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, received a surprise 16th birthday party from her friends over the weekend.
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 to take custody of her and hospitalize her for almost a year.
The tragic case has been dragging on for well over a year as pro-life groups have complained about how she has been denied education, religious services or clergy visit, and has had abysmal medical care while in the custody of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF).
The situation has improved somewhat enough following her transfer to Connecticut that her friends were able to spend time with her — for the first time in over a year.
But perhaps even more exciting for the now-16-year-old was the surprise moment when she was able to see some of the friends she’s missed for more than a year.
Some of the first images and video of Justina to be publicly released since she was taken into custody by the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families in February 2013 show the teenager breaking down in tears upon seeing her friends, who shouted “surprise” in a room decorated for the occasion Saturday.
Friends took turns hugging Justina, who was transferred to a Connecticut facility last month, after living more than a year in Massachusetts.
“First time seeing her friends in over 15 months!!!” said the caption of a video posted to a Facebook page for supporters of the teen and her parents.
Rev. Patrick Mahoney, a spokesman for Lou and Linda Pelletier, was at the Hawaiian-themed party and told TheBlaze the whole day was “so moving.”
“To see her hugging people … here are girls that she saw everyday, who she was close to, who she skated with, who she went to school with,” Mahoney said. “Of course the focus is on Pelletier family — and well it should be — but it also impacted so many other people.”
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Saturday’s party included dancing and a photo montage made by Justina’s sisters. The slideshow, Mahoney said, “reinforced the wonderful life that Justina had.”
Though he called it an “incredibly sweet day,” Mahoney said it was “at times an incredibly painful day as well.”
Justina’s family put out this call to action for supporters:
Our request for the week are for everyone to call, email, fax tweet MA DCF Erin Deveney 617-748-2000 If a message press 2 to leave vmail MA HHS John Polanowicz 617-573-1600 Governor Patrick 617-725-4005…
There will be a protest outside DCF headquarters tomorrow at noon 600 Washington Street in Boston.