Doctors Perform Tracheotomy on “Baby Joseph”

By Dave Andrusko

February 25, 2011 -- Baby Joseph photographed with his mom, Sana Nader, at a hospital in London, Canada. (The Windsor Star, family handout)

Earlier today doctors at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in St. Louis, Missouri, performed a tracheotomy on “Baby Joseph” Maraachli, the gravely ill Canadian baby whose parents fought for months with a Canadian hospital to have the operation for their child in order that he might be taken home.

Physicians at London Health Sciences Centre in Ontario, Canadian diagnosed the child as being in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) and said a tracheotomy would be invasive and futile treatment. Their plan was to take Baby Joseph off a ventilator and feeding tube. In the culmination of a lengthy series of legal maneuvers, the parents, Moe Maraachl and Sana Nader, moved their son on March 13 with the help of lawyers and Priests for Life.

A statement issued today by the hospital discretely addressed the issues raised by London Health Sciences Centre.

“Along with extensive consultations with Joseph’s parents and the SSM Cardinal Glennon ethics committee, we concluded that a tracheotomy was medically appropriate,” the hospital said. Baby Joseph, who will be 14 months old tomorrow has Leigh syndrome, a genetic neurological disease that is progressive and has no cure; he is not in a PVS.

The statement went on to lay out what follows the insertion of a breathing tube.

“He is currently in the pediatric intensive care unit, where tracheotomy patients routinely spend 7 to 10 days following the procedure. After he is discharged from SSM Cardinal Glennon, Joseph will travel to Ranken Jordan — A pediatric specialty hospital in St. Louis before being transported to his family home in Windsor [Ontario, Canada].

“It is our hope that this procedure will allow Joseph and his family the gift of a few more months together and that Joseph may be more comfortable with a permanent tracheotomy. As with any of the children we help, our primary focus must remain on the patient and what is best in his or her individual circumstances. We ask that you keep Baby Joseph and his family in your prayers.”

Baby Josephs was born on January 22, 2010, and initially developed normally.

“By May, the baby started having seizures,” the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported. “He was treated at Michigan Children’s Hospital where a brain scan showed the degeneration of cells. The baby had severe difficulty swallowing, and a feeding tube was inserted. In October, Joseph was taken to the Canadian hospital after he stopped breathing. He then was placed on a ventilator.”

Attempts to wean him off the ventilator were unsuccessful.

The parents resisted the Canadian doctors’ recommendation to take their son off and the dispute was taken to Ontario’s Consent and Capacity board.

According to Court papers, the doctor treating Baby Joseph said “all cranial nerve functions were absent and he has no hope for recovery.” The board concluded that the ‘removal of the endotracheal tube without replacement, a Do Not Resuscitate order and palliative care’ was in the baby’s “best interests.” The parents appealed.

And on February 17, Ontario Superior Court Justice Helen Rady backed the doctors’ decision.  

Mr. Maraachli was joined in the March 13 flight to St. Louis by Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life.  “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,’” Fr. Pavone said.

The parents say they want the tracheotomy done so Baby Joseph can die at home with his family.  Their baby daughter, Zina, had a similar condition eight years ago. In that instance doctors did perform a tracheotomy. Zina lived for six months after the family took her home, according to the child’s aunt.

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