Modern Day Salem—Boston Psychiatric Unit’s Imprisonment of Teenager Justina Pelletier Needs State Investigation into Reckless Endangerment of Psychiatric Diagnosing

Because a child’s well-being hangs in the balance, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights calls on the Massachusetts State Attorney General to investigate Boston Children’s Hospital Psychiatric Unit, ‘Bader 5,’ specifically requiring that the treating psychiatrists provide medical/scientific proof of the alleged diagnosis, Somatoform.

By Kelly Patricia O’Meara
March 27, 2014

For thirteen months, Lou and Linda Pelletier’s youngest daughter, Justina, has been a prisoner at the hands of Boston Children’s Hospital psychiatric unit accused of suffering from an obscure “mental disorder,” Somatoform, which a leading psychologist describes as being “nothing more than a destructive and unreliably applied label.” In deteriorating health, and confined to a wheelchair, the 15-year-old learned this week that there will be no pardon from the Massachusetts Psychiatric Puritans.

Because a child’s well-being hangs in the balance, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) calls on the Massachusetts State Attorney General to investigate Boston Children’s Hospital Psychiatric Unit, “Bader 5,” specifically requiring that the treating psychiatrists provide medical/scientific proof of the alleged diagnosis, Somatoform.

CCHR also supports legislative action instigated by Mass State Representative Marc Lombardo to start the process of releasing Justina Pelletier to her parents but said this should be expanded to investigate the harmful influence of psychiatrists’ opinions resulting in state removal of children from their families.

After months of fighting for the teenager’s freedom, the Pelletiers were dismissed by the Juvenile Court and denied custody of their ailing daughter. Juvenile Court Judge, Joseph Johnson’s reason for denying the Pelletiers’ right to decide their daughter’s medical treatment was his belief that the Pelletier’s will not comply with the state’s directives. The Judge further wrote in his decision that he believed Justina suffered from “a persistent and severe Somatic Symptom Disorder,” the very psychiatric diagnosis the Pelletiers have been fighting since first admitting Justina to Boston Children’s Hospital.

Like Maryanne Godboldo’s long struggle in Detroit, Michigan to regain custody of her 12-year-old daughter, Ariana, the Pelletiers’ nightmare began when they dared to question the psychiatric diagnosis. They committed the ultimate sin of failing to follow the psychiatric directives and, therefore, are deemed non-compliant and unfit. As is the case with so many of these state child abductions, the assault on the Pelletier family begins and ends with a subjective psychiatric diagnosis.

In issues relating to the medical validity of mental disorders such as Somatoform, it is worth noting that that the former Task Force Chairman of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), psychiatrist Allen Frances, stated in a June 2, 2010 Psychology Today article, “Psychiatric Fads and Overdiagnosis,” that, “There are no objective tests in psychiatry—no X-ray, laboratory, or exam finding that says definitively that someone does or does not have a mental disorder.”

As psychiatrist Allen Frances admits, there is no medical test for any mental disorder, and therefore the diagnosis of Somataform is only one of “belief” and not of medical fact.

boston-childrens-hospital_250The forced psychiatric incarceration of Justina, against the family’s wishes, centers on the growing divide between medical diagnosis with confirmatory lab tests, and psychiatric diagnosis which is based on diagnosing behaviors, and for which there are no confirmatory lab tests. Even the American Psychiatric Association in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders admits that, “…no definition adequately specifies precise boundaries for the concept of ‘mental disorder.'”

Some of the facts in the Pelletier case include:

  • In 2011, Justina had been diagnosed by, and receiving treatment from, Dr. Mark Korson, a physician at Tufts Medical Center, for Mitochondrial Disease, a rare genetic condition, where specialized compartments of cells (except red blood cells), fail, resulting in less energy generated within the cell. When repeated throughout the body, the health of the person is severely compromised.
  • Less than 24 hours after having been admitted to Boston Children’s Hospital for flu-like symptoms in February 2013, Justina’s medical diagnosis was changed to the psychiatric disorder Somatoform. It has about as much science to support it as Dr. William Griggs’ “witch” diagnosis in the late 1600s that claimed the afflictions of the girls in Salem village were caused by “an evil hand,” not by natural causes.
  • Upon learning of the psychiatric diagnosis, the Pelletiers attempted to discharge Justina from the hospital. In response, the Hospital filed an allegation of medical child abuse against them.
  • In February 2013, “guidelines” were drafted by Boston Children’s Hospital in regard to Justina’s case which set strict limitations on medical discussions with the family and eliminated interaction with providers outside the hospital. The “guidelines” are a direct contradiction to what the psychiatric “team” muttered in published psychiatric papers. For instance, Dr. Simona Bujoreanu, Assistant in Psychology, and Dr. David DeMaso, psychiatrist-in-chief, both of Boston Children’s Hospital, co-authored an article entitled “Enhancing Working Relationship between Parents and Surgeons.” In describing the treatment modality, DeMaso and Bujoreanu explain:

“The working relationship between parents and surgeons is fundamental in providing excellent health care to children and adolescents. The breakdown of this working relationship has a significant potential for detrimental effects on individual well-being and adverse systemic outcomes….”

Apparently this parent/surgeon relationship only works when it fits DeMaso and Bujoreanu’s needs.

  • The social worker with the Department of Children & Families in an affidavit given to the Juvenile Court accused the Pelletiers of “obstructing her care.” It also failed to include that the social worker had spoken directly to Dr. Korson, who had explained Justina’s mitochondrial diagnosis in great detail.
  • In October 2013, reporter Beau Berman of Fox CT started an investigation into the Pelletiers’ story and did an exclusive interview with Justina’s father. But on Nov. 7, 2013, the Juvenile Court Judge issued a gag order on the Pelletiers.
  • After a year of psychiatric care, Justina’s older sister, Jennifer, who has also been diagnosed by Tufts with mitochondrial disease, reports that Justina’s condition is “scary” and she had never seen Justina in worse condition.
  • On March 25, 2014, the Juvenile Court judge ruled in favor of Boston Children’s Hospital and Justina became a ward of the state, severely restricting the Pelletiers’ access to their daughter.

justina-pelletier-6_250When asked in an interview to explain how parents could be told that they had to accept the hospital’s completely subjective psychiatric Somatoform diagnosis as a condition for regaining custody, psychiatrist DeMaso stressed it wasn’t up to Children’s to determine custody. DeMaso said, “That’s DCF.” The hospital spokesman added, “We can’t be responsible for what DCF says or does.”

Both DeMaso’s and the Hospital’s reply is disingenuous at best. After all, it was the psychiatric unit at Children’s who played a major role in initiating legal action by bringing in social services and accusing the Pelletiers of neglect and abuse and failing to accept their opinion over the medical facts of Justina’s treating physician.

Yet, under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), it appears that the Pelletiers did what is required of them under the law—done everything they could to prevent the physical harm of their daughter. Under CAPTA, child abuse and neglect means:

  • Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker that results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation;
  • An act or failure that presents an imminent risk of serious harm.

justina-pelletier-7-250 Clearly, in the hands of the Massachusetts DCF and Children’s psychiatric unit, the teenager’s condition is deteriorating, not improving. And it is her treating psychiatrists that are putting Justina at “imminent risk of serious harm.” Justina is now in a wheelchair.

While “reckless endangerment” charges are usually directed at parents neglecting or putting their child at risk, Massachusetts legislators should be looking at revising the law to ensure State “guardianship” of a child and psychiatrists treating under that guardianship are not immune to such charges, where the child is put at “substantial risk of serious bodily injury” or “impairment of a function of a body member, limb or organ.”

Additionally, under the United Nation’s 2013 Report by the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Pelletiers certainly could claim Justina’s human rights have been violated: “Medical care that causes severe suffering for no justifiable reason can be considered cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and if there is State involvement and specific intent, it is torture.”

Surely, when a child’s life is at stake, even the governing bodies overseeing those institutions that claim to represent the best interests of children, would demand proof of the medical diagnosis. Or is it possible that Massachusetts has so easily forgotten the dreadful prosecutions of Salem, born from rumor, speculation and belief?

Kelly Patricia O’Meara is an award-winning former investigative reporter for the Washington Times’ Insight Magazine, penning dozens of articles exposing the fraud of psychiatric diagnosis and the dangers of the psychiatric drugs—including her ground-breaking 1999 cover story, “Guns & Doses,” exposing the link between psychiatric drugs and acts of senseless violence. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed book, Psyched Out: How Psychiatry Sells Mental Illness and Pushes Pills that Kill. Prior to working as an investigative journalist, O’Meara spent sixteen years on Capitol Hill as a congressional staffer to four Members of Congress. She holds a B.S. in Political Science from the University of Maryland.