Rev. Patrick Mahoney, family spokesperson for Justina Pelletier and her beleaguered family, has publicly confronted the Governor of Massachusetts (MA) in a bid to free the desperately sick teenager. After trying to set up a legitimate meeting with Gov. Deval Patrick, Mahoney eventually resorted to ambush tactics and got an interview while the governor was literally on the hop. A YouTube video of the conversation between the two men, after yesterday’s dramatic encounter, is being circulated on the Internet, and can be viewed below.
Holding a board headlined Gov. Patrick – Get the Facts and the words “FREE JUSTINA … and ALL children kidnapped by DCF,” Mahoney confronted Gov. Patrick demanding the immediate release of the teenager, whose home is in Connecticut. Introducing himself as Reverend Mahoney, a spokesperson for the family, the seasoned Christian campaigner told the governor he appreciated his past work in civil rights and challenged him to now do something to protect Justina Pelletier’s civil rights. “Let her go home. Sir, she cannot even walk. She is not being educated. She could not go to church for 14 months. So we need to get her home.”
Justina’s tragic story goes back to February 2013 when her parents admitted her to Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) to be treated by a specialist gastroenterologist who knew her medical history. Diagnosed with mitochondrial disease, a little known and highly complex condition that can affect any of the organs and tissues in the body, she had been treated successfully for several years at the highly regarded Tufts Medical Center, also in Boston. This is where the gastroenterologist that her parents and another doctor wanted her to see, had previously worked. At the time Justina (pictured with her older sister Jennifer, above) had a bad dose of flu that had affected her gut, and her parents wanted her to have the best possible care.
While Justina was admitted to BCH, she never got to see the specialist, but instead was seen by a newly qualified neurologist, a pediatrician, and later by a psychologist, who as a team diagnosed somatoform disorder. This means they believed that while the physical symptoms displayed by Justina were all real, the cause was all in her head.
Because her parents refused to accept or condone the new diagnosis, the hospital called in the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF). The DCF filed with the court and had Justina put in their custody, claiming that the Pelletiers were guilty of child abuse. The hospital then took her off all the medicine prescribed by the Tuft doctors (including a potent vitamin cocktail), and transferred her to the infamous locked psychiatric ward, Bader 5, in the hospital.
The custody battle between the DCF and the Pelletiers has continued since then, but Judge Joseph F. Johnston, who has ruled on the case since the beginning, has steadfastly refused to budge. He has stated that Justina must be returned to Connecticut urgently, but will not change the custody ruling. Neither the Connecticut court nor Connecticut DCF has been prepared to get involved with the case, which is why Rev. Mahoney and other campaigners have been desperately trying to lobby Gov. Patrick. Ultimately it is also why Mahoney confronted the MA governor yesterday in his pertinacious and dogged bid to persuade the governor to do something that will free Justina Pelletier and have her returned to her parents.
Rev. Mahoney, who is head of the Washington-based Christian Defense Coalition, joined the fight to have Justina returned to the care of her parents earlier this year. Since then he has campaigned tirelessly, holding peaceful demonstrations, prayer meetings, even setting up a television interview with Dr. Phil last month, and accompanying the family to LA for the show.
Justina, who is currently being held at Wayside Youth and Family in Framingham MA, a facility where youngsters are normally housed temporarily for just a few weeks, was not permitted to see her family during Easter, or even allowed to go to church. The family is devote Christians, yet of the 75 teenagers who are currently living at the facility, Justina was the only one who did not spend Easter with her family. Undaunted, Mahoney organized a “special celebration of Easter” with her family outside Wayside on Easter Sunday.
Yesterday around midday Mahoney posted on his Facebook page that he had “just confronted” Gov. Deval Patrick about Justina Pelletier and would be posting the video. “We will not be silent!” Within two hours he posted an “urgent update” together with the video that he asked all his friends and followers to repost.
Challenged by Mahoney on supposedly having a “detailed report of neglect” of Justina by her parents Linda and Lou Pelletier, and not making it public, Gov. Patrick maintained that the report was “confidential,” and later, that it was “not a public matter.” Challenging him again on not having a “reunification plan” for the family, Mahoney suggested: “Let us put it together and let us get her home.”
“Reverend, you should know, I think she should be at home in Connecticut,” said Patrick, adding that they had been to court “in order to have her sent home in Connecticut. Whether you believe it or not, the court has jurisdiction in this matter, not us.”
Mahoney all but begged the governor to do something to “fix” the situation. “There is so much you can do,” he said, “134 missing kids under DCF.” Stating that he agreed that Justina “should be at home close to her family, if not with her family,” Patrick said he knew what he could do, and claimed he had in fact been “doing a lot, probably more than you know and more than the public is entitled to know under the law.”
Ultimately, Gov. Patrick said he would be “happy” to talk to Mahoney some other time “without a camera pointed at me,” and suggested in the meantime that Mahoney talk to the commissioner of the DCF. Rev. Mahoney responded by saying: “We call upon Gov. Patrick to fulfill his ode to protect the citizens of Massachusetts.”
In a press release issued after the confrontation, Mahoney said he was concerned that Patrick had not answered key questions relating to Justina’s lack of education for 14 months, and the fact that she has not been permitted to attend church. Patrick also did not respond to why he had accused the family of having “a history of neglect” but had neglected to give “public evidence” in support of this claim. Lastly, he had no reunification plan to send Justina home to her loving family, and could not say why.
Since Gov. Patrick has a “background in civil rights law,” Mahoney stated, he should be able to give answers relating to the fact that Justina’s civil rights that should be guaranteed by the constitution, had been curtailed by the Massachusetts DCF. He also said he could not believe how the governor was able to “pardon and release convicted criminals,” but not able to do anything to help an innocent teenager.
Late yesterday afternoon, after having confronted the MA governor in his bid to free Justina, Rev. Mahoney posted another message on his Facebook page requesting “urgent prayer.” He said he was unable to give details, but was having “a critical meeting” in Boston this morning at 9 that could “provide a major step” in getting Justina Pelletier home. He said he could not stress the importance of the meeting enough and hoped to be able to share detail later today. “Through prayer, we can see God shift and shape history.”
By Penny Swift
By Penny Swift