Doctors who performed a recent procedure on a terminally ill 13 month-old expressed hope that the treatment will provide the baby's family with the “gift of a few more months together.”
On March 21, physicians at the SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis, Missouri – where baby Joseph Maraachli was recently transferred – successfully performed a tracheotomy on the infant after doctors in a Canadian hospital refused to perform the procedure.
The London Health Sciences Centre in Ontario said that the treatment– which would allow for the baby to breath on his own – was reserved for patients who needed a breathing machine long term.
Baby Joseph, who suffers from a severe and fatal neurological disorder called Leigh Syndrome, was considered to be in a vegetative state by Canadian doctors, who recommended that he have his feeding and breathing tubes removed.
However, physicians at the Catholic St. Louis hospital said in a March 21 statement that after “a thorough examination by a multi-disciplinary medical team of specialists,” and “extensive consultations” with Joseph’s parents and the hospital ethics committee, “we concluded that a tracheotomy was medically appropriate.”
St. Louis doctors said the infant “is currently in the pediatric intensive care unit, where tracheotomy patients routinely spend 7 to 10 days following the procedure.”
The hospital said that after he is discharged from SSM Cardinal Glennon, baby Joseph will moved to Ranken Jordan – a Pediatric Specialty Hospital in St. Louis – before being transported to his family home in Canada.
Fr. Frank Pavone, who heads the New York-based Priests for Life, told CNA on March 14 it was a “victory for the family” that baby Joseph was moved from the Ontario medical center to the Catholic hospital in Missouri.
Joseph's parents – Moe and Sana Maraachli – had asked Priests for Life for help after doctors in Canada refused to transfer the child to a facility that could perform a tracheotomy on him.
Fr. Pavone said that the treatment is considered by many doctors as a “standard procedure for Joseph's condition.”
“We and the family felt that they were making a value judgment on his life,” Fr. Pavone said. “It's one thing to say a treatment is worthless – it's another thing to say a life is worthless.”
The baby had been at the Ontario facility since October of last year. His sister, Zina, passed away from a similar condition years ago.
At the hospital in Canada, Joseph's parents “felt trapped in the situation they were in,” Fr. Pavone said.
In response to their pleas for assistance, Priests for Life raised $150,000 to transfer the baby to the St. Louis hospital and to pay for the tracheotomy and subsequent medical tests.
“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 St. Louis hospital's statement added.
Fr. Pavone said in a March 21 statement that “Baby Joseph received today a wonderful benefit, through the love of his parents and the professional care of the Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center.”