Justina Pelletier supporters converged in front of the Boston Courthouse carrying “You Can’t Gag America” signs and chanting “Free Justina.” A court hearing in the teenager’s case involving the Boston Children’s Hospital is taking place today. The extremely controversial custody battle over the girl who has now spent more than a year in the hospital with very limited access to her parents went viral after Glenn Beck took up the family’s cause.
Lou Pelletier and his wife Linda, Justina’s parents, have appeared in court multiple times during the past year. The legal fees associated with regaining custody of their daughter and bringing her home have virtually bankrupted the family. Lou Pelletier broke the gag order issued in his daughters’ case in an effort to garner public support and help bring the 15-year-old home. The distraught father sat down with Glenn Beck for an interview about his daughter’s “kidnapping” earlier last week.
The teenager has been withheld from her family since a hospital took custody of the girl. The parents’ “crime?” Disagreeing with the doctor’s diagnosis. Justina’s parents are currently permitted to visit her just once per week for a single hour and can make just two phone calls during that same time period.
Justina was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease several years ago. The condition is a genetic disorder that often causes weakness and the loss of muscle coordination. But she lived a normal life. In February of 2013, the girl was hospitalized for the flue. After being admitted to Boston Children’s Hospital she was set to be examined by her specialist. Before the anticipated doctor could see Justina, a different team of doctors arrived and questioned the original diagnosis and declared an entirely different condition was impacting the young woman.
Linda Pelletier said that the new crew of doctors informed them that Justina had somatoform disorder. If the woman’s statements are accurate, Boston Children’s Hospital staffers immediately called the state’s Department of Children and Family, and the state refused to let the parents leave with their child. Somatoform disorder is a mental, not a physical illness.
Justina’s parents were ultimately escorted from the Boston medical facility by the security staff. Four days after they took their daughter to the hospital to be seen for the flu, they lost custody. They have been fighting to regain their rights and bring their daughter home ever since.
West Hartford Psychologist Dean Hokanson told the local media that the Pelletier family was being accused of “too actively” pursuing health care matters for their daughter. A Boston Children’s Hospital report stated that that Justina exhibited the signs of “regressive behavior” and added that both parents had shown “resistance” to the new recommended treatment plans. Lou and Linda Pelletier reportedly told the staff at Boston Children’s Hospital that their daughter’s care and medications were upon the recommendation of other reputable physicians she had been seeing for many years. One of Justina Pelletier’s doctors is Tufts Medical Center Specialist Dr. Mark Korson.
Korson said in an email on behalf of the parents:
“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.”
Earlier this month a judge ruled that Justina Pelletier must be moved from Boston Children’s Hospital to another care facility. The exact course of the teenager’s care remains undecided.
Before the court hearing today, Lou Pelletier said:
“She needs physical therapy. She needs to be back on the vitamin cocktail. She needs to be treated for the God d**n diagnosis she had from the beginning. I need to save my daughter. If we don’t do something, she is going to die.”
The Pelletier family is hopeful that the judge hearing the case today will allow Justina to be transferred back to Connecticut where she can once again be treated for mitochondrial disease. The hearing will also address the children’s services motion requesting Lou Pelletir be held in contempt of court for discussing the case with the media.