Fifteen-year-old Justina Pelletier has been held against her family’s wishes in a psychiatric ward inside Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) for more than a year and treated for a “disorder” that psychiatrists can’t even prove exists. She’s gone from being a fun-loving teen to being immobilized in a wheel chair. She needs your help. Here are the facts and what you can do:
For several years, Justina was treated at Tufts Medical Center for a rare genetic condition called mitochondrial disease. It affects how cells produce energy and can lead to further medical problems with the brain, intestines, muscles and heart. (One of her sisters has also been diagnosed and treated for it.) Yet Justina was able to live a normal life.
At 14, however, she began having trouble walking and swallowing and then developed flu symptoms. Dr. Mark Korson, her primary specialist at Tufts, referred her to gastroenterologist, Dr. Alejandro Flores, who had treated Justina for 18 months and recently moved his practice from Tufts to BCH.
On Sunday, February 10, 2013, Justina was rushed by ambulance to BCH. However, Dr. Flores was never allowed to see her because a novice neurologist, who had finished his medical training only seven months earlier, decided—without conducting physical tests or consulting Justina’s doctors—that she wasn’t medically ill, but needed to see a psychiatrist. BCH psychologist Simona Bujoreanu then labeled Justina with “somatoform disorder,” which is a psychiatric way of saying “it’s all in your head.” There’s absolutely no test to confirm somatoform.
Justina’s parents disagreed with the psychiatric label and treatment but when they attempted to have Justina discharged from BCH to her own medical doctor at Tufts, BCH contacted the Department of Children & Families (DCF) with wild claims of “medical child abuse.” Police and security were brought in to “escort” the distressed parents from the hospital. The next day, a juvenile judge, operating off psychiatric and social worker advice, affirmed the state’s decision to take emergency custody of Justina, who was transferred to BCH’s “Bader 5” psychiatric unit.
Fast forward one year: Justina has been receiving psychiatric “treatment” at BCH. Rather than getting better, she is wheelchair-bound and in rapidly declining health. This is the result of the egregious influence psychiatrists and psychologists have on child protective agencies—one where hypothetical “disorders” such as somatoform, are foisted off on courts in lieu of medical conditions that can be physically confirmed. The parents were given limited access to their daughter in “supervised” visits and were subjected to a court “gag order” in an effort to prevent them obtaining media help in their fight for their child’s life.
On February 25, 2014, the court denied the Pelletier’s request for custody, threatening to place Justina into foster care. The next day, Massachusetts State Representative Marc Lombardo announced that he and Rep. Jim Lyons had 12 representatives backing a resolution to start the process to release Justina to her parents. A leading attorney has filed a complaint to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health demanding an investigation into the Bader 5 unit.
On March 4th, it was reported that the juvenile court approved a plan for Justina to return to treatment under her doctors at Tufts. The court also lifted the gag order. “This is a victory,” said Lou Pelletier, Justina’s father, “but the battle is long from being over. DCF is still in charge…and the child abuse charges have not gone away.”
On March 17th, there will be another hearing in which the Pelletiers will seek to regain custody of their daughter. CCHR supports the wide community demand for BCH and DCF to free Justina Pelletier from psychiatric control.
Several organizations are supporting and defending the Pelletier’s rights and have set up avenues for individuals to make their voices heard:
- Personhood USA (a Christian values organization) has prepared a petition calling for the State of Massachusetts and BCH to honor Justina’s and her parents’ rights.
- For residents of Massachusetts only, Personhood USA has prepared an electronic letter that you can fill out and send via the web to the Massachusetts State Assembly and state Governor Deval Patrick to take legislative action to free Justina.
- Liberty Counsel, the legal organization that is defending the Pelletier’s rights in court, recommends visiting and sharing their Facebook page with supporters to get up-to-the minute updates and to get the electronic letter and petition above supported: https://www.facebook.com/LibertyCounsel
- You can contact the Suffolk County Juvenile Court (617-788-8568 or fax 617-788-8982) and the Massachusetts Department of Children & Families Commissioner, Olga Roche (617-748-2000) and politely but firmly demand that they return Justina to her family.
CCHR also supports and encourages an investigation into BCH and its Bader 5 unit, as well as an investigation into the serious flaws in the DCF-BCH relationship that has required legislative intervention and massive community outcry to see justice done.
If you have been abused in Bader 5 or any other BCH psychiatric unit while in DCF custody, you can file a report with CCHR.
In a February 2013 report by the UN Committee on Torture and Other Cruel or Degrading Treatment or Punishment it stated: “…deprivation of liberty that is based on the grounds of a disability and that inflicts severe pain or suffering could fall under the scope of the Convention against Torture. In making such an assessment, factors such as fear and anxiety produced by indefinite detention, the infliction of forced medication or electroshock, the use of restraints and seclusion, the segregation from family and community, etc., should be taken into account.” [Emphasis added]
Justina’s and other child-protective agency cases, where psychiatrists have ridden roughshod not only over the child, but also the parents and family medical doctors/specialists, warrant the highest level of investigation and changes to legislation so that prosecutions can occur when a child’s rights are abused by those claiming—in the name of the state—to be protecting them.