[Editor's note: There is some good news coming out of Boston. It shows how shining the light of truth on true injustices can help change the world – at least for one fifteen year old girl.]
Boston, MA – Today the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) began to back away from abusive treatment of the Pelletier family. The plight of Justina Pelletier and her family has attracted national attention. At the request of her treating physician, Linda and Lou Pelletier admitted their daughter, Justina, now fifteen years old, to Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) in February of 2013. The family was advised by Justina’s treating physician that they should ask to see Dr. Flores, a physician who had treated Justina before for gastrointestinal problems. Having since become associated with BCH, the admission to the emergency room to see Dr. Flores did not seem complicated.
Now under legal pressure and the scrutiny of the media and the public, which DCF wanted to avoid, DCF has agreed to (1) drop the contempt motion against the father for speaking to the media, (2) not oppose the motion Liberty Counsel prepared to remove the gag order, and (3) provide medical treatment to Justina by transferring her to Tufts Medical Center. DCF also wants to transfer its involvement to DCF in Connecticut, where the family lives. “We are pleased that DCF has finally done what they should have done months ago. But it is unacceptable to have DCF involved anymore. DCF had no business being involved in the first place. DCF must go,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, who represented the Pelletier family.
“As more of the details of this case come to light, more and more people are becoming outraged. It is unfathomable that this barbaric overreach by a state agency is taking place in America – and in the city that launched the fight for American liberty, of all places,” Staver said.
Justina’s fate changed when Dr. Peters, a new physician at BCH who did not consult with her treating physicians and thought he knew better that her experts, changed her diagnosis from a physical to a mental condition. Dr. Peters called in a psychologist, and Justina’s condition was now termed “Somatoform Disorder,” meaning her symptoms were all in her head, or in the heads of her parents. BCH then presented the family a one-page form to sign, in which they would have to agree that the medications would be discontinued and they could not seek a second opinion. When the family refused and requested that their daughter be discharged back to the care of her treating physicians at Tufts Medical Center, BCH called in DCF, and DCF prevented the parents from discharging their daughter.
For thirteen months DCF has refused to provide adequate medical care, refused to allow Justina access to a clergy or communion, and refused to provide any education for her. In January of 2013, before she was admitted to the ER at BCH, Justina was involved in ice-skating competitions and was in a private school under an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for a learning disability. Now she is weak and in a wheelchair. Without any education, she has fallen at least two years behind her classmates. DCF has allowed the parents only one hour per week to visit their daughter, but always with a DCF worker or workers present. DCF has prevented the parents from taking a cell phone to photograph their daughter. Last November DCF asked the juvenile court for a gag order, and Judge Johnston granted one verbally, never putting it in writing. Last week DCF filed a motion to hold Lou Pelletier in contempt of court for speaking to the national media.
That is when Mat Staver and Liberty Counsel learned about the case. The family requested that Liberty Counsel represent them. On Monday, Staver flew to Boston to represent the family in court against the contempt charges. But DCF objected to the representation. Local and national media covered the story. The media scrutiny and legal proceedings have caused DCF to begin to back away from the abuse it has inflicted on the family. “But make no mistake, DCF must go,” said Staver.
Justina’s next hearing is scheduled for March 17, and the Massachusetts legislature will vote on the resolution urging DCF to release Justina on March 5, when the Massachusetts House is next in session.
Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono legal assistance and representation on these and related topics.