An anonymous billionaire has stepped forward to fund a campaign to free Justina Pelletier, the young American teenager at the heart of a dramatic custody battle between her parents and Massachusetts hospital authorities. While he will be footing the bill for new lawyers set to fight for Justina to be returned to the care of her parents, campaigners are planning a weekend rally and prayer vigil outside the facility where Justina is being held.
At the same time lawmakers are motivating a State bill that parents have the right to make health care decisions for their children, and a number of Massachusetts state representatives are calling for her immediate release. A new website linking to a new petition, Justice for Justina, has been launched, and the pro-life Personhood USA organization has approached the Massachusetts attorney general for her support.
The family’s new lawyer is also promoting a petition that asks the Governor of Massachusetts, the Department of Children and Families (DCF), and Connecticut members of the U.S. Congress to “end the Pelletier nightmare,” which he says is just like “a horror movie.”
Foster Care Avoided
On Monday a judge ruled that Justina, who is currently in the Massachusetts Wayside Youth and Family Support Network facility, and in the legal custody of the DCF, be transferred into foster care until March 17 which is the next court date for the custody case. As a result of this decision, there were scenes of outrage outside the courthouse and Linda Pelletier collapsed under the stress. Medics wheeled her from the court on a first aid stretcher.
According to Rev. Patrick Mahoney, one of several high-profile campaigners who have joined the cause, Justina was to go to the Shared Living Collaborative in Merrimac. After Mahoney, who heads the Washington-based Christian Defense Coalition publicized the weekend vigil (originally planned for Merrimac) on social media, the foster care facility “backed away” from involvement in the case, he said. The vigil will now be held outside Wayside between noon and 2 pm tomorrow.
Justina Fighting For Her Life
Justina’s parents and campaigners say she is in “the fight of her life” as her health is deteriorating rapidly. Aged 15 and diagnosed with the rare mitochondrial disease, she was admitted to Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) in February last year after she went down with influenza. Her regular doctor at Tufts Medical Center in Boston was not available, but a gastroenterologist who had also treated her at Tufts, was at BCH. However, he was not permitted to attend Justina; instead other hospital medics re-diagnosed her condition as somatoform disorder, a stress-related malady that is considered psychiatric in origin.
According to the National Institute’s of Health (NIH), the pain experienced in somatoform is “like that of a physical disorder, but no physical cause is found. The pain is thought to be due to psychological problems.” It also states that pain medications “do not work very well” and may result in side effects. They state that these medications may also “carry the risk for abuse.” When Justina’s parents refused to accept that the symptoms were “all just in her head,” and would not sign the plan of new treatment, the DCF filed for custody and accused the Pelletiers with “medical child abuse.”
Well known radio personality Glenn Beck, whose radio show is syndicated and broadcast via more than 400 stations, had his say on air after Monday’s court case. “It’s no longer about medicine, it’s now about her parents being unfit to care for her. Figure that,” he said, adding that the biggest problem with the story was that because no one really understands it “we don’t believe it.”
He announced to his listeners that “a very wealthy individual that listens to this program,” was so outraged by what was happening, he had volunteered to set up, and pay for attorneys to take over the free Justina Pelletier case. While the billionaire did not want to be named at this point, lawyers who had been appointed included National Center for Life and Liberty’s David Gibbs and Mathew Staver (above), founder and chairman of the international nonprofit Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law that operates within the “context of the Christian intellectual tradition.” According to its website, the school teaches that the law is only good if it used properly; and if not used correctly, can “be repressive and crush those it should protect.” A number of other campaigners were planning a rally, a vigil and a new website dedicated to increasing support for her, he said.
Experimental Medicine For Wards of the State
Beck said he was helping promote a new state bill that reaffirms in the existing “language of the Supreme Court” that “parents have the right to educate and take care of the health of their own child.” The bill should be passed in all American states, he said, to stop this travesty of justice. Before interviewing Justina’s father Lou Pelletier on air, Beck told listeners that the BCH admission papers say that if any child becomes a ward of the state, experimental medicine may be used on these children. “They are trying to prove that somatoform is real” by furthering research possibilities, he said. “It is really frightening.”
Beck also interviewed the Pelletier’s newly appointed lawyer, Mat Staver who said he was cynical when he first heard about the case. “I was as perplexed as everyone else” and thought “there had to be something else going on.” After his own intense investigations he said he was convinced the problem lies, not with the parents, but with the DCF and BCH.
DFC Objects to New Attorney
Staver said he was also concerned that for the first time in 27 years (working in all 50 states, usually defending first amendment violations) he had not been given permission to represent his client. “The DCF is objecting to me being involved,” and so the judge kicked “the can down the road” and would not even allow him to observe Monday’s court appearance. Usually it was “super-easy” for clients to have new counsel approved by a judge, he said.
Questioned by Beck, Staver confirmed that only Justina’s parents are permitted to visit her, and not her three sisters or grandmother. They may only stay for an hour, and DCF workers are present. He described how four or five DCF workers and an armed Massachusetts state trooper were present after Lou had recently defied a verbal gag order not to speak to the media. “They asked her where Lou was,” and laughed when she showed concern that Justina’s belly was extruded and had red lines on it. “This could be a sign of sepsis or poisoning,” but because cell phones are not permitted in the room, she could not photograph this condition as evidence. When Linda Pelletier asked her daughter what the lines were, the “DCF people started laughing at her,” he said. On a positive note, Staver confirmed that Dr. Alex Flores, the gastroenterologist who had treated her at Tufts had been allowed to see her – “13 months later.”
Asked about the reference to “experimental medicine” in the BCH admission papers, Staver said there was “some suspicion” that “there is an ulterior motive.” He also emphasized that the reason Justina’s parents had refused to sign the new BCH treatment plan was because they wanted her to return to Tufts after being seen by Dr. Flores.
State Representative Resolution
By Thursday, 16 Massachusetts state representatives had backed the resolution asking the DCF to start the process that would release Justina from state custody. Two Republican state representatives, Jim Lyons and Marc Lombardo were heading the campaign, and it was reported that they would bring the resolution to free Justina Pelletier up at the next Massachusetts House of Representatives’ meeting. Lyons said treatment decisions should be the parents’ responsibility since this was clearly a case where medical opinions conflicted.
In addition to the billionaire benefactor and new lawyers, another campaigner, Keith Mason, President of Personhood USA, approached Massachusetts’ attorney general, Martha Coakley and asked if she was aware of the Pelletier custody case. Captured on video, she was heard to say “only what has been written in the media.” Mason told her that campaigners Lyons and Lombardo were calling on DCF to free Justina Pelletier and asked for her thoughts. According to Lombardo, who has been active in the rally to get support for the resolution, she said she “cares about the case” and will “look into it” if “there is a need.”
By Penny Swift