A 15-year-old is stuck in a Boston hospital after the medical facility took custody of her when her parents argued against her diagnosis.
For the last nine months, Justina Pelletier has been sneaking messages to her parents in Connecticut through folded origami notes.
“It is kidnapping,” Lou Pelletier, the girl’s father, told WTIC-TV.
The local news station investigated the case, for which a judge later issued a gag order, and has the background leading up to the ongoing custody battle:
Justina was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease a few years ago. It’s a genetic disorder that can cause loss of muscle coordination and weakness.
Despite that diagnosis she lived a normal life.
But last February, she also got the flu and was admitted to Boston Children’s Hospital to see her specialist.
Almost immediately, a different team of doctors delivered a different diagnosis, questioning the original diagnosis of mitochondrial disease.
“They came in, and they said we cannot take Justina out of the hospital. They called DCF,” says Linda Pelletier, Justina’s mother.
They said Justina had “somatoform disorder.”
In short, they were saying she suffered from a mental illness, not mitochondrial disease.
Her parents, Lou and Linda Pelletier, were escorted out of the hospital by security, and within four days, they lost custody of Justina.
The parents have been fighting the system ever since.
“They were actually being accused of being too active in pursuing health care matters for their child,” West Hartford psychologist Dean Hokanson, who has worked with Justina for five years, told WTIC.
A report by a Boston Children’s Hospital doctor viewed by the local news station cited Justina’s “regressive behavior” and “both parents’ resistance towards recommended treatment plans” as leading to a child protection team getting involved.
The family had argued that the procedures and medications given to their daughter were under the recommendation and guidance of other physicians. One of them was Tufts Medical Center specialist Dr. Mark Korson. WTIC couldn’t speak with Korson, but the Pelletiers provided the local news station with an email sent from the doctor to their attorney.
“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,” Korson wrote in the email.