Judge awards custody of Conn. teenager to Mass. agency after hospital battle with parents

By Arturo Garcia
Wednesday, March 26, 2014 22:08 EDT
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15-year-old Justina Pelletier (right) with her mother [Boston Globe]
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A Boston Juvenile Court judge has ruled that the 15-year-old Connecticut girl at the center of a legal battle between hospital officials and her parents should be placed in the custody of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.

The Boston Globe reported on Tuesday that Judge Joseph Johnston ruled that Justina Pelletier was correctly diagnosed with “a persistent and severe somatic symptom disorder,” the same diagnosis reached by doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) after Pelletier’s parents brought her there in February 2013.

The department was granted permanent custody over Pelletier until she turns 18, unless her parents, Lou and Linda Pelletier, demonstrate that they can provide adequate care for her. The agency has had temporary custody over the girl since Feb. 14, 2013, following a disagreement between BCH and officials at Tufts Medical Center over her diagnosis.

Tufts maintained that the girl’s inability to eat or walk was caused by mitochondrial disease. When her parents tried rejected BCH’s diagnosis and attempted to transfer her to Tufts, the agency was granted emergency custody over her, after filing a report to the state accusing the parents of neglecting her. Since then, the couple has been limited to one supervised visit per month with their daughter at a residential facility in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Johnston wrote in his decision that the relationship between the Pelletiers and hospital officials has been characterized by “very concerning conduct” on the parents’ part, including referring to BCH staff as “Nazis,” as well as claims that the hospital was trying to kill their daughter.

“Efforts by hospital clinicians to work with the parents were futile and never went anywhere,” Johnston wrote.

Lou Pelletier told ABC News on Wednesday that he will file a writ of habeas corpus in Massachusetts Supreme Court, arguing that his daughter is being subjected to “wrongful imprisonment.”

“Eventually, we are working on federal lawsuits to do with civil rights violations,” Lou Pelletier was quoted as saying. “We are just trying to determine which state to file them in. Obviously, as much as we are devastated, this is the corrupt, crooked court system. This shows the judge is a coward.”

Watch a report on the ruling, as posted by the Globe on Tuesday, below.

Arturo Garcia
Arturo Garcia
Arturo R. García is the managing editor at Racialicious.com. He is based in San Diego, California and has written for both print and broadcast media, including contributions to GlobalComment.com, The Root and Comment Is Free. Follow him on Twitter at @ABoyNamedArt
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