Warning: This post was published more than 12 years ago.
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The Pope has had a tracheostomy, which suggests his condition is rather more serious than I had previously anticipated. Given his already weak condition, and the severely detrimental effect this will have on his ability to talk properly, can he really continue as Pontiff? If, of course, he recovers and survives, which is now looking less likely than it did a few weeks ago.
This may have been reported as ‘minor’ surgery, but it’s worth noting that it has a 5% risk of death and will leave the Pope with permanent speech difficulties (to add to the considerable difficulty he already has), so it’s being rather more downplayed than is the reality. The fact that he’s had one at all suggests that he’s in a bad way, and the next few days will most likely be fairly touch-and-go.
As something of a side-note: Why the media are insisting on reporting the operation using the relatively uncommon spelling tracheotomy as opposed to the widely used term tracheostomy (they mean exactly the same thing, but the latter is easier to say), I’m not entirely sure. But given that the term is somewhat widespread, I guess it’s something to do with the original press release. But you really think one of the outlet’s science correspondents would have commented by now.