Baby Joseph, the infant with a terminal neurological disease who sparked an end-of-life debate, has returned home to Canada after receiving medical treatment in the U.S.
Joseph Maraachli and his family flew back to Windsor, Canada, on April 21, a month after the 15-month-old infant received a tracheotomy at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis, Mo.
Before he was treated in St. Louis, he had been hospitalized at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) in Canada, where he'd been receiving treatment since October 2010 for a progressively deteriorating neurological condition that results in reduction in brain size. He was maintained on a ventilator and a feeding tube.
After months of treatment, physicians at LHSC agreed that the infant was in a vegetative state and would not recover.
A Canadian Superior Court judge ruled that the hospital could remove Baby Joseph from the ventilator and issued a do-not-resuscitate order, but the boy's parents refused to consent, saying they wanted their son to receive a tracheotomy and be transferred home on a ventilator.
It is the hospital's policy to not perform a tracheotomy on patients who will require long-term use of a ventilator.
LHSC came under fire for its treatment decisions from groups like Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, the Christian Defense Coalition, and the New York-based Priests for Life, and Rev. Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life, went to Canada and assisted in having Baby Joseph airlifted to Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis.
According to the SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center website, Baby Joseph responded well to the tracheotomy.
"Joseph has been breathing on his own, without the aid of a mechanical ventilator, for more than a week," said Robert Wilmott, MD, chief of pediatrics at the St. Louis hospital. "By providing him with this common palliative procedure, we've given Joseph the chance to go home and be with his family after spending so much of his young life in the hospital."
Joseph will transition home with the assistance of Windsor Regional Hospital in Ontario, the hospital said.