Justina Pelletier’s parents launch new legal action to release her from social services
BOSTON, MA, April 15, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The parents of Justina Pelletier have launched a new offensive in the battle to win custody of their daughter back from the state of Massachusetts, where she has been held against their will for fourteen months because of a disagreement over appropriate medical care.
Attorneys with Liberty Counsel filed a writ of habeas corpus Monday demanding that Justina herself be brought before a judge in order to determine whether Judge Joseph Johnston was correct to award permanent custody of the girl to the Department of Children and Families (DCF).
Monday’s court filing argues that DCF lacks the authority to hold Justina and that DCF’s actions violate the constitutionally protected rights of parents. It also accuses both DCF and Judge Johnston of failing to adhere to basic protocol in assigning custody, such as offering verifiable proof that the Pelletiers are unfit to direct their own daughter’s medical care.
“Massachusetts DCF has no right to hold Justina captive,” said Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver. “This is unacceptable. Justina needs to return home.”
Justina was taken from her family by officials at Boston Children’s Hospital over a year ago when they brought her to see a gastroenterologist on the advice of her primary doctor at Tufts University hospital. Her Tufts doctor had been treating her for mitochondrial disease, a rare condition that leaves cells unable to produce or use energy properly and can cause fatigue, weakness, gastrointestinal issues and emotional distress.
But rather than give her the gastrointestinal care her doctor wanted, a new team of doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital re-diagnosed Justina, saying her physical problems were all in her head, and exacerbated by her parents. Dr. Simona Bujoreanu – a researcher who believes up to 50 percent of all physical complaints made by children are actually psychological in origin – diagnosed her with Somatoform Disorder, a form of hypochondria. According to Liberty Counsel, Bujoreanu diagnosed Justina with Somatoform Disorder after only 25 minutes with the teen, without contacting other physicians.
Based on Bujoreanu’s diagnosis, Boston Children’s Hospital recommended she be removed from her family and placed her in the psychiatric ward. DCF got involved, and on the hospital’s recommendation, obtained a court order limiting her contact with her parents based on Bujoreanu’s assumption that her condition would automatically improve away from their influence. Since then, however, despite constant psychiatric care and limited contact with Lou and Linda, her physical condition has continued to steadily deteriorate.
Because Bujoreanu is researching Somatoform under a grant from the federal National Institutes of Health, Liberty Counsel has suggested that perhaps Boston Children’s Hospital is experimenting on Justina without her permission – something that is legal as long as she remains a ward of the state.
“The psychological experiment of Boston Children’s Hospital, under the sanction of DCF, has miserably failed,” said Staver. “Justina has gone from a competitive figure skater to being confined to a wheelchair.”
“For fourteen months DCF has refused to provide adequate medical care, refused to allow Justina access to a clergy or communion, and even refused to provide any meaningful education for her. Without any education, she has fallen at least two years behind her classmates. DCF has limited the parents to only one hour per week to visit their daughter, but always with a DCF worker or workers present. DCF has prevented the parents from taking a cell phone in to photograph their daughter.”
“This case comes down to the simple fact that new doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH), who had no experience with Justina, came up with a different diagnosis than her expert treating physicians at Tufts Medical Center,” Staver added. “The state cannot take children from their parents when the parents make reasonable choices for their medical care. This case is outrageous.”