Justina Pelletier Stays in State Custody After 'Medical Child Abuse'

Wednesday, 26 Mar 2014 07:09 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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The fate of Justina Pelletier, the 15-year-old Connecticut girl at the center of a custody dispute between her parents and the state of Massachusetts, now lies with the Department of Children and Families after a juvenile judge awarded the agency "permanent" custody this week.

The West Hartford teenager has been at the center of a custody dispute for more than a year after a diagnostic disagreement between Boston Children's Hospital and Tufts Medical Center led to the state accusing Pelletier's parents of "medical child abuse," according to the Hartford Courant.

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The girl first entered the Boston Children's Hospital in February 2013 after showing symptoms related to mitochondrial disease, which she was diagnosed with in 2011 by Tufts doctors. But medical staff at Boston Children's Hospital questioned the diagnosis and said they believed Pelletier's symptoms, which included weakness, headaches, and abdominal pain, were psychological.

Those doctors then diagnosed her with somatoform disorder, a mental condition, and accused the Pelletiers of medical child abuse when they attempted to transfer their daughter to Tufts.

Pelletier has been in the custody of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families ever since, despite her parents' attempt to regain "conditional custody."

Now, Judge Joseph Johnston has ruled that any decisions regarding Pelletier or her placement are solely in the hands of the state department. According to the Boston Globe, the judge heard testimony from Pelletier, her parents, and the girl's health providers and determined Tuesday that Linda and Lou Pelletier are "unfit to care for the complex medical and psychiatric needs of their daughter."

The Globe noted that the parents may request that the judge reevaluate his decision after six months. Because the ruling was applied retroactively to December, an appeal could take place as early as this summer.

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