Moe Maraachli and his 13-month-old son, Joseph, are pictured in a hospital room at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis. The baby was transported to the St. Louis facility March 13 from a hospital in London, Ontario, where his parents were fighting a legal battle over how their terminally ill son should be treated.

October 10, 2011

WINDSOR, ONT. — A 20-month-old boy who was at the centre of an end-of-life debate died at home Sept. 27.

Joseph Maraachli died with his parents, Moe and Sana, by his side, six months after receiving a tracheotomy at a Catholic hospital in St. Louis. The procedure allowed him to return home to be cared for by his family.

Franciscan Brother Paul O'Donnell, a friend and spiritual adviser to the Maraachli family, told Catholic News Service Sept. 28 that death came suddenly for "Baby Joseph," as he became known.

"I visited the family about 10 days ago and recent doctor reports said he was doing well, so this came as a surprise to them," O'Donnell said.

Born in January 2010, Joseph had a history of health problems. He was admitted in October 2010 to the London Health Sciences Centre.

Hospital officials, who called the boy's condition fatal, wanted to take the child off his feeding tube and ventilator, allowing him to die. The Maraachlis refused.


In March, Joseph and Moe were flown to SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis, where the tracheotomy was performed.

Doctors also diagnosed Joseph with Leigh's disease, a progressive neurological disease that usually strikes children between the age of three months and two years. It causes the degradation of motor skills and eventually death.

The Maraachli family was assisted in their journey to St. Louis by Father Frank Pavone and Priests for Life.

In a Sept. 28 statement, Pavone said, "This young boy and his parents fulfilled a special mission from God.

"Amidst a culture of death where despair leads us to dispose of the vulnerable, they upheld a culture of life, where hope leads us to welcome and care for the vulnerable."