Baby Joseph Maraachli to Get Tracheotomy Soon

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 17, 2011   |   10:52AM   |   St. Louis, MO

Baby Joseph Maraachli, the 14-month-old Canadian infant who was denied the medical procedure in his country, will get a tracheotomy soon that will allow the child to live another 6 months.

Joseph was rescuedlate Sunday from the Canadian hospital by Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, who paid for a private specialized medical plane to take the boy to SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in St. Louis, Missouri so he could have the medical procedure before his parents take him home, where he will likely die soon from a degenerative neurological condition.

A team of specialists at the Catholic hospital have evaluated Joseph, who was “in serious but stable condition,” on arrival from London, Ontario Health Sciences Centre. In a statement released earlier this week, Dr. Robert Wilmott,  Cardinal Glennon Hospital’s chief of pediatrics, said Joseph “likely will have a tracheotomy performed by the end of this week to facilitate his transition to a skilled nursing facility.”

His parents want the tracheotomy done so he can die at home with his parents and family rather than at a hospital. The terminally ill child is expected to get the procedure done either today or tomorrow and Moe Maraachli, Joseph’s father, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he just wants to take his son home “and let him breathe.”

“Let me take him home and let him breathe. If he will die, he will die because he’s sick, naturally,” he said. “I fight for him because that’s my job for my son. He’s never given up, because I’ve never given up.”

Meanwhile, Moe says he plans to catalog the events of what has happened with Jospeh for a potential book that can help other parents of disabled children learn how they can fight for proper medical care and treatment for their little ones.

Pavone talked about the rationale behind helping the infant.

“We’re not saying that people should be kept alive at any cost. Nor are we saying that there’s any specific treatment plan here that we’re imposing,” Pavone said. “What we’re saying is ‘Give the baby reasonable care and listen to the parents who want to give the baby a second chance in an American hospital.”

The family of Terri Schiavo understands the plight of a patient denied medical care and Terri’s brother Bobby Schindler has been helping Joseph’s parents get him to the United States from Canada. He applauded the rescue and is glad Joseph will be receiving proper care.

“This is a great victory for Baby Joseph, his family and for all the people and organizations that were committed to helping this precious child,” he said. “I’m just delighted that a groundswell of support began once we met with the family in Canada, and thankfully, Priests for Life followed with their help. Not only is this significant for this child but for all the medically dependent whose lives are at risk of health care rationing.”

Schindler added: “Baby Joseph was hours from being pulled off life support at LHSC before his situation made national headlines, forcing the hospital to cease its efforts to end the baby’s life. Fortunately, through the advocacy of various organizations and countless people, Baby Joseph was transferred to SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in St. Louis.”

Joseph has been at London Health Sciences Centre in London, Ontario, 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.

A Superior Court judge in London, Ontario, 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. 
Joseph cannot breathe on his own since he suffers from a severe and fatal neurological disorder. His sister, Zina, suffered from a similar condition and died years ago. Note: This article has been updated to reflect that Baby Joseph will get a tracheotomy soon, not necessarily on Thursday or Friday.