By Dave Andrusko
“Baby Joseph” Maraachli, the 20-month-old little boy who was at the center of a ferocious legal and medical battle, died at his home yesterday afternoon in Windsor, Canada. Brother Paul O’Donnell who was close to the parents, Joseph Maraachli and Sana Nader, said, “What they wanted was to let their baby die peacefully and naturally when God decides and not have that imposed by the hospital or the courts.”
And that was the heart of a tremendous struggle between the family and much of the medical and legal establishment in Canada.
The question was never whether Joseph would live a long life. He suffered from a rare neurological disorder that had already claimed the life of an older sibling. The issue was whether Joseph, who was placed on a ventilator last October, would get a tracheotomy so he might be able to breathe without a ventilator and go home to spend whatever time he had left with his family.
Doctors at London Health Sciences Centre adamantly refused, insisting the operation was futile. They argued Joseph was in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) and not only did not want to perform the tracheotomy but wanted to remove the breathing tube that kept him alive.
The parents took the case to Ontario’s Consent and Capacity board. In January it sided with the doctors as did a judge the following month. Eventually, thanks in part to American pro-lifers such as Brother O’Donnell and Fr. Frank Pavone, founder of Priests for Life, Joseph was flown to Cardinal Glennon Hospital in St. Louis.
Doctors there concluded Joseph was not in a PVS but had a “disorder of consciousness.” They agreed to perform the surgery, connecting him to a portable ventilator so he could leave the hospital. Within three weeks of having the surgery to open his airway, Joseph was weaned from a ventilator.
“We want to thank God and everyone else for the support. I don’t think he would have made it that long if there [weren’t] those prayers from all over the world,” Maraachli’s aunt Faith Nader told Canada’s CBC News. She told the newspaper that during the last two days Joseph was having a hard time breathing. He passed away a little after 5:00.
“It seemed like a relaxing breath, like he was OK.,” Nader said. “It was God’s way of telling us his last breath was OK.”
“I’ve seen him the last six [to] seven months being surrounded by love, being cared for at his home,” Brother O’Donnell said in an interview with CBC News. “ We’ll never know on this earth how much it meant for that child, but I can tell you this, it meant the world to the parents to be able to love their child as long as that child was here on earth.”
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