Joseph Maraachli is dying. The one-year-old boy is currently connected to a breathing machine at a London, Ontario hospital. His doom is written in an undiagnosed neurological disorder, from which doctors say he will never recover.
The hospital has been trying to disconnect his life support for some time, while his parents make frantic efforts to keep him alive. They have requested a tracheostomy, which they say helped a previous child with a similar condition live for an extra six months, but the Canadian hospital considers the procedure “needlessly invasive.” As a Fox News report puts it, using language guaranteed to send a chill down the spines of American readers, “Canadian health care allocation officials already ruled that Joseph had to be taken off life support and allowed to die in the hospital.”
Court orders have kept him alive this far, but he appears to have exhausted his appeals. His parents started a “Save Baby Joseph” Facebook page, which has accumulated over 12,000 fans.
Neonatology experts have asserted that Joseph should have received his tracheostomy long ago. Although his doctors classify him as “vegetative,” Joseph has responded to stimulation from his parents, and his hands are restrained to keep him from pulling out his breathing tube.
Joseph’s parents tried to get an American hospital in Michigan to perform the procedure, but they “declined to accept the boy as a patient after reviewing his medical files.” The hospital in Ontario has modified its judgment slightly, and decided to transport the boy home, where it will remove his life support equipment and allow him to die.
Hospital authorities say they have been receiving a great deal of angry email and phone calls, from both Canadians and Americans, including enough threats to warrant increased security. It seems as if the best concession that will be wrung from those who have already written Joseph’s epitaph is allowing him to die at home, in the arms of his parents.
For Joseph Maraachli and his parents, compassion is measured in days and hours. Hope and life are treasures beyond price, and there is a place in the human soul that will never rest quietly when it sees them rationed on spreadsheets. This baby’s survival for longer than a few more days would be a “mistake” in the grim logic that has already calculated the date of his autopsy. How many radiant and joyous lives began with a “mistake?” Are the measures requested by his parents extravagant? Life is the extravagant denial of a universe that invests much energy in trying to prove it cannot endure.
No hour spent on the field of battle against Death is a wasted hour. No matter what happens next, the family and friends from around the world who have brought him this far can be proud of what they have accomplished. One way or the other, Baby Joseph is coming home.