Canadian Hospital May Still Remove Baby Joseph’s Life Support

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 22, 2011   |   5:24PM   |   Windsor, Canada

A Canadian hospital is still threatening to remove the life support for Baby Joseph Maraachli, a one-year-old boy from Windsor, Ontario, who has been at Victoria Hospital in London since October with a rare deteriorating condition that is not improving.

This comes after good news where the parents of the child thought the hospital would not remove the life support and where they hoped he would be able to be taken to a hospital in Michigan that would provide appropriate care and treatment.

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

Then, 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.

Now, the hospital is threatening to remove Joseph’s life support and the Office of the Public Guardian may be getting involved in the case and could issue a decision forcing the removal of the life support as early as today, according to the CBC. The office could not get involved in the case on Monday because of an official holiday, and it was closed.

The CBC indicates the potential transfer to Children’s Hospital of Michigan is in the works. Victoria Hospital sent Joseph’s records to the hospital on Monday and the family’s lawyer, Mark Handelman, said he is doing everything he can to get Joseph transferred. The transfer has not been approved and Laurie Gould, a spokesperson for London Health Sciences Centre, confirmed to the CBC that no official request has been received from the hospital for one.

Schadenberg described the case in comments over the weekend: “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.”

“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 the 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 to the couples other child, who is seven years old.

The baby’s parents want a tracheotomy performed on their son so they can take him off the respirator and bring him home to live his last days surrounded by family. The London hospital has refused to perform the procedure.

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.”