ST. LOUIS, Missouri, March 21, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Joseph Maraachli, who had been set to have his ventilator removed against his parents’ wishes at an Ontario hospital last month, received a tracheotomy Monday morning and is doing well, says his family.
His parents, Moe Maraachli and Sana Nader, took Joseph to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in St. Louis, Missouri last Sunday after trying unsuccessfully to get him the simple procedure at his Ontario hospital, London Health Sciences Centre.
The surgery involves a slit in the throat to allow a breathing tube to be inserted into the airway. The tube allows for suction of fluid out of the lungs, creates a safe and stable way to use a mechanical ventilator, and is more comfortable for the child.
The parents have been asking for this procedure in hopes that they could take Joseph home. The Maraachli’s daughter Zina died from a similar neurological disorder eight years ago, and in that case the family took her home after doctors performed the simple procedure. They now want the same for Joseph.
In a statement today, Cardinal Glennon hospital said that Joseph 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,” said the hospital. “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.”
The statement concluded: “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.”
Joseph was airlifted to the hospital Sunday night with the help of the U.S.-based Priests for Life, who are also covering Joseph’s U.S. medical expenses and his family’s accommodations.
Dr. Paul Byrne, a fifty-year veteran in the field of neonatology based in Ohio, told LSN last month that in his opinion Joseph should have had a tracheostomy “a long time ago.” He also insisted that he has never seen a need to remove a child’s ventilator. “If a baby has a disease process that’s so bad that they’re going to die, then they die on the ventilator anyway,” he explained.
The London hospital’s decision to remove Joseph’s ventilator against his parents’ wishes was backed up in January by the Ontario Consent and Capacity Board, and again on February 17th by the Ontario Superior Court.
Superior Court Justice Helen Rady’s decision was based on doctors’ testimony that he is in a permanent vegetative state with no brain stem reflex. But the family has contested that claim, pointing to footage showing him flailing and reacting to tickling.
After the Superior Court ruling, the hospital had appeared set to remove Joseph’s ventilator on February 21st. The move was delayed, however, when the family hired an expert lawyer with the financial backing of Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. Handelman was later replaced by Claudio Martini.
Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, has warned that Ontario is creating a system where doctors are authorized to force life and death decisions on patients.
In a blog post last week, he said the case emphasizes the need to reform a legal system in the province that favors hospitals over families in cases of disagreement over care. “The law has a natural inequality that has resulted in a plethora of precedent setting cases that support the role of the doctor/hospital to make medical decisions against the wishes of the family. This needs to change,” he wrote.
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