The Pelletier family’s legal and medical nightmare just took a dramatic turn for the worse: A judge has given permanent custody of Justina Pelletier to the government of a state where her family doesn’t even live.
“It’s insane,” Justina’s sister, Jennifer Pelletier, said of her sister’s predicament. “I’m always hoping that this would end. It was a complete shock that his would happen.”
Instead of returning to her family home in Connecticut, 15-year-old Justina could remain under the care of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) until she is 18.
The family’s plight has been the focus of several stories by Off The Grid News. Justina is the teenager who was separated from her parents and placed in a locked psychiatric ward after doctors at two different hospitals disagreed on her diagnosis. Essentially, the parents lost custody because they believed one doctor’s diagnosis, but not the other’s.
Juvenile Court Judge Joseph Johnson said that Lou and Linda Pelletier had neglected Justina and stripped them of permanent custody. Justina is currently being kept in a state facility and her contact with her parents is limited. The Pelletiers have filed a writ of habeas corpus asking for her release in Massachusetts Superior Court and a federal civil rights lawsuit.
Judge Attacks Parents
Johnson wrote that he stripped the Pelletiers of custody in part because they refused to cooperate with DCF and had filed a legal challenge to the state’s position with the help of a legal group, Liberty Counsel.
“This is yet another example of the parents, either directly or indirectly impeding progress in this case,” Johnson wrote in his decision. “Instead of engaging in quality visits with Justina, the parents use profanity directed at the MA DCF Personnel in Justina’s presence. There is no meaningful dialogue by the parents to work towards reunification.”
The judge also seemed to consider the Pelletiers mentally ill and in need of a psychological evaluation.
“Although psychological and clinical evaluations of the parents are necessary, I decline to order that these evaluations be conducted by the Boston Juvenile Court Clinic,” Johnson wrote.
Said Lou Pelletier, “The system works perfectly for DCF and hospitals to take advantage of the system.”
Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist who serves as a medical expert for Fox News, said the judge “injured every parent’s rights.”
“If Boston Children’s Hospital wants to say that your child’s mysterious physical symptoms are ones you are causing by coaxing your child to act sick, then you, too, could lose custody of your child to the state,” he wrote. “And it won’t matter if academic doctors at another hospital disagree and believe that your child is suffering from a genuine bodily illness.”
Parents should avoid the hospital altogether, Ablow suggested.
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The Pelletiers’ dispute with DCF began last year when Justina was moved from Tufts Medical Center. Doctors at Tufts had diagnosed the girl with mitochondrial disease, a rare genetic disorder. Doctors at Boston Children’s decided she had a mental problem called Somatic Symptom Disorder and placed her in the psychiatric ward and asked DCF to take custody of her.
“There’s never been a complaint about the Pelletier family regarding our daughter, our family, prior to Boston Children’s Hospital getting involved,” Lou Pelletier told FoxNews. “The complaints have been when DCF decided we didn’t smile rightly at them or do whatever.”
Said Jennifer, “None of it’s true whatsoever, it’s completely false. I don’t understand where they’re coming from. On the contrary they’re the ones that are neglecting my sister, physically, mentally, medically. She looks worse.”
Could Happen To Other Families
Lou Pelletier said the state agency has “almost no oversight, they’re omnipotent. They can do whatever they want.”
Other families could go through the same nightmare because of DCF’s power and relationship with Boston Children’s Hospital, Pelletier charged. He noted that Boston Children’s Hospital acts as DCF’s medical advisor which he believes to be a conflict of interest.
“The fox is guarding the hen house,” Lou Pelletier said of the situation. “So there is a little evil game plan that has been going on by Boston Children’s.”
The Pelletiers will keep fighting for Justina with the help of Liberty Counsel although they may not get a court date until May when Johnson is scheduled to make another ruling. It isn’t clear when the Massachusetts Superior Court and federal courts will rule on the other writ of habeas corpus and the civil rights suit the family has brought.
“In all my years in practice, I have never seen a more barbaric overreach by a state agency,” Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver said. “The family has asked us to pursue every legal means necessary to get their daughter home.”
It looks like this battle is far from over.