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German Catholic school in rectal pill rights row

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Photo: Alcibiades/Wikipedia
16:11 CEST+02:00
A German Catholic boys' school is fighting for the right to give its pupils suppositories, in the face of a city council report on the use of rectally-administered medication.

The Collegium Josephinum (CoJoBo) in Bonn, a private school for around 1,200 boys, is struggling to maintain its reputation for excellence. One of the teachers, who was also a priest, was recently suspended pending an investigation into allegations that he sexually abused two of its pupils.

The investigation threw a spotlight on the school's medical service. For decades, the school followed the practice, common in Germany, of giving children painkiller suppositories for a variety of non-specific ailments – migraines, stomach aches, sprained joints.

"They were only ever administered in acute cases, only in the medical office, and only in the presence of a third party," school director Peter Billig told Monday’s Der Spiegel magazine.

He said there was little alternative. "Injections can only be given by doctors, and tablets take significantly longer to take effect,” he said.

But that did not stop Bonn city council from commissioning a report into when suppositories can or should be given to children or young people. Its result was somewhat embarrassing for the CoJoBo school.

"An emergency administration of a suppository for children older than toddler age is, from a medical point-of-view, a contradiction in terms," criticised Dominique Singer, of the Hamburg-Eppendorf University hospital, who helped write the report.

"Either it is a real... emergency, in which case suppositories are not effective enough, or the suppositories have a certain effect alleviating symptoms, in which case it is not an emergency."

Singer went on to say that administering suppositories was highly unusual after a certain age. She also criticised in-school medical services generally, because they offer a false sense of security and could delay the proper diagnosis of serious illnesses.

But another independent report, conducted by Cologne educational sociologist Michaela Schumacher, said that the CoJoBo school had always made "responsible use of this unusual medication," and that there had been no "sexual association" in its administration.

Jürgen L., the priest responsible for medical care at the school, told the magazine that rectal medication had only been administered once since 2010, and that was with parental consent. He underlined that it was only ever used in emergency situations.

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The city council is now calling for another independent inquiry into the concrete allegations against the school, and an investigation into its medical care facilities.

The Local/bk

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