Justina Pelletier: Alan Dershowitz to Represent Teen in Custody Fight

Wednesday, 02 Apr 2014 10:34 AM

By Nick Sanchez

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Former Harvard law professor and high-profile lawyer Alan Dershowitz will represent 15-year-old Justina Pelletier as her parents attempt to regain custody after a heated court battle that resulted in her placement with the Department of Children and Families last week.

"I'd like to help out," he said on Fox News' "Huckabee" Saturday night.

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This week, Dershowitz confirmed he was in talks with Pelletier's parents.

"I have reached out to one of the family's representatives, and we are trying to set up a discussion on how to proceed," Dershowitz told FoxNews.com Tuesday.

Dershowitz said he believes the case is an important one, and he's interested in working on a pro bono basis with the family's current legal team to address "broader Constitutional issues."

"When you hear about a case like this you scratch your head and you say 'something else must be going on,'" he said on "Huckabee."

Justina Pelletier had been undergoing regular treatment for mitochondrial disease by doctors at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, where she was diagnosed in 2011. When she began having gastrointestinal problems, Pelletier's attorney Phil Moran said her doctor, Mark Korson, advised the family to visit Dr. Alejandro Flores at Boston Children's Hospital, who she'd seen before.

Because she was in a wheelchair and a heavy snow was falling at the time, Justina was taken to the hospital by ambulance. The ambulance took her to the emergency room, where another resident "declared this was his case" and "refused to send her to Dr. Flores," according to Moran.

The unnamed resident called a psychologist re-diagnosed Justina "within 25 minutes," according to Moran, with somatoform — a psychosomatic disorder — because they thought the girl's symptoms were psychological, not physical.

The Pelletiers refused Boston Children's treatment plan for their daughter and tried to check her out of the hospital on Feb. 14, 2013 to take her back to Tufts, but the hospital refused.

The hospital staff called the state and accused Justina's parents, Lou and Linda, of medical child abuse, and kept her in the hospital's psychiatric ward for nearly a year.

Last week, juvenile court judge Joseph Johnston awarded the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families "permanent" custody of Justina.

"If two distinguished medical centers have different diagnoses, it should be the parents, not the state, that determines the course of treatment," Dershowitz said

He also hopes to get to the bottom of the gag order the judge imposed on the parents, which stipulated they could not talk to the press during the proceedings. He said it was "without a doubt unconstitutional."

Lou and Linda Pelletier said their daughter's condition has worsened significantly since her mitochondrial treatment stopped, and getting her back on it is crucial for her health.

"She hasn’t had any blood tests in 13 months," Linda Pelletier said. "We learned yesterday that she has a urinary tract infection."


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