When a juvenile court judge ruled that the state could keep custody of Justina Pelletier, her parents were furious. Her father yelled, “EVIL!” in the hallway, and her mother emerged from the courtroom, sobbing, “I don’t understand how they can do this. I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Their daughter’s life has been in “limbo” for almost a year, locked in a psychiatric ward at Boston Children’s Hospital. For what it’s worth, the judge has appointed a “court investigator” to take a look at the case, and gave some impression that he was willing to look into returning her to her parents, “as long as Connecticut authorities closely monitor her care”. In other words, even if these people get their child back, they will be forced to live in a nanny state, with the government constantly breathing down their necks.
The whole thing began when the family brought Justina to the hospital to receive care for a mitochondrial disease that was not allowing her to eat or even walk. A “diagnostic dispute” began between the doctors at Tufts Medical Center and the children’s hospital over whether the problem was physical or psychiatric.
Now, the parents have been accused of something all parents are likely “guilty” of at least some time in their child’s rearing: “Medical Child Abuse”. Now, before you go off thinking that I’m condoning child abuse, listen to what the authorities and lawmakers consider “medical child abuse”: “Parents suspected of interfering with their child’s medical care or pushing for unnecessary and even harmful treatments.”
In an age when 90% of the “ordered” treatments by doctors turn out to be unnecessary, harmful, or even deadly, this is a very dangerous precedent the government keeps setting. If you refuse to vaccinate your child because you have issues with their efficacy and safety, you’re a child abuser. If you don’t want your child to suffer through dangerous chemotherapy and would like to use natural hemp oil and other alternative treatments to help them, you’re a child abuser.
The Boston Globe makes it sound like the parents of this child are being belligerent and don’t want their child to get better because it means they were “wrong” in their assessment. I think this is patently false. Inpatient psychiatric care for teenagers is almost always unnecessary, especially when there is an underlying medical issue having nothing to do with mental illness that could account for aberrant psychological behavior.
Justina’s story began when her parents rushed her to the emergency room at the children’s hospital in early February, complaining that she was having severe symptoms of a mitochondrial disease. Mitochondrial diseases are rare genetic disorders that affect how cells make energy, which often causes problems with the digestive system, brain, muscles, and even the heart.
Just six weeks earlier, Justina had performed in an ice show ; Now, she was barely able to walk and had pretty much stopped eating altogether.
But within three days, the doctors at the children’s hospital began to suspect that her diagnosed mitochondrial disorder wasn’t making her sick, and that it was a “psychiatric issue”, and that her parents were “blocking psychiatric care that she badly needed”. They decided that she mostly suffered from somatoform disorder, meaning her pain and agony were literally “all in her head”. The parents complained that they were drastically changing their daughter’s course of treatment without her normal doctors’ involvement or even an examination by the gastroenterologist her primary care physician had sent her there to see!
When her parents threatened to take her out of the hospital to see the gastroenterologist, the hospital reported it’s suspicions of medical child abuse to the authorities, which prompted CPS to take emergency custody of Justina.
The gastroenterology specialist asked repeatedly for a roundtable meeting to bring all of her doctors and others who knew her well together, as a way to come up with a plan to present to her parents. This is what normally happens in these cases and is usually advocated by child abuse specialists in complicated cases like Justina’s. However, his requests were ignored.
Her battle is not unusual, however ; Hers was one of five separate cases involving the same children’s hospital in the last 18 months. In that time frame, five different sets of parents disagreed with the diagnosis and either lost custody of their children or were threatened with it unless they did what the doctors said. Obviously, something is very wrong with the child welfare system: Instead of going after truly abusive parents, they arbitrarily punish those who disagree with drastic medical procedures and treatments the doctors prescribe.
Children’s, Tufts, and the state child-protection agency have declined to comment specifically on Justina’s case, citing patient confidentiality. The Globe, however, obtained records showing that Children’s staff and ultimately state officials believed that the girl was getting a series of needless medications and treatments rather than the mental health care she needed.
Both Children’s and the state noted in records that the parents had a pattern of combative behavior with staff.
It’s unclear why she’s still locked up in Bader 5, the psychiatric ward at the children’s hospital. The hospital released a statement last week, saying it “does not keep patients in its care against the direction of the custodial guardian.” The state, who is acting as the custodial guardian, has apparently been struggling to find a suitable residential center or foster home for the girl. Why not just send her home with her parents who love her and take excellent care of her?
The hospital added in it’s statement, “We make every effort to treat patients and families involved in these cases with compassion and respect, while focusing on the medical needs of the child involved.” What a joke!
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