GIRL AT CENTER OF CUSTODY BATTLE HAS ONGOING MEDICAL CHALLENGES
by Sharon Rondeau
His reference was to 16-year-old Justina Pelletier, whose custody was claimed by Massachusetts Department of Children and Family Services (DCF) in February 2013 after doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital issued a diagnosis which differed from that which her physicians at Tufts Medical Center had assigned.
Justina was kept in a psychiatric wing at Children’s Hospital for months, then released to a series of private facilities until a judge awarded custody back to her parents, Lou and Linda Pelletier, in June. In late May, Justina celebrated her 16th birthday at a group home in Thompson, CT, sanctioned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Mahoney acted as a family spokesman while Justina’s case was adjudicated by the Massachusetts juvenile courts.
Reports of children with rare disorders being “kidnapped” and placed in state custody purportedly for the purpose of medical research have surfaced. Following the publication of Justina’s ordeal, Reps. Michele Bachmann and Steve Stockman introduced a bill in Congress to deny federal funding to facilities carrying out medical research with “greater than minimal risk” on wards of the state, which is often allowed by individual state laws.
The nation and world rejoiced as photos of Justina’s return to her home in West Hartford, CT were issued by Mahoney and others close to the family. Shortly thereafter, Justina appeared on Fox News’s “Huckabee,” hosted by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, with her parents.
Huckabee had publicized Justina and her parents’ plight on several editions of his show prior to her return home.
In late September, Justina was hospitalized at Yale-New Haven Hospital for severe stomach pain. Lou Pelletier had explained at the time that Justina’s medical condition diagnosed by Tufts had gone untreated while she was kept away from her family. Justina herself had described some of her symptoms along with alleged mistreatment while she was kept at Children’s.
In late November, Justina was transferred to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for treatment in the hope that she could go home for Christmas. Sister Jennifer also cited a lack of treatment while Justina was in Boston as the cause of Justina’s ongoing medical challenges. On December 7, The Hartford Courant reported that [Lou] “Pelletier said Justina was still dealing with the damage that was done to her in Boston as a result of her ‘treatment and lack of treatment.'”