Hostage situation

Court oversteps its bounds in separating sick girl from her parents

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.

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