The baby who in March was hours from being pulled off life support at a Canadian hospital but was rescued by a pro-life group that brought the boy to the U.S. for treatment, died Tuesday night in the comfort of his own home in Windsor, Ontario.
"Baby Joseph" died with his mother Sana Nader, father Moe Maraachli at the home, CBC News reported.
“It seemed like a relaxing breath, like he was OK. It didn’t seem like he struggled,” Nader said, according to the report. “It was God’s way of telling us his last breath was OK.”
The family of 20-month-old Joseph Maraachli, who suffered from a rare, progressive neurological disease rendering him in a vegetative state, understood his long-term prognosis was grim. But they sought a medical procedure that would, at the minimum, allow boy to die at home instead of in a hospital bed hooked up to a respirator.
But the boy took center stage in a right-to-life dispute after the Canadian hospital denied to perform the tracheotomy and reportedly recommended he be removed from life support, according to reports.
His parents appealed to Canadian courts to overturn the hospital's decision, but were denied.
Upon learning the news, Rev. Frank Pavone and other staff members at Priests for Life, the pro-life group, removed "Baby Joseph" from the Canadian hospital and delivered him to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, where doctors successfully performed the tracheotomy that enabled the boy to be moved back to his home without the need of a respirator.
Pavone said in a statement:
"I learned with sadness tonight of the passing of Baby Joseph, and extend my prayers to his family. This young boy and his parents fulfilled a special mission from God. Amidst a Culture of Death where despair leads us to dispose of the vulnerable, they upheld a Culture of Life where hope leads us to welcome and care for the vulnerable."
He continued, "From my first conversation with Baby Joseph's parents, they expressed to me their trust in God. They had no demands of Him regarding how long their son would live. They just wanted to fulfill their calling to love their child unconditionally and to protect him from those who considered his life worthless.
"I praise God tonight for the tens of thousands who stood with Priests for Life and other prolife groups to save Baby Joseph. We remain convinced that the value of life is not measured in months or years, but rather reflected in the love we share moment by moment. We all loved Joseph, because God entrusts us to the care of each other. In that conviction we will continue to counteract the culture of death and restore protection and equality to all, born and unborn."
Priests for Life covered all of the family’s medical bills while Joseph underwent treatment in the U.S. and also covered the costs of Joseph’s flight home, the Windsor Star reports.
"This is all the family ever wanted, let God decide when their child should leave this earth, not doctors our the civil courts," Brother Paul O'Donnell posted on Facebook, according to the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation's website.