Windsor

Baby Joseph's family no longer has Toronto lawyer

The Toronto lawyer who was helping the Windsor, Ont., parents of a terminally ill baby is no longer representing them, a family spokesperson said Tuesday.

The Toronto lawyer who was helping the Windsor, Ont., parents of a terminally ill baby is no longer representing them, a family spokesperson said Tuesday.

Mark Handelman, who is experienced with end-of-life issues, had been negotiating with the London Health Sciences Centre on how best to handle Joseph Maraachli's case.

The 13-month-old has a fatal neurological disorder. His family wanted him to have a tracheotomy so he could be freed from his breathing tube and brought home to die. 

The hospital issued a statement Monday saying it is willing to pay to transfer Joseph home on a breathing machine but not to do the tracheotomy. At home, the baby would be placed in the arms of his family before the machine was withdrawn.

The hospital maintains a tracheotomy is an invasive procedure for patients who require a long-term breathing machine, and a judge has agreed. The parents have said they want the procedure done so they can spend more time with their child.

Alex Schadenberg, the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition who has been acting as a spokesperson for the Maraachli family, recommended Handelman to the parents and was helping them raise money to fight the case. However, he wasn't involved in the two parties parting ways.

"We did not in any way have a problem with the work that Mr. Handelman has done … this decision has come for whatever reason," Schadenberg said.

"The reality is that we continue to support the position of the family. They want to bring their child home so the child can die in their care."

Handelman reportedly told The Free Press, a daily newspaper in London, that Joseph's parents haven't shared their plans with him or told him where media requests should be directed.

The lawyer did not say why he was no longer retained by Joseph's parents but the paper suggested it may have something to do with the outstanding issue of whether to appeal a Feb. 17 decision by a London judge that paved the way for doctors to remove Baby Joseph from life support.

The boy is in a vegetative state, according to doctors, and has been in the care of the London Health Sciences Centre since October.

The family had wanted Baby Joseph transferred to the Children's Hospital of Michigan, but a spokesperson there said, "There is nothing [the hospital] has to offer Joseph that has not already been done for him in Ontario." 

A spokesperson for Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children said a tracheotomy and ventilation would be "futile" for Baby Joseph.