U.S. Hospital Rejects Baby Joseph, Family Not Giving Up Hope

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 24, 2011   |   1:01PM   |   London, Ontario

Children’s Hospital of Michigan has told the parents of 13-month-old Joseph Maraachli it will not accept the transfer of the infant whose parents are fighting a hospital that wants to remove his breathing tube.

Baby Joseph has been at Victoria Hospital in London, Ontario, in 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. 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.

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.

The couple’s lawyer, Mark Handelman, had hoped to be able to get Children’s Hospital of Michigan to accept a transfer, but the hospital decided against it. Handelman previously said the coupled hoped the Michigan hospital would provide “a second, completely independent medical opinion.”

Responding to the news, Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, which has provided the family with financial and legal support, told the Windsor Star newspaper, “it is not over yet” and he says the family is looking for other hospitals who may be willing to take baby Joseph.

Though he said the decision is “a big disappointment,” “everything is moving along and we’re hoping for the best.”

However, London Health Sciences Centre has contacted the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee, which can make a decision in a case like this and allow the hospital to remove the breathing tube against Joseph’s parents’ wishes. There’s no timetable for when a such a request could be approved.

“We don’t know how much time we have,” Schadenberg said told the newspaper.

Now, Joseph’s parents have called a media conference at 4:00 p.m. local time to discuss the recent developments pertaining to their son.

“There will also be a group of concerned American groups, including the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation, who are on a fact-finding mission,” a media statement said.

Suzanne Vitadamo, Terri’s sister and one of the family members who helps run the foundation, told LifeNews.com this afternoon that the Schindler Family strongly supports Baby Joseph’s parents.

“The Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network stands with the family of Baby Joseph Maraachli,” she said. “It is unacceptable for Canadian Health Allocation Officials and/or the Canadian government to make decisions for baby Joseph and his family. Every patient, regardless of age, has a right to proper and dignified health care. It is frightening to once again see government usurp the God given rights of parents to love and care for their child at home.”

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 couple’s 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.”