Baby Joseph transferred to U.S.

The family of Joseph Maraachli, the terminally ill baby at the centre of a right-to-life controversy, is still in shock that he was able to be airlifted to a U.S. facility for treatment.

Maraachli family wants St. Louis doctors to review terminally ill baby's case

Moe Maraachli, father of one-year-old Joseph, and Rev. Frank Pavone from Priests for Life were at the baby's bedside after he was transferred to Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Centre in St. Louis. (Courtesy: Priests for Life)

The family of Joseph Maraachli, the terminally ill baby at the centre of a right-to-life controversy, is still in shock that he was able to be airlifted to a U.S. facility for treatment.

Joseph was transferred from a London, Ont., hospital to a children's medical centre in Missouri for "a second opinion," said the boy's aunt, Faith Nader, on Monday.

"They are a religious hospital," said Nader. "They have the right to life. They agree that people should stay alive and get better and get out of hospital. That's the whole point."

"They wouldn't dare to hurt him, so we don't mind. Whatever happens, whatever they think is right is what we're going to do," she said.

Claudio Martini, the third lawyer for the Windsor, Ont., family since the ordeal started last October, told CBC Windsor's Early Shift that one-year-old Joseph was transferred safely to faith-based Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Centre in St. Louis, Mo., late Sunday evening.

"This institution was willing to accept Joseph into its care. As you can imagine, because of the attention this case has garnered, a lot of institutions just, you know, didn't want to be involved," said Martini. "[The hospital] has excellent physicians and that's why he is there."

Martini,  said Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Centre will review Joseph's entire case.

"It's a tragic situation and it's a situation we don't wish on any parent," he said. "The parents wanted the right to a second opinion. The parents did not want to [remove his breathing tube], and at that point baby Joseph unfortunately would have passed."

Bob Davidson, a spokesman for the Missouri hospital, said the doctors would be examining Joseph and forming a plan of treatment for him. CGCMC was expecting to hold a news conference Tuesday morning to announce the plan.

Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Centre was planning a news conference for Tuesday to discuss baby Joseph's treatment plan. (Courtesy: Priests for Life)
"We'll do everything with the best interest of the child and the family's wishes at heart," said Davidson.

It is not clear whether that treatment plan includes giving Joseph a tracheotomy, which the family says would allow Joseph to come home without a breathing tube. The baby has a severe neurological disorder that his London doctors have said is fatal.

London Health Sciences Centre in southwestern Ontario has refused to perform the procedure, calling it medically unnecessary, so the family has taken up legal action against the hospital, which is alleging it has received threats because of the situation.

"The family sees baby Joseph as reacting to touch and reacting to sound. The hospital disagrees," Martini said. 

Joseph breathes with the help of a machine and receives nourishment through a feeding tube in his abdominal wall, according to LHSC.

London hospital defends decision

The Maraachlis lost a provincial court battle last month, but still refused to consent to removing Joseph's breathing tube. Since then, American right-to-life groups have taken up the cause.

The New York group Priests for Life is footing Joseph's entire U.S. medical bill, family accommodations, and costs for the medically supervised private flight from London to Missouri.

Joseph's father, Moe Maraachli, accompanied his son to Missouri along with Rev. Frank Pavone, the national director of Priests for Life.

Pavone said getting Joseph into the Missouri hospital was a race against time.

London Health Sciences Centre issued a statement on Sunday defending its care decisions for Joseph Maraachli. (Courtesy: Priests for Life)
"He needs to be in a hospital that cherishes life over the bottom line," Pavone told CBC News on Monday. "Now that we have won the battle against the medical bureaucracy in Canada, the real work of saving baby Joseph can begin."

In a statement released late Sunday, the hospital said the infant was flown to the U.S. against its medical advice.

"As one of Canada's top teaching and medical research health-care centres, LHSC physicians make their medical judgments in the best interests of every patient, based on experience, fact and scientific evidence. LHSC continues to be proud to stand behind their judgments and the care given to Baby Joseph," said the release.

"This is a very difficult time for the Maraachli family and our thoughts are with them. We also appreciate the concern expressed for baby Joseph by members of our community," says LHSC CEO, Bonnie Adamson.

LHSC said physicians and staff have been targeted by "well-organized social media feeds and directly via email with personal threats, threats to their families, innuendoes and falsehoods."

The hospital said many of the threats came from members of "U.S.-based  groups".

When asked about threats to the London hospital, Martini said he was not aware of any since he started on the case one week ago.