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1-year-old Joseph Maraachli receives tracheotomy so he may die more slowly, painlessly

March 22, 2011|By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times
  • Joseph Maraachli rests in a bed at Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center with his dad, Moe Maraachli, right, and Father Frank Pavone, left, earlier this month in St. Louis. This photo was provided by Priests for Life.
Joseph Maraachli rests in a bed at Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical… (Priests for Life / Associated…)

If your infant were in a vegetative state and certain to die, would you have him undergo a tracheotomy?

It's a heartbreaking dilemma, one that the Canadian family of 1-year-old Joseph Maraachli dealt with when they requested the surgery to ease the baby's breathing.

Joseph has Leigh syndrome, a severe neurological disorder that has left him in a vegetative state, according to a hospital release -- and without a ventilator, he would die.

Doctors at his hospital in Ontario, Canada, had said they would transfer Joseph to the family home where the ventilator would be removed, according to news reports. But his family requested a tracheotomy, which would open up a hole in the trachea so that he could breathe more comfortably. This, at least, would make his passing less painful and would give him a few more months to live.

Technically, the procedure wouldn't save his life, only prolong it for a short time, and the Ontario hospital refused to do it. So Joseph was taken to SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in St. Louis for the procedure.

"It is our hope that this procedure will allow Joseph and his family the gift of a few more months together and that Joseph may be more comfortable with a permanent tracheotomy," said a release from the St. Louis hospital.

What would you do in this situation? Post your thoughts below.

Follow me on Twitter @LAT_aminakhan.

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