A few months ago (3/14/11) I wrote a blog about a baby in Canada with severe neurological issues. The doctors in Ontario had decided to take little Joseph Maraachli off of life support, having concluded that there was no hope of his recovery. In their eyes, his condition was terminal.
Baby Joseph’s parents had already had one son die of this same disease. In his case, they had been able to bring him home from the hospital, where he lived months longer than the doctors had predicted. They had been able to spend precious time with him before he died peacefully at home. Now, they wanted the same for Joseph.
Joseph’s parents asked the medical team at the hospital to give their baby a tracheostomy so that they could bring him home. This is not usually considered a radical or dangerous procedure; it had been done with their first child and been very successful. However, the hospital refused. They held firmly to their decision that Baby Joseph must be taken off life support and allowed to die.
The parents, beside themselves with grief, fought for their son. They took the case to court. However, finally the Ontario Superior Court rejected their plea to take their baby home to die. The hospital immediately scheduled the removal of life support. The father, Moe Maraachli, went public with his plea for the life of his little boy.
Pro-life and anti-euthanasia forces stepped in to help. Priests for Life, along with a professional legal team, were finally able to secure Joseph’s release from the Canadian hospital and fly him to St. Louis. There the Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center did the tracheostomy, and the baby went home with his parents.
And now the rest of the story: under the loving care of his mother and father, Joseph was able to breathe on his own, without any assistance, something the doctors said would never happen. He lived for several more months. Sadly, he died on Tuesday, September 27. However, instead of gasping for his final breath in a hospital room, the little boy died peacefully at home, surrounded by his loving family.
More importantly, Joseph died in God’s timing, not that of a medical team or of the courts. His life was treated with the respect and love which should be given to all people, regardless of their mental or physical condition. It is not up to us to place a value on any person’s life. Worth is given by God, and He creates everyone with a unique purpose for their existence.
This story stands out in strong contrast to a world which casually disposes everyday of lives deemed not worthy. As Father Pavone, from Priests for Life, so aptly put it, “Amidst a Culture of Death where despair leads us to dispose of the vulnerable, they (Joseph’s parents) upheld a Culture of Life where hope leads us to welcome and care for the vulnerable.” He goes on to say about the Canadian medical community: “What we refused to accept, however, was the arrogance of the medical and legal professionals who presumed to judge the value of his life, and to say he wasn’t worth treating.”
No one, not even his parents, ever denied that Joseph’s condition was probably fatal. However, the doctors had declared that he was in a “terminal vegetative state” and would never breathe on his own. I really hate that term. People are not vegetables, no matter what their condition. We are conceived with intrinsic worth and nothing can change that, not even if it seems our minds are gone.
In this age where the value of unborn children is decided upon whether they are wanted, in which we continue to improve our ability to seek and destroy the handicapped in the womb, and where the elderly are increasingly under-treated and abused, this is a refreshing story. Courageous parents stood up to the Canadian physicians and courts and gave their little boy the love and respect that he deserved.
Sadly, this is just one small victory in the midst of a fierce war being waged over the lives of the most vulnerable among us. There are forces of death that would increase abortion and euthanasia around the world; that would install medical panels to make judgments on the worthiness of individuals to receive life-saving treatments; that would seek out and destroy those babies with Down’s Syndrome or other “less than perfect” conditions.
We have to be prepared for the long battle ahead. The Bible tells me that things will only get worse as the end approaches and Christ returns. However, we are encouraged to strongly and bravely run the race set out before us. We will all give an account one day for what we did to rescue those being led away to slaughter. What will you be able to say?
Keeping it true! Barb