Giving Little Joseph Maraachli a Fighting Chance

The family of a 13-month-old Canadian boy on life support has defied a court order to remove the boy’s breathing tube and now is looking to an American hospital for help.

Joseph Maraachli has been in a vegetative state at a hospital in London, Ontario, since last fall suffering from a neurodegenerative disease that his doctors believe is hopeless. But when a Superior Court judge ordered the removal of the boy’s breathing tube on Monday, his parents refused, insisting he be released to his family’s care to die peacefully at home.

And you know what? I would have done the same thing.

Right now, little Joseph Maraachli’s breathing tube is helping to keep his airway open and clear of secretions caused by his neurological and respiratory problems. It is literally breathing life into him each day.

The Maraachlis asked doctors at the hospital to perform a tracheotomy that would open up a direct airway in the trachea and allow them to bring their baby home to spend his final days with his family – but the hospital refused, and now they are hoping to keep the breathing tube in place until Joseph can be transferred to the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, as they have agreed to review his case.

Reminiscent of the Terri Schiavo case, this story has stirred up a controversial debate as many people theorize what would they do if they were in this poor family’s shoes.

As a medical professional, I understand that an assessment of his illness shows no known cure. But as a father — and a human being — I would fight until my last breath to give my son a fighting chance. Hell, I would give my son my last breath if it meant he could breath one more moment of life.

There’s no evidence to support the notion that miracles don’t happen. In fact, it’s quite the contrary, with extraordinary medical feats happening all the time. There have been many instances in modern medicine where cures come at the last second, just when we think we have exhausted all of our resources. And there’s nothing wrong with getting a second, third, fourth or fifth opinion when it comes to the life of a loved one – especially a child.

I remember when I was a single doctor without children and a family. As an OB/GYN, dealing with life and death matters every day, I would always focus on the facts.

I was often devoid of emotion, but that’s not the reality of life, and as much as doctors have to try and develop a thick skin for our own self-preservation, shutting off your emotions when it comes to your patients, is not a reality of medicine either.

When I became a father, I began to see life with more purpose. I began to see how that love that I have for them is such that I would do anything to keep them safe.

I understand there are medical conditions that have no cure, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that patients may not understand that or may not accept that as the final word. It’s always right to tell parents that they should seek a second, third and fourth opinion before you give up all hope and advise they pull the plug.

I’m not trying to say that these doctors in Canada are wrong for coming to the conclusion that they could not cure little Joseph. But I hope that they’ll remember, when it comes to the life of a child, parents know no limits, and we must offer options for closure and comfort, and perhaps maybe even a miracle.

So I will join the prayers to save baby Joseph and if the end does come, at least we know he had a fighting chance.