April 21, 2011
Baby Joseph Responds Well To Tracheotomy
and Goes Home After Treatment
Baby Joseph, the 15-month-old who was treated by an American hospital after being refused treatment for his terminal condition in Canada, has gone home with his family one month after receiving a tracheotomy. The doctors at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in St. Louis said the procedure provides Joseph with increased mobility and comfort while providing a more stable airway. It protects his lungs from inhaled saliva or other material that could cause aspiration pneumonia.
According to an AP report of April 21, 2011, Baby Joseph left in a pre-dawn flight to return home with his parents and his older brother. The Rev. Frank Pavone of New York City-based Priests for Life, which had paid for Joseph’s transfer to St. Louis, confirmed that the family was back in their Ontario apartment after a brief checkup at a Windsor hospital.
Brother Paul O’Donnell, a family friend, reports that the boy is on a lot less medication and that the family feels he is “doing phenomenal.” In fact, even though the St. Louis hospital had initially planned for Joseph to be transferred to a local rehabilitation facility, he responded so well to the tracheotomy that it was decided that he could be sent home instead.
Those who have followed Baby Joseph’s case will remember that he suffers from Leigh Syndrome, a progressive neurological disease. Doctors in Canada had refused to perform the tracheotomy and wanted to remove his breathing tube, saying treatment was futile because the disease is terminal. But his parents contended that removing their son’s breathing tube would cause him to suffocate and cause him undue suffering, and they sought to compel doctors to give Joseph a tracheotomy that would allow him to breathe through a tube inserted into his throat.
The family lost an 18-month-old child to the same disease eight years ago and believe that having the tracheotomy will extend his life for up to six months and allow him to die at home with his family, as they say it did for their other child.
Dr. Robert Wilmott, chief of pediatrics at Cardinal Glennon, notes that by performing this common palliative procedure, the hospital has “. . . given Joseph the chance to go home and be with his family after spending so much of his young life in the hospital.”
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