Canadian Boy Won’t Lose Life Support, May Head to US for Care

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 21, 2011   |   1:09PM   |   Washington, DC

A Canadian boy will not lose his life support today and his parents may be able to take him to a hospital in the United States to provide appropriate medical care after a Canadian hospital sought and won a court order to remove his life support.

A Superior Court judge in London, Ontario, last week, dismissed the request of a Canadian couple to overturn a decision requiring the removal of their baby’s feeding tube in a hospital instead of at home.

Joseph Maraachli, a one-year-old boy from Windsor, Ontario, has been at Victoria Hospital in London since October with a rare deteriorating condition that is not improving. The doctors who have cared for him want to remove his breathing tube but Moe Maraachli and Sana Nader took their battle to court to allow the tube to be removed at home , so the boy can die surrounded by his family.

Alex Schadenberg, the director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, told in an email late Sunday that his group was able to help the couple find a new attorney and make progress.

“Baby Joseph Maraachli was court ordered to be withdrawn from the ventilator at Victoria Hospital,” he said. “After hiring a new lawyer, Baby Joseph will not die.”

“The family, with the help of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, hired a competent lawyer who has been incredibly successful negotiating with the hospital,” the anti-euthanasia activist continued. “This is what has been accomplished. The ventilator will not be withdrawn from Baby Joseph on Monday and negotiations are under way with a hospital in Michigan to transfer Baby Joseph.”

“Baby Joseph has a terminal condition. His parents experienced a similar tragic situation with their first child (a daughter) who died more than eight years ago. At that time the doctors gave their daughter a tracheotomy, that enabled the Maraachli family to bring their daughter home and care for her. She lived six more months and in the end she died naturally in the loving arms of her parents,” Schadenberg explained.

“The Maraachli family asked Victoria hospital that the same be done for Joseph,” he said. “Victoria hospital refused and instead brought the family to the Consent and Capacity board to have the ventilator withdrawn. The Consent and Capacity board sided with the hospital. The family challenged that decision to the Ontario Superior Court who, on Thursday, sided with the Consent and Capacity board and decided that the ventilator would be withdrawn on Monday.”

Schadenberg says the couple is facing significant legal costs and donations to the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition will go to supporting them.

The Consent and Capacity Board of Ontario, an independent agency that is devoted to dealing with Health Care Consent Act, ruled on January 26 in favor of the doctors. Last week, Justice Helen Rady said she agreed with the board’s decision in a ruling that came just an hour after attorneys for both sides made their case in court, according to the Windsor Star newspaper.

As a result, doctors were to remove Joseph’s breathing tube on Monday morning.

“I do my best for my baby. My son is not a criminal . . . to just let him die,” Moe Maraachli said after the decision, according to the newspaper. “They are taking my baby away from me.” [related]

Maraachli said he didn’t know how he would break the news to his wife, who was so emotionally distraught she was unable to sit through the hearing. He also did not know how he would explain the decision the couples other child, who is seven years old.

Matthew Archbold of the Catholic blog Creative Minority Report responded to the decision last week saying, “I can’t even imagine what these parents are going through. These people want a tracheotomy done so they can care for the child at home but the hospital’s saying the surgery is too risky so instead they’ll just remove life support and let him die. So…what happens if the tracheotomy fails? He might die. So to avoid the possibility of death the hospital is going to ensure death.”