Monday, March 14, 2011

Priests for Life, maybe, but certainly not Priests for Truth

Should Baby Joseph have been given a tracheotomy by the London Ontario hospital and returned to the care of his parents? Or would another medical approach all together have offered the infant life instead of the almost certain death of simply being taken off the ventilator?

These are not questions that I can easily answer. But now that the baby has been airlifted from London to St. Louis Missouri where he will receive alternative care, these questions will have an answer. Maybe.

But what was clear if you followed the Twitter tweets and Facebook posts was that many people distrusted the doctors at the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC). But if the reportedly terminally ill child has left London, the cloud of mistrust and controversy remains.

Priests for Life, based in Staten Island NY, posted a statement boasting "Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life Leads Covert Mission to Rescue Baby Joseph." The story says the mission was accomplished "under cover of darkness."

Covert? So how did the fathers disguise their operation so as to not alert hospital security and  under the cover of darkness secretly spirit Baby Joseph away?

The short answer: They didn't.

The London hospital cared for Baby Joseph right up until the American medical team in an air ambulance took over. There was no covert operation. And it certainly was not conducted under the cover of darkness. The transfer may have been done at night but those Canadians are quite advanced; they have lights!

End-of-life decisions are difficult, especially ones involving infants. Such decisions are hard on everyone involved: mothers, fathers, other family members and on the doctors, nurses and other hospital staff providing medical treatment to the failing child.

When I read the claim by Father Pavone that Baby Joseph needed "a hospital that cherishes life over the bottom line," I shook my head. That is just what the dying child had in the LHCS. I know this for a fact from my own personal experience.

Also, as a former newspaper photographer I've spent a lot of time over the years taking pictures of children receiving treatment at the Children's Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre. The hospital, its doctors, nurses and staff do not deserve the nasty, uninformed attacks they have taken since this matter went viral on the Internet and in the American media. They certainly should not be subjected to phone and e-mail threats as has been happening.

Ian Gillespie, a columnist with The London Free Press, addressed this very issue in a recent column. He spoke with Lisa Cann, a mother with a 14-year-old son who must struggle to live. Her boy has help with his health struggles - the LHSC.

Cann told Gillespie:

During the past nine years she and her son have made 25 visits to the emergency room, more than 100 pediatric medical day unit visits, 55 radiology visits, more than 50 visits to a gastro-intestinal clinic, more than 450 weekly pediatric appointments, at least seven calls to 911 and close to 20 extended hospital stays. This week, they went back for yet another surgical procedure.

And through it all, Cann says she’s seen nothing but top-notch care and compassion.

LHSC kept Baby Joseph alive for months. He was under their care from October on and it was months before they recommended removing the boy's breathing tube. They ran every test and explored every option. This is not the conduct of a hospital more interested in saving money than saving lives.

Whether you agree with the Canadian hospital's decision or not, there is widespread support for their position in the medical community throughout the world. This is not just according to the hospital but according to the father of Baby Joseph. Moe Maraachli spoke to me of the frustration of trying to find a hospital to take his son. "I've talked to doctors throughout Canada, the United States and Europe . . . ," he said, then stopped and shook his head. He was unable to finish.

The parents of Baby Joseph sought the medical opinion of physicians at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit. Physician experts at the hospital wrote the LHSC:

"We do not feel that we have anything to offer Joseph that has not already been given to him under your care” and "there is nothing that the Children's Hospital of Michigan has to offer Joseph that has not already been done for him in Ontario".

When Priests for Life present themselves as major players in the success of finding a suitable hospital prepared to accept little Joseph, they are not lying. It is clear that they work with a rather unique hospital in SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center of St. Louis.

What I find so disturbing is the angry and very nasty tone of much of the discourse, especially that coming from the Priests for Life. Many distrusted the Canadian hospital; I distrust the highly charged statements released by this religious group. I find their statements self serving and worse I find them dishonest.

It is time for the priests to stop the posturing. It is time for the Fathers to work at getting out the truth. Stoking fiery emotions of hate, anger and misunderstanding, emotions already glowing red hot when it come to this issue, is not the right response; It may not even be Christian.

Baby Joseph myths

Fox News in the States has done a good job of politicizing this story with fabricated facts. They put enough spin on the story to make any viewer dizzy. LHSC put together a page dispelling some of the false and misleading information being spread by groups such as the Priests for Life and Fox News.

Read Just the Facts on the LHSC website.

When I watch a video featuring the Fox News Medical A team I can't help but think of George Owell's Ministry of Truth in his novel 1984.

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