Hospital to Release Baby Joseph . . . but Without Tracheostomy

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

The saga of baby Joseph Maraachli took another sad turn yesterday when the hospital where he is being treated said they are willing to release the boy to his parents, but without the tracheostomy that will allow him to breathe until he dies naturally. is reporting that London Health Sciences Centre in London, Ontario released a statement yesterday saying they are willing to release the child to his parents’ custody, but without the tracheostomy he would need in order to allow him to breathe. If Joseph does not have this procedure, he will die within minutes of being removed from the ventilator.

“The LHSC position is consistent with the treatment plan approved by Ontario’s Consent and Capacity Board as being in the best interests of Baby Joseph,” the statement says. “It involves transferring him home, on a breathing machine, and then placing him in the arms of his family before withdrawing the machine.”

They go on to say that a tracheostomy will not be performed because it is not a palliative procedure.

“It is an invasive procedure in which a device is installed in a hole cut in the throat. It is frequently indicated for patients who require a long-term breathing machine. This is not, unfortunately, the case with Baby Joseph, because he has a progressive neurodegenerative disease that is fatal.”

Dr. Paul Byrne, a pioneer in the field of neonatology and former president of the Catholic Medical Assocation, told that performing the tracheostomy could allow Joseph to continue to live. 

“If the baby is stable otherwise, and has a tracheostomy, then the baby can be taken care of at home,” Dr. Byrne said.

Joseph had a sister who died of the same disorder eight years ago. She was permitted to come home with a tracheostomy and lived for another six months.

Dr. Byrne called the attempt to have the state remove Joseph’s ventilator “terrible, absolutely terrible,” and said that in his fifty years in neonatology he’s never removed a child’s ventilator. 

“I’ve never seen a time to turn off a ventilator,” he said.  “If a baby has a disease process that’s so bad that they’re going to die, then they die on the ventilator anyway.  So you don’t have to stop the ventilator.”

He also criticized the common phrase “life support,” saying, “Life is either there or it’s not there. You don’t have to hold up the life.  What we do in medicine are actions … that support the vital activity of respiration.”

“Assuming doctors can do something to support the vital activities, we ought to do them,” he explained.  “And a tracheostomy ought to be done, and the baby ought to continue on the ventilator.”

Even Joseph’s doctor in London has admitted that the tracheostomy could prolong his life.  “A tracheotomy would likely provide for a longer period of life, however, in our view would not result in improvement of well-being and could reduce quality of life,” Dr. Douglas Fraser told the Ontario Consent and Capacity Board in January.

The plight of Baby Joseph continues to draw thousands to his Facebook page and has attracted pro-life activists such as Bobby Schindler, brother of euthanasia victim Terri Schiavo. Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, has pledged to pay for Joseph to be transferred to any hospital in the U.S. that is willing to take the case. 

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