Justina Pelletier, age 16, is finally reunited with her family after a 16-month custody battle between the state of Massachusetts and her Connecticut family. Justina had been in Massachusetts state custody since February 2013 when Boston Children's Hospital disagreed with the diagnosis and treatment she was receiving from Tufts Medical Center and gained custody based on improper treatment and child neglect.
The story began when Justina's parents took her to Boston Children's Hospital for the flu. Justina Pelletier was under treatment for a rare cell-based condition since 2010 at Tufts Medical Center. Her doctors at Tufts referred her to Boston Medical Center to be treated for the flu by a doctor she had seen previously who had transferred to the Boston facility. However, instead she was confronted by other doctors at Boston Children's who contended Justina's "cell-based" condition was psychosomatic or caused by mental illness rather than a physical disease.
The hospital accused the Pelletiers of overmedicating their daughter and denying her mental health care. Then the state took custody of Justina...she was first placed in a psych ward and then a residential facility. In May, she was transferred to a Connecticut facility, but remained in Massachusetts state care. In early June, Massachusetts' Department of Children and Families reversed its position and asked Justina's judge to return the girl to her parents. Massachusetts Juvenile Judge Joseph Johnston filed the order allowing Justina to go home Tuesday.
Earlier this month, Justina posted an effective, but sad video on Facebook begging Judge Johnston to let her go home. Throughout the custody battle, the family was only allowed limited and supervised visits with their daughter, Justina.
Today, Justina is at home recovering. "She was taken off important medication while under state care and cannot walk." According to her dad, she will start rehab immediately... "I will be walking someday," said Justina, who currently uses a wheelchair. "I'll be running, skating and all this other stuff."
Justina's dad, Lou Pelletier, said he will work on legislation to ensure what happened to Justina won't happen to any other families. "There's going to be a Justina law," he told a Connecticut newspaper. Hospitals are "taking kids, using DCF to be their little wing man," he continued. "I'm going to be the guy that's going to change that."
How could something like this happen? How and under what conditions can a state, as in this case, Massachusetts, take custody of a Connecticut resident? What are the dangers of conflicting medical treatments as it relates to child custody? These plus other questions are sure to be addressed as the saga plays out.
If you are facing a divorce and your children's future is at stake, Stange Law Firm, PC can help. Our attorneys are experienced in matters of child custody because we focus exclusively on family law and deal with cases like this every day.
For a confidential half-hour consultation with a Missouri or Illinois divorce attorney, call us at 855-805-0595 or contact us online.
Source: New York Daily News, Justina Pelletier's parents win custody; 16-year-old finally goes home after 16 months in Massachusetts state care, by Meg Wagner, June 18, 2104