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To join a Facebook page in support of the parents of Joseph Maraachli, click here.

ST. LOUIS, Missouri, March 15, 2011 ( – Baby Joseph Maraachli will likely get the medical procedure his parents have sought that should let them to take him out of hospital, an official at his new medical facility announced Monday.

Dr. Robert Wilmott, head of pediatrics at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in St. Louis, Missouri told media late Monday that Joseph “likely will have a tracheotomy performed by the end of this week to facilitate his transition to a skilled nursing facility.”

The surgery involves a slit in the throat to allow a breathing tube to be inserted into the airway.  The tube allows for suction of fluid out of the lungs, creates a safe and stable way to use a mechanical ventilator, and is more comfortable for the child.

The parents have been asking for this procedure in hopes that they could take Joseph home. The Maraachli’s daughter Zina died from a similar neurological disorder eight years ago, and in that case the family took her home after doctors performed the simple procedure.  They now want the same for Joseph.

Cardinal Glennon hospital, however, said Monday that they hope to get Joseph into nursing care close to the family’s home in Windsor, but in the U.S.

In the same statement, hospital spokesman Bob Davidson said they have cancelled a press conference for Tuesday morning because “there is not yet a firm treatment plan” for Joseph.

Joseph was airlifted to the hospital Sunday night with the help of the U.S.-based Priests for Life, who are also covering Joseph’s U.S. medical expenses and his family’s accommodations.

Joseph’s father, Moe Maraachli, thanked supporters Monday in a video posted to the Save Baby Joseph Facebook page.  “Thanks to all of you who pushed [the London hospital] to accept the transfer [of] my son,” he said. “I want to say I am never giving up.”

Moe also wrote on the Facebook page that he was finally able to pray with Joseph privately in St. Louis.  Joseph’s previous hospital in Ontario, London Health Sciences Centre, had required the family to be overseen by security.

The London hospital, where Joseph was treated since October, had refused to perform the tracheostomy and sought to remove his ventilator against his parents’ wishes.

Dr. Paul Byrne, a fifty-year veteran in the field of neonatology based in Ohio, however, has said that Joseph should have had a tracheostomy “a long time ago.”  He also insisted that he has never seen a need to remove a child’s ventilator.  “If a baby has a disease process that’s so bad that they’re going to die, then they die on the ventilator anyway,” he explained.

While the London hospital had declared that the baby was in a persistent vegetative state, doctors at Cardinal Glennon have told Father Pavone that he is primarily breathing on his own and is responding to touch.

The family had hired a new Canadian lawyer last week, Claudio Martini, who was planning to appeal a February 17th decision by Ontario Superior Court Justice Helen Rady backing the London doctors’ decision to take Joseph off the ventilator.

Justice Rady’s decision was based on doctors’ testimony that he is in a permanent vegetative state with no brain stem reflex.  But the family has contested that claim, pointing to footage showing him flailing and reacting to tickling.

After the Superior Court ruling, the hospital had appeared set to remove Joseph’s ventilator on February 21st.  The move was delayed, however, when the family hired expert lawyer Mark Handelman with the financial backing of Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.  Handelman was later replaced by Martini.

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, has warned that Ontario is creating a system where doctors are authorized to force life and death decisions on patients.

In a blog post Monday, he said the case emphasizes the need to reform a legal system in the province that favours hospitals over families in cases of disagreement over care.  “The law has a natural inequality that has resulted in a plethora of precedent setting cases that support the role of the doctor/hospital to make medical decisions against the wishes of the family. This needs to change,” he wrote.

To join a Facebook page in support of the parents of Joseph Maraachli, click here.