ST. LOUIS — The father of a terminally ill toddler transferred to a St. Louis hospital after an Ontario court ruled doctors could remove the breathing tube keeping the boy alive says he won't stop fighting for his son and plans to chronicle the ordeal for a screenplay or book to help other parents.
Thirteen-month-old Joseph Maraachli arrived last weekend at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, which agreed to treat him after his doctors at an Ontario hospital that had tended to him since October determined that he was in a permanent vegetative state and in deteriorating condition.
When Joseph's doctors at London Health Sciences Centre planned to take him off of assisted breathing, the boy's parents, who lost an 18-month-old child to the same disease eight years ago, challenged the hospital's finding in court but lost.
Officials at the St. Louis hospital have said Joseph probably will undergo throat surgery this week to clear his airway and connect him to a portable breathing machine. His parents hope to eventually take him back home to Windsor, Ontario, across the border from Detroit.
"I fight for him because that's my job for my son," Moe Maraachli, 34, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for a story Wednesday while he was at Cardinal Glennon. "He's never given up, because I've never given up.
"Let me take him home and let him breathe. If he will die, he will die because he's sick, naturally."
As part of their Canadian legal dispute, Moe Maraachli and Sana Nader contended that removing their son's breathing tube would make him suffocate and cause him undue suffering. They sought to compel doctors to give Joseph a tracheotomy that would allow him to breathe through a tube inserted into his throat.
The parents insisted the tracheotomy could extend his life up to six months — as they say it did for their other child who died — and would allow him to die at home.
After losing in the courts, Joseph's parents enlisted support for their cause using social media sites, but the hospital refused to reverse course. So they began reaching out to U.S. hospitals, and Cardinal Glennon agreed to care for their son.
New York City-based Priests for Life, which lobbies against abortion rights and euthanasia, agreed to pay for Joseph's transfer on a chartered plane and his subsequent medical care in St. Louis.
The Rev. Frank Pavone, of the priests' group, said the exact disease from which Joseph suffers has not been determined. The Ontario hospital, in a news release, has called it a "progressively deteriorating neurological condition" and said the move to St. Louis was against the advice of its medical staff.
Maraachli, an 11-year Canadian citizen who is Muslim and originally from Lebanon, told the Post-Dispatch that his family believes Joseph's fate rests with God. His wife, who plans to travel soon to St. Louis, is Catholic.
"Nothing is impossible in this world if you have trust in God," the newspaper quoted Maraachli as saying. "What God wants to do, that's what I want to do."
"Give him this treatment and let me go home," he added.
Maraachli said he appreciates the "big, warm hug" he feels he's gotten from Americans, and he plans to eventually write a book or screenplay about Joseph's story as a lesson for parents.
His theme: "Don't surrender. Fight for your baby."