Justina Pelletier: Judge to Settle Custody Battle for 15-Year-Old

Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 08:39 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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A Massachusetts juvenile court judge will decide by Friday whether the parents of Justina Pelletier will regain custody of their daughter or if the state will continue to care for the sick 15-year-old.

The West Hartford, Conn., 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.

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.

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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.

The Boston Globe reported that Linda and Lou Pelletier and their court-appointed attorney, Nancy Hathaway, have filed a joint motion that would grant them "conditional custody" of their daughter. The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families is fighting the motion, urging Judge Joseph Johnston to reject it.

The Globe noted that Hathaway supports the parents in their effort to regain custody of their daughter. However, she disagreed with their decision to replace their attorneys Chester and Christine Tennyson with lawyer Mathew Staver, a former pastor who runs the Florida-based Liberty Counsel and is dean of Liberty University School of Law.

Staver asked the court Monday to be admitted to the case to represent the parents.

Johnston could also flip the script and transfer Justina Pelletier's custody to the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.

"They want to kick the can to Connecticut and have her under care of DCF there," Staver told the Courant. "If Massachusetts has no basis for custody, then neither does Connecticut."

A decision is expected by Friday.

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