Justina Pelletier, the teen at the center of a legal battle between the Pelletier family and Boston Children’s Hospital over custody and proper medical treatment, will likely head soon to a medical center in her home state of Connecticut. The move is seen as a backing down by the hospital and a victory of sorts for her parents.
A judge had previously sentenced the Connecticut teenager, who has been caught in a yearlong custody fight between her parents and Massachusetts child protection officials, to a new foster care program in Massachusetts. The ruling triggered an anguished response from her parents when it was announced by a juvenile court judge and pro-life advocates were also up in arms.
Lou Pelletier, the father of 15-year-old Justina, shouted angrily in the courthouse corridor, and her mother, Linda, fainted and was taken to the Massachusetts General Hospital emergency room.
The case is drawing national attention, as Boston Children’s Hospital filed a “medical child abuse” complaint against Justina’s parents last year, leading the state t take custody of her and hospitalize her for almost a year. The family is upset that Justina remains in state custody and is moving from a center near them to one far away from their home.
On Friday, the state Department of Children and Families, under pressure from across the nation, indicated it was now trying to return Pelletier to Connecticut and allow her future medical care to be overseen by Tufts Medical Center.
Meanwhile, over the weekend, dozens of people rallied to support Justina and her parents.
About 40 supporters of Connecticut parents who are locked in a custody battle with Massachusetts child protection officials rallied Saturday afternoon outside a Framingham care center where the couple’s daughter, 15-year-old Justina Pelletier, is staying.
“This is part of the overall national campaign to free Justina,” said the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, a family spokesman and head of the Washington-based Christian Defense Coalition, which organized the event. “When Justina is returned back to her family, we want her to know that there were scores standing with her who believed in this cause and came out to stand in solidarity with her.”
Participants in the rally, some of whom drove hours from nearby states to attend, held signs reading, “FREE JUSTINA,” and cheered Mahoney as he gave an animated interview to television reporters.
David and Stephanie Meader of Plaistow, N.H. said Pelletier’s case resonated with them because they care for an immediate family member with a complicated mental illness.
“At times, there were differing opinions about his diagnosis,” David Meader said. “We’re realizing now that we were very vulnerable, and had there been a fight, we could have lost [custody of] him in a heartbeat.”
The Meaders said it was “unimaginable” that parents who had not withheld care from their child could lose custody, and they urged Pelletier’s parents to continue their public fight.
Kimberly Gower-Hall, 47, of Sudbury, said she also had a medically fragile child, and came to the rally with a message for the Pelletiers.
“I know what it’s like to endure this,” she said. “They need to keep reaching out to people who can help emotionally and medically. They’re going to need healing on many different levels.”
The case has attracted attention from pro-life advocates.
Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, a pro-life legal group, has been in the courtroom along with the Pelletier’s local counsel to represent the Pelletier family. The pro-life advocates involved in the case are calling for the State of Massachusetts to immediately return custody of Justina back to her family.
Staver said, “Justina and her parents desperately need justice. The parents love their daughter and want to get her the best medical treatment possible. Just last year in January, Justina was involved in figure skating competitions. Now she is confined to a wheelchair. This is a heartbreaking tragedy that must end for the sake of Justina and her family.”
Staver filed a motion for pro have vice to represent the Pelletiers, but the judge took the rare move of allowing the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) to respond to the motion, effectively denying the specialist attorney from arguing in the hearing.
According to a statement provided to LifeNews but pro-lifers involved in the case, “To keep the case under wraps, the judge ordered media to leave the courtroom and took the unconscionable step of transferring Justina’s custody to the foster care system, where she will not have access to treatment for her mitochondrial disease. Her family is deeply concerned for her life and safety. Boston Children’s Hospital performed a controversial medical-legal maneuver colloquially called a “parent-ectomy” last year, seizing custody of Justina after disagreeing with her parents and physicians at Tufts Medical Center about her diagnosis and treatment. Since losing custody, Justina’s condition has steeply deteriorated.”
“After receiving the judge’s shocking decision today, the Pelletier family was heartbroken and distraught at Justina’s plight. Justina’s mom, Linda fainted in the courthouse hallway and had to be taken by ambulance for care,” the statement noted.
Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, who organized events for Terri Schiavo in Florida and “Baby Joseph” in Canada and is the Director of the Christian Defense in Washington, D.C. told LifeNews: “The Justina Pellitier case represents a troubling and disturbing trend of government officials usurping the rights of parents and disregarding their unique and special role in raising their children. We call upon the State of Massachusetts to immediately return Justina into the loving arms of her parents so the healing process can move forward. We also call upon the faith community and people of good will across the nation to work tirelessly and passionately until this family is reunited.”
Personhood USA President Keith Mason adds, “The rights of Justina Pellitier and her family are clearly being violated. Justina is a person, not property of the State of Massachusetts. It is imperative that we stand together in defense of this young woman before it is too late.”
“I was nearby when Linda collapsed, and it was heartbreaking,” Mason said. “No parent should suffer as the Pelletiers are suffering. Knowing that their daughter will be cruelly and intentionally transferred to a facility that is unable to care for her medical needs is devastating.”
According to Justina’s parents, she suffers from mitochondrial disorder, a group of genetic ailments that affect how cells produce energy, often causing problems with the gut, brain, and muscles. Justina had been treated for this condition by doctors at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. Then she was taken to Children’s Hospital, where doctors claimed she had no medical problems but rather mental health issues.