We have been closely following the story of 15-year-old Justina Pelletier, who was taken custody of Boston Children’s Hospital for over one year against her parents’ will. On Tuesday, a judge ruled that Justina will remain in the “permanent” custody of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF).
Matt Staver, founder of the Liberty Counsel, said of the order, “This is just completely unacceptable. The family asked us to pursue any other opportunities and appeals. The family is beyond fed-up.”
Justina’s parents, Lou and Linda, have been fighting to get their daughter back home ever since the hospital initially took custody of her in February 2013. Years ago doctors diagnosed Justina with mitochondrial disease, which causes loss of muscle control. Despite this diagnosis, Justina was able to live a happy and relatively normal life with her family in Connecticut.
During a visit to Boston Children’s Hospital during February 2013, doctors claimed that the teen has somatoform disorder, not mitochondrial disease. Somatoform disorder is a mental disorder — not a physical one, like mitochondrial disease.
The hospital ordered that Justina be taken off all of her mitochondrial and pain medication. Lou and Linda did not think this was the best plan of action and wanted to bring their daughter home. Officials would not allow that. The parents were subsequently escorted out of the hospital by security personnel. Only four days later, they found out they had lost custody of their daughter due to “both parents’ resistance towards recommended treatment plans” and “overmedicalizing” the girl.
Lou and Linda have been pursuing legal action for over one year to regain custody of their daughter. They remain heartbroken and furious.
Dr. Mark Korson of Tufts Medical Center was one of Justina’s prior physicians. In an email, he said, “I am dismayed. … It feels like Justina’s treatment team is out to prove the diagnosis at all costs. … The (Boston Children’s Hospital) team has demanded that Justina be removed from the home. … This represents the most severe and intrusive intervention a patient can undergo … for a clinical hunch.”
Lou said the longer Justina stays in the custody of Boston Children’s Hospital, the worse her condition gets. A year ago, Justina was competing in figure skating competitions — now, she is paralyzed from the waist down and is not receiving any schooling. Two weeks ago, the girl was rushed to the emergency after visiting family members noticed marks on her stomach. Even more recently, her legs became swollen and she lost feeling in her feet.
Following Tuesday’s order, Staver said, “A child’s health and welfare are hanging in the balance. We cannot continue to withhold treatment from this young girl. DCF has abused its authority. DCF had no right to come between Justina and medical care.”
Rev. Patrick Mahoney, a spokesman for the Pelletiers, said the parents “are crushed and heartbroken to see their daughter violated like this. They are rightfully worried for her safety.”