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ST. LOUIS (Reuters) - A 1-year-old Canadian boy on the brink of death was sent home on Thursday from a U.S. hospital where doctors performed treatment denied the child in Canada, the St. Louis hospital said.
The terminally ill boy, Joseph "Baby Joseph" Maraachli of Windsor, Canada, has been breathing without the help of machinery for about a week and responded well enough to be allowed home, the hospital said in a statement.
Joseph and his parents left Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center before dawn Thursday for the flight home.
His flights and medical bills have been paid by Priests for Life, a right-to-life organization run by Frank Pavone, the priest involved in the seven-year legal battle over Terri Schiavo, who ultimately died after a feeding tube was removed following court rulings.
The baby is in a vegetative state from Leigh syndrome, a fatal neurological condition, and several Canadian and U.S. hospitals had decided further treatment was futile. Cardinal Glennon agreed to perform a tracheotomy March 21 to surgically open Joseph's windpipe and attach a ventilator.
"Joseph has been breathing on his own, without the aid of a mechanical ventilator, for more than a week," Dr. Robert Wilmott, chief of pediatrics at Cardinal Glennon, said in a statement.
"We've given Joseph the chance to go home and be with his family after spending so much of his young life in the hospital."
Pavone said Joseph's progress was a "victory over the culture of death ... and is especially powerful now, as we prepare for Easter."
The hospital quoted Moe Maraachli, Joseph's father, as saying the positive response from people in both Canada and the United States "has really helped our family through this hard time, to know there is so much kindness in the world."
Doctors initially said the child would be sent to a local rehabilitation hospital before heading back to Canada, but his response to treatment made them change their minds. He will be helped in Canada by the Windsor Regional Hospital in Ontario.
Reporting by Bruce Olson; Editing by Jerry Norton