In the early hours of Holy Thursday, 2011, as Churches were preparing – and in some parts of the world already celebrating – the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and the washing of the feet, “Baby Joseph” was flown from St. Louis, where he had been treated since I brought him there in mid-March, to his home in Windsor, Canada. As the Church prepared to celebrate the day when the Lord gave us the command to “love one another,” Baby Joseph’s parents and older brother were enjoying the fruit of the hard fight that their love inspired. They fought to help their baby breathe and bring him home. Canadian medical and government authorities had resisted, trying to impose their own value judgment on his life.
Now, however, he is home, and the Priests for Life Family, including tens of thousands of people who sent emails to the Canadian authorities, is delighted to have helped.
Our mission to save Baby Joseph and help his family was never based on any prediction of the future, but rather on the value of his life here and now. Our critics, on the other hand, looking into the crystal ball that ‘right to die’ advocates seem to always think they have, claimed our intervention was futile because Joseph would only end up having a machine do his breathing for him.
We don’t have to answer their criticism; Joseph is doing that for us, with every breath he takes. He has gained benefit from his tracheotomy, is breathing on his own, and is free from the need to use any tubes or machines.
Doctors have not given a time estimate as to how long they think he will live. Nobody knows. What we do know is that there are several key lessons to draw from this story:
a) Doctors do not always know best. Day by day, situations turn out better than many doctors predict. The desires of the patient and the family who seek care need to be honored.
b) Families need to fight to care for their loved ones. Moe Maraachli and his wife Sana did just that. They did not let the death of a previous child bring them to despair about this one. Rather, they fought hard for Joseph to get the care that has now helped him. Their love reminded me of the love that Terri Schiavo’s parents and siblings showed for her, a love willing to persevere despite the public spotlight and pressure that they never sought.
c) The meaning and value of life does not come from medical tribunals or courts, and it is not measured in years, months, or days. It is measured by giving and receiving love, first from God and then from each other.
d) When people band together for the cause of life, victories can be won. So many people sent emails, prayed, and are helping pay for Baby Joseph’s care (see BabyJosephCentral.com). We need to stay engaged in the pro-life cause, because there are many more victories to win.