A few weeks ago, I wrote about the tragic life and impending death of Joseph Maraachli, a 13-month-old baby with a severe, undiagnosed neurological disorder that has condemned him to life on a breathing machine. Although he is described as “vegetative” in most news reports, he does respond to external stimulation.
Canadian health care allocation officials decided this was not a life worth living, and condemned him to death. His desperate parents appealed to an American hospital in Michigan for help, but they denied the request. The best Baby Joseph’s parents could do was win permission for him to be brought home from the hospital before his life support was disconnected.
Baby Joseph has just arrived in the United States, at the SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in St. Louis, cradled in the arms of Father Frank Pavone of Priests For Life. The organization, which describes itself as a “a family of ministries that reach and enrich every aspect of the pro-life movement,” won a “race against the clock” to bring Baby Joseph to a facility that would help him continue his struggle to survive.
“I knew, after this dragged on day after day, that I needed to be here myself to get Baby Joseph to safety,” Father Pavone said in a statement. “He needs to be in a hospital that cherishes life over the bottom line.” Priests For Life paid for an air ambulance to transport the boy from the Children’s Hospital in London, Ontario, after winning what Father Pavone describes as a “battle against the medical bureaucracy in Canada.”
Priests For Life has been strongly critical of the Canadian system’s treatment of Baby Joseph. Father Pavone, who was also deeply involved in the battle over Terri Schiavo in 2005, previously called it “beyond imagination” that the baby’s parents would have to wage war against the bureaucracy just to win permission for him to come home to die. Priests For Life said of the health care allocators’ decision to terminate the baby’s life support, “They don’t mean that the medical care won’t help him. They mean his life in its current condition isn’t worth the trouble.”
Father Pavone and his organization have been consistent and uncompromising in their beliefs. Along with their supporters, they were willing to put in long hours and serious money to give Baby Joseph more time with his parents, and more time for doctors to diagnose the strange disorder that has been trying to kill him. Perhaps every hour of his life will be the eleventh hour, and they may be tragically few in number… but there are worlds of possibility living within “perhaps” and “maybe.” Baby Joseph is now surrounded by people who won’t let him go without putting up the fight of their lives.
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