Fr. Pavone said that far from being in a vegetative state, baby Joseph “moves around – he's not lying there motionless – he reacts.”
“He's a delightful boy – we always have some good laughs when we're together with him in the room.”
The priest called Joseph's parents Moe and Sana, who are Muslim and Catholic respectively, “people of great faith” who “believe in a God who not only answers prayers but is the Lord of life and death.”
“They're very, humble, grateful people,” and are “so happy that others are helping them,” he said.
Fr. Pavone also noted that the family “is very familiar” with the benefits of a tracheotomy, given their prior experience with their daughter Zina, which is “one of the reasons they've been fighting so hard” for the procedure.
He also underscored that the treatment for Joseph should not be considered “extraordinary” in regard to Church teaching on end of life issues.
“In this case, the tracheotomy – as officials have acknowledged – would extend the baby's life,” he said. “Would it cure the underlying condition? No, and the parents are not expecting that it would.”
However, in this situation the question then becomes, “is there anything that can benefit the patient?” Fr. Pavone said, citing his personal need for glasses as an example.
While his glasses are “not curing what's wrong with my vision,” he explained, they are nonetheless “benefiting me.”
The procedure for Joseph, then, involves “ordinary means – something that gives benefit to the patient without unreasonable burden,” he said.
On his interest and involvement with the case, Fr. Pavone said that since the death of Terry Schiavo – a disabled Florida woman whose feeding tube was removed in 2005 despite her family's protests – his organization has “been extra sensitive to ways in which we could advocate for families who are facing situations where medical requests are being denied.”
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“Besides the direct help that we could give the family,” Priests for Life saw Joesph's situation as “a teaching moment for our whole culture,” Fr. Pavone said.
“Cases like this are happening all the time but only certain ones become public enough to provide a platform, if you will, for reflection of the whole Church and wider society.”
“And that's what we've been doing with this case – showing people that it's not just about this one baby, it's really about us all.”
The struggle of Joseph and his family during this difficult time “provide a chance for all of us to talk and reflect about these very important issues that effect us all,” and “how we make medical decisions for ourselves and for our loved ones,” Fr. Pavone said.