ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Doctors in St. Louis gave a terminally ill Canadian toddler a tracheotomy Monday in hopes of extending the boy's life by at least a few months, hospital officials said. The 13-month-old's parents brought him to Missouri last week after an Ontario court decided doctors could remove the child's breathing tube.
Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center, a Catholic hospital, agreed to treat Joseph Maraachli after his doctors in Ontario determined he was in a permanent vegetative state and deteriorating condition. When the Canadian doctors planned to take him off of assisted breathing, the boy's parents went to court but lost.
Cardinal Glennon said in a Monday statement that Joseph suffers from Leigh Syndrome, a progressive neurological disease. The hospital said he is expected to remain in pediatric intensive care for seven to 10 days, after which he will be treated at Ranken Jordan -- a pediatric specialty hospital in St. Louis -- before returning to his family's home in Windsor, Ontario.
"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," the hospital said.
Joseph's parents noticed soon after his birth in January 2010 that he wasn't eating or breathing normally. He was found to have an incurable neurological disease and had been hospitalized at London Health Sciences Centre in London, Ontario, since October, before he was flown to St. Louis on March 13.
New York City-based Priests for Life, which lobbies against abortion rights and euthanasia, agreed to pay for Joseph's transfer and his subsequent medical care in St. Louis.
Joseph's father, Moe Maraachli, has said he believes his son's fate rests with God.
The tracheotomy involves putting a tube in the child's throat that connects to a portable breathing machine. His parents have insisted the procedure could extend Joseph's life six months -- as they say it did for their other child, an 18-month-old girl who died of the same disease eight years ago.
Joseph's case has renewed end-of-life care debate. After losing in the courts, Joseph's parents enlisted support for their cause using social media sites. The Ontario hospital said it was bombarded with e-mails.
The family also reached out to U.S. hospitals, and Cardinal Glennon agreed to care for their son.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke said Leigh Syndrome, also known as Leigh's Disease, is a rare inherited neurometabolic disorder that affects the central nervous system. It typically begins before the age of 2 years.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)