Hostage situation

Court oversteps its bounds in separating sick girl from her parents

  • Follow Editorials

The term “judicial overreach” doesn’t seem strong enough in the case of Justina Pelletier.


You might have heard of the 15-year-old Connecticut girl who has been taken away from her family for more than a year by child-protection officials in Massachusetts after her parents disagreed with a doctor’s diagnosis.

The teenager still is in state custody, but has been returned to Tufts Medical Center in Boston, where she had been originally treated for a rare mitochondrial condition that prevents the body’s cells from properly producing energy.

Her problems with the state began when her parents took her to a crosstown hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, for flu symptoms. Doctors there said the girl’s mitochondrial problems were psychiatric in nature, and that treatments her parents authorized at Tufts constituted medical abuse.

Hospital officials contacted the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, who took the girl into custody and had a juvenile court judge strip Justina’s parents of their custodial rights.

The girl was detained against her parents’ wishes for an agonizing 13 months at the children’s hospital’s psychiatric ward, where she was allowed one weekly visit with her family.

“This is a situation where a young woman’s dignity isn’t being respected and she’s being treated as a piece of property,” said Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA and an advocate for the family.

The world only found out about the case last month when her father, Lou Pelletier, violated a judge’s gag order and spoke to Fox News under threat of a contempt-of-court charge.

A gag order? The purpose of that is exactly what it appears – a threat: “If you dare tell anyone about us locking your daughter up for a year, we’re going to lock you up too.” That’s beyond heavy-handed. That’s horrifyingly Kafkaesque.

“DCF and the prosecution are beyond aggravated that I went to the media,” Lou Pelletier told news outlets. “But if I hadn’t, no one would know about the injustice that has taken place.”

The outpouring of support for the family and the scorn heaped on the officials finally turned the tide in the family’s favor.

Recently, the gag order and contempt-of-court charge was dropped. And the Pelletiers’ lawyers were able to get Justina back at Tufts working on transferring custody of the girl to Connecticut authorities, and eventually, back to her parents.

A ruling on that decision on that issue could come as soon as March 17.

“We need DCF completely out of the case and (for) them to return full custody back to the Pelletier family,” Pelletier attorney Mat Staver said.

Outraged Massachusetts legislators have rightly called for the state’s House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight to launch a full-scale investigation into the agency’s handling of the case.

Legislators nationwide may want to examine the ferocious overreach by a state agency that is taking place in, ironically, the city that helped launch the fight for American liberty.

Comments (23) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
carcraft
33011
Points
carcraft 03/15/14 - 05:18 am
10
1
Just another example of why

Just another example of why the government needs to be put in charge of running you and your famlies health care!

Riverman1
111511
Points
Riverman1 03/15/14 - 03:51 pm
11
0
On The Duty of Civil Disobedience

Henry David Thoreau said we have a duty when dealing with government to sometimes disobey. He went past the motto, "That government is best which governs least," and said, "No government is best."

Sometimes in dealing with bureaucrats of all kinds you have to resist. When something totally unreasonable is thrown at you, you have to say, Enough…NO. Good for the dad disobeying the gag order and going to the media.

Junket103
520
Points
Junket103 03/15/14 - 08:05 am
8
0
Justice Department Should Investigate

I'm not sure if they have been called in already, but the FBI and US Attorney need to investigate this case. This involves a form of interstate kidnapping all through the cover of the Massachusetts legal system. At a minimum, the courts and children's services of Connecticut should have jurisdiction since that is where the family lives. They are in the best position to judge what is best for the girl, not Massachusetts, where she was visiting for the expressed purpose of medical care.

If anything, this is a spitting contest between two medical facilities and in particular two or more physicians who apparently disagree on diagnosis and treatment. Don't blame the parents, the courts should have tried to blame the doctors at Tufts, whom the parents have placed their faith and trust in to care for their daughter. Since the girl is now back at Tufts I guess nobody in the court had any concern for care provided by Tufts. Which means the parents were right in the first place.

So, this required forced removal from parents and a gag order not to discuss it? No, it did not. Tufts should pay the legal fees for the parents (which should be reimbursed by the other hospital, once Tufts sues them). The judge and prosecutor should be disbarred, after being put in a psychiatric facility for 12 months to cure their insanity!

Bodhisattva
9956
Points
Bodhisattva 03/15/14 - 08:09 am
3
9
From December 13, 2013. Last month?

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/12/16/month-medical-ordeal-conclus...

As to the buttinskis:
Personhoood USA: A far right religous nutcase group that's tried to pass bills that outlawed all abortion (and ran ads that called pro choice supporters Nazis and compared abortion to slavery), birth control pills, force women who had a miscarriage to prove that did nothing to cause the miscarriage, place a zygote's rights over the rights of a woman ( a woman could be refused medication if there's a risk to the zygote). They're extremist to the maximum.

Why, after months of total silence and literally no interest, did several Religious Right organizations suddenly and collectively begin to care about this case, all on the same day?

Well, as Beck explained on his radio program today, last week an unnamed billionaire benefactor of his The Blaze network saw the program featuring Justina's father and was so outraged by it that he vowed to hire a legal team and turn this into a crusade:
- See more at: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/meet-justina-pelletier-religious-r...

dichotomy
43323
Points
dichotomy 03/15/14 - 09:28 am
7
2
Bod....even IF you EVER had a

Bod....even IF you EVER had a valid point to make, by the time people plow through your spewing vial, your point is totally lost in your blatant hate and close-mindedness.

I'm GLAD some billionaire got involved and brought this case to light and back into the courts. I do not know what the right thing for the girl is but I DO KNOW a court should not be able to take a child from their parents and issue a gag order that says they cannot talk about it. Every facet of our lives are now being totally controlled by government entities with a SWAT mentality. They take your money, they take your children, they take your doctor and your hospital. They penalize you for what you eat, what you drink, and what your smoke (except for dope, that's okay). Your government, INCLUDING THE COURTS, have turned against you. It is time to fight back.....using the system IF POSSIBLE......IF NOT then using ANY METHOD NECESSARY.

carcraft
33011
Points
carcraft 03/15/14 - 10:18 am
7
2
dichotomy the reason dope

dichotomy the reason dope smoking is allowed is because the fewer people reasoning the easier it is to control the people!

Little Lamb
53157
Points
Little Lamb 03/15/14 - 10:42 am
8
2
Extreme

Bodhisattva posted:

Personhoood USA: A far right religous nutcase group. . . . They're extremist to the maximum.

Well, so what? Maximum extremists have the same rights under the Constitution as do the mainstream moderates. The rights are for individuals, not states.

KSL
171202
Points
KSL 03/15/14 - 01:23 pm
5
1
Bod, if some organization

Bod, if some organization offered you help after you had been through a 16 month ordeal like this, you would turn it down just because you did not agree with some or all of their beliefs or practices? Aren't we being asked not to judge harshly on another thread?

Or are you just being hypocritical?

Truth Matters
10318
Points
Truth Matters 03/15/14 - 12:47 pm
1
3
"Bod, if some organization

"Bod, if some organization offered you help after you had been throgh a 16 month ordeal like this, you would turn it down just because you did not agree with some or all of their beliefs or practices?"

I could not agree more with the premise of this question. I hope this statement is remembered the next time Al Sharpton's organization advocates for someone in the public arena.

KSL
171202
Points
KSL 03/15/14 - 01:21 pm
8
1
Excepting that Al is all

Excepting that Al is all about advocating for himself. Taking in money, not giving it out. You did notice that the donor wished to remain anonymous.

jimmymac
62174
Points
jimmymac 03/15/14 - 02:19 pm
0
0
GOVERNMENT
Unpublished

In liberal states the government always thinks they know best. Parents have no rights in the fascist liberal mind.

Truth Matters
10318
Points
Truth Matters 03/15/14 - 03:19 pm
2
2
I wish I could honestly say

I wish I could honestly say that I am surprised by the double standard.

Anyway, given the gag order, and the "crazy" ruling by the judge, the donor is wise to seek anonymity. I don't give extra credit for that.

Gage Creed
21482
Points
Gage Creed 03/15/14 - 03:32 pm
3
1
And I wish that I could

And I wish that I could honestly say that the Truth Matters with everyone...

edcushman
7930
Points
edcushman 03/15/14 - 04:50 pm
4
2
"Anyway, given the gag order,
Unpublished

"Anyway, given the gag order, and the "crazy" ruling by the judge, the donor is wise to seek anonymity."
TM, not very impressed by your comment. Donating money to the parents has nothing to do with the gag order but then I have never been impressed by any of your statements.

augusta citizen
10700
Points
augusta citizen 03/15/14 - 07:12 pm
4
0
"Good for the dad"

Riverman says "Good for the dad disobeying the gag order and going to the media." You're right Riverman, but if it had been my child they would have been dealing with a screaming banshee from day one.

corgimom
46795
Points
corgimom 03/15/14 - 09:08 pm
2
2
I read the Boston Globe

I read the Boston Globe article about this case (I don't waste my time watching Fox News.) The story was very well=written and raised many interesting concerns. What the ACES article doesn't mention is that at every hospital that the girl was taken to, there were concerns by the medical staff about the parents, and that the girl was always noticeably worse when the mother was there.

The diagnosis of mitochondrial disease is also suspect, she doesn't have all the symptoms and no muscle biopsy was ever performed.

I think that none of us, including the ACES, really have all the details of this very complex story, and that none of us are qualified to offer an opinion.

corgimom
46795
Points
corgimom 03/15/14 - 09:09 pm
1
2
But you also have to wonder

But you also have to wonder how, if she had a mitochondrial disease, why it was that six weeks earlier she had been doing complicated moves on an ice skating rink.

NewWanderer
3
Points
NewWanderer 03/15/14 - 09:27 pm
1
1
I read the Boston Globe too

The whistleblower was actually a children's rights attorney not involved in the case. the father actually held to the gag order for months until a few more ridiculously stupid things happen.
Justina had a tentative diagnosis and Tufts was still working on it when she got the flu and went to Children's Hospital. Point is that Tufts Medical Center is well respected who had been seeing Justina for quite some time. Children's Hospital contacted the Dept of Children and Families for a Care & Protection order in less than one day. The state, based on Children's Hospital's say so, took the case to a judge. Then a DCF case worker let Children's have their way and kept the 14-15 year old girl in a lockdown ward for 13 months (at government expense because she was a ward of the state) Meanwhile, the case worker wrote in reports that parents were unstable etc. (Interesting assessment because DCF case workers only need a bachelor's degree...in anything....) Her parentw were limited to 1 hour a week supervised visitation...for more than a year....
Whole lot more hit the fan. Also interesting is she was skating just before going to Children's (mitochondrial disease does not preclude this, especially with proper treatment) After a year of psychiatric lockdown at Children's she can no longer stand and is in a wheelchair.

Casting_Fool
1205
Points
Casting_Fool 03/15/14 - 10:16 pm
4
0
Corgimom, my wife had a

Corgimom, my wife had a mitochondrial disorder that took 6 years to diagnose. In her case, she had all of the classic medical signs and symptoms, and it still took 6 years.

Not all mito patients have all of the signs and symptoms, and it is easy for physicians not familiar with mito disorders to misdiagnose patients and form an opinion just like yours, that the parents or caregiver are responsible for the medical issues being experienced by the patient.

More than half of the time, as a layman, I knew more about my wife's disorder than the doctors treating her. I even wrote a paper helping to explain MELAS, my wife's particular mito disorder in layman's terms.

Maybe you or one of your loved ones needs to experience a mito disorder. It would open your mind to the difficulties and trials of dealing with a disorder that is so easily misunderstood.

Oh, many mito disorders are in invariably untreatable and fatal. My wife's was, she died after 10 years of illness in 1992. Maybe your mileage would vary and your mito patient would survive.

All of that aside, the young lady's medical deterioration while under the state's care is criminal and should be prosecuted. Mito patients walk a fine line between functioning normally and medically deteriorating, and they don't always recover what's lost if they have a bad episode.

This girl went from leading a nominally normal life in spite of her disorder, to being partially incapacitated by a new doctor's incompetence (he was in practice only 7 months) and the state agencies' inept handling of her case.

KSL
171202
Points
KSL 03/15/14 - 10:27 pm
0
0
CF

Thanks foe enlightening us with your and your wife's personal experiences. I hope you are both doing well now.

KSL
171202
Points
KSL 03/15/14 - 10:31 pm
0
1
Frankly, the only thing I am

Frankly, the only thing I am wondering is why some people think they are experts on things they are not.

Casting_Fool
1205
Points
Casting_Fool 03/15/14 - 10:47 pm
3
0
Actually, KSL, Karen died in

Actually, KSL, Karen died in '92. Her particular mito disorder was centered in her mitochondrial DNA, which is separate from a person's cellular DNA and inherited completely from one's mother.

So a mother can have MELAS, pass it on to her children, but only her female children can pass it to their children.

Which resulted in my son having MELAS, but the doctors think that it's not to the extent that his mother had it. The number of affected mitochondria at conception is the determining factor of the intensity of the disorder. Karen had the full syndrome, but my son appears to be less effected.

He's now 26, living on his own, and in somewhat frail health. Hopefully he will do better than his mother in combatting his disorder.

KSL
171202
Points
KSL 03/15/14 - 11:04 pm
0
1
I am so sorry. I do not know

I am so sorry. I do not know about that particular disease. I as a social worker had a number of clients with rare diseases.But my veiled point was that I would not deem to be an expert outside of my own limited knowledge.

KSL
171202
Points
KSL 03/15/14 - 11:06 pm
0
0
So sorry for your loss.

So sorry for your loss.

Casting_Fool
1205
Points
Casting_Fool 03/15/14 - 11:31 pm
1
0
Thank you. It's been rough,

Thank you. It's been rough, but such is life. God knows what He's doing, I've just got to figure out my part.

I agree with your expert statement, too. It's easy for any of us to go a bit too far sometimes. It takes work to remain within your own sphere of expertise. I try to remember to use IMO (in my opinion) when I'm sharing my opinion outside my expertise.

Back to Top
loading...
Top headlines

Raises vary widely for GRU administrators

While there has been an overall 6 percent increase in administrative pay at Georgia Regents University since it was created by consolidation, raises and promotions have caused vastly different ...
Search Augusta jobs