Court gives Massachusetts child welfare officials permanent custody of teenage girl

Massachusetts judge, denying return of Justina Pelletier to parents, says they continue to be abusive to medical staffers.
By Frances Burns   |   March 26, 2014 at 11:32 AM
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A Massachusetts judge has ruled that a teenage girl, caught in a diagnostic dispute between her parents and two hospitals, will remain in state care.

Justina Pelletier, 15, has been under the guardianship of the Department of Children and Families for more than a year. If Judge Joseph Johnston's decision stands, she will remain a ward of the state until she turns 18.

Justina's parents, Linda and Lou Pelletier, live in West Hartford, Conn. She had problems walking and talking and was diagnosed at Tufts Medical Center in Boston with mitochondrial disorder, a genetic disease.

Doctors at Boston Children's Hospital, however, found her problems were psychiatric, a diagnosis her parents objected to. She spent a year in a locked ward at Children's and is now living in a facility in Framingham, Mass.

Johnston, in his four-page ruling Tuesday, said that the Pelletiers have continued a pattern of abusive behavior toward medical staffers. He said Justina must remain in state custody until they can demonstrate they are fit parents.

The parents' case has been embraced by religious groups. The Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition in Washington said the Pelletiers think Justina is being "treated as a pawn and piece of property."

"There is no reason Justina should not be returned immediately back to the parents,” he said after Johnston's ruling.

Officials say they have been unable to find a facility in Connecticut willing to care for Justina. One withdrew after Lou Pelletier said he would file a lawsuit.

[Boston Globe]

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