15-year-old Justina Pelletier has been at the center of a custody between her parents and Boston Children’s hospital for over one year. In February 2013, the hospital took custody of Justina against her parents’ will. Then just last month, to the dismay of the girl’s parents, Massachusetts juvenile court Judge Joseph Johnston ruled that Justina will remain in the “permanent” custody of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF). In reponse to the ruling, a high-profile lawyer from Harvard Law School, Alan Dershowitz, offered to help the Pelletier parents regain custody of Justina.
Dershowitz, an outspoken liberal, told Fox News, “When you hear about a case like this you scratch your head and you say, ‘something else must be going on.’ I have reached out to one of the family’s representatives, and we are trying to set up a discussion on how to proceed.”
He said he will help the family, free of charge, on the case with regards to “broader Constitutional issues.”
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. Then in February 2013, doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital insisted the girl 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. Justina’s parents, 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.
Doctors at Tufts Medical Center, where Justina was previously treated, do not agree with the somatoform diagnosis. Dr. Mark Korson of was one of Justina’s prior physicians at Tufts. 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. “She’s awful. She’s paralyzed and has bruises on her body … It’s just one thing after another,” Lou said.
Dershowitz said, “Parents have a right to be wrong, as long as they’re acting reasonably. And if two distinguished medical centers have different diagnoses, it should be the parents, not the state, that determines the course of treatment.” He added that the gag order the judge placed on Lou before the ruling was “without a doubt unconstitutional.”
The Harvard lawyer has won several large-scale court cases in the past. “The people’s republic of Massachusetts is so corrupt and we need to get someone of that genre,” Lou Pelletier said.
As of right now, it is up to the DCF to decide when and if Justina gets to go home. But there is little doubt that Justina’s family will fight the most recent ruling.
We’ll keep you updated on the situation as it unfolds.