'Baby Joseph' likely to have surgery within days, hospital says

CNN Wire Staff

Document Publication: CNN.COM

March 15, 2011

(CNN) -- A 1-year-old child whose family fought a Canadian hospital over whether he should be allowed to die will likely have an operation to allow the insertion of a breathing tube by the end of the week, his new hospital said.

Joseph Maraachli, widely known in the media as Baby Joseph, is being evaluated by doctors at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center, a Catholic hospital in St. Louis, hospital spokesman Bob Davidson said.

The hospital had planned to have a press conference on Tuesday but canceled it "because there is not yet a firm treatment plan," he said in a statement late Monday.

But the head of pediatrics at the hospital, Robert Wilmott, expects a tracheotomy to go ahead by the end of the week, the statement said.

A tracheotomy is a surgical procedure to create an opening into the airway through an incision in the neck. A 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 statement said.

Joseph, who has a deteriorating neurological condition, was transferred to Cardinal Glennon Sunday from a hospital in London, Ontario.

Joseph, who was born in January 2010, had been in the care of the London Health Sciences Centre in Canada since October. His doctor, in court papers, said that "all cranial nerve functions are now absent" and there is no hope for recovery. He recommended that the infant's breathing tube be removed and he be allowed to die.

The child's parents, Moe and Sana Maraachli, sought instead to have their son receive a tracheotomy combined with continued mechanical ventilation so that he could be transferred home, where he would be cared for by his family. The child's aunt, Samar Nadar, has said that in 2002 the Maraachlis' daughter died at home with a tracheotomy after suffering a similar condition.

In January, a Canadian Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the hospital, saying it could remove the child's breathing tube without a replacement, and issue a do-not-resuscitate order and recommendations on palliative care.

The Maraachlis fought to have their son relocated to a U.S hospital for a second opinion.

The hospital in Canada said it would not perform a tracheotomy because it is an invasive procedure typically recommended for patients who require a long-term breathing machine. In a statement on the hospital's website, it says Joseph's transfer on Sunday happened "despite the strongest possible medical advice to the contrary from medical experts."

The Maraachli case gained the attention of pro-life groups including Priests for Life and the Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network, who organized prayer vigils and rallies in support of the family.

In February, the hospital began receiving threats and increased security to protect its staff.

Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, flew to Ontario Sunday night to help with the transfer. He issued a news release saying: "After around-the-clock negotiations, this really became a race against time."

Joseph "needs to be in a hospital that cherishes life over the bottom line," he said.


Priests for Life
PO Box 236695 • Cocoa, FL 32923
Tel. 321-500-1000, Toll Free 888-735-3448 • Email: mail@priestsforlife.org