Pope’s death in 2005 does not make this claim. Instead, they talk about his suffering from Parkinson’s but are careful to note that the Vatican’s statement “did not give a precise cause of death”. The BBC referred to his heart and kidney problems in their 2005 article. I think that that’s more likely.
Interestingly, the miracle ascribed to Pope John Paul II that permits his beatification is his alleged posthumous “cure” of French nun Sister Marie Simon-Pierre’s “Parkinson’s Disease”. My take on this is that Sister Marie Simon-Pierre was misdiagnosed and did not have Parkinson’s, but another neurological condition with similar, “Parkinsonian”, symptoms that had gone into remission for some reason. Diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease is an inexact science, or possibly an art.
Regarding the mortality of Parkinson’ patients, the following paper may be of interest:
Mov Disord. 2003 Nov;18(11):1312-6 (abstract only)