Dismay as Justina Pelletier Custody Case Postponed DCF Ignores Dr Phil

Justina Pelletier Custody Case There was widespread dismay as Judge Joseph Johnston failed to deliver his ruling in the Justina Pelletier custody case in Boston yesterday. He postponed the case and said he would give a ruling “by Friday.” Meanwhile the celebrated Dr. Phil announced that he had called the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) on several occasions to discuss the case with them, but they had not returned any of his calls. While this authority ignores Dr. Phil, Justina remains at the Massachusetts Wayside Youth and Family Support Network where she has been since January. This is in spite of a DCF undertaking made nearly three weeks ago that she would be treated by a medical team at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, which is where her family wants her to be.

The judge will also rule later this week on whether Mathew Staver, the Dean of Liberty University School of Law, and founder and chairman of Liberty Council, an international nonprofit organization, is permitted to be the Pelletier’s official lawyer. Staver was appointed late February after a billionaire benefactor came forward on the Glenn Beck radio show with a sponsorship to ensure that Justina gets the best possible legal representation. The DCF is opposing the request.

Justina Pelletier Custody Case
Jennifer Pelletier, left, with Olympic ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Her sister Justina loved ice skating.

Justina, who was diagnosed with the rare mitochondrial disease (mito) by doctors at Tufts several years ago, was admitted to Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) in February 2013 at the age of 14. Vibrant, happy and a keen ice skater, she had contracted influenza, and because of her illness, was more adversely affected than other healthy people. Doctors at BCH declared that the Tufts diagnosis was incorrect and said she had somatoform disorder, which is psychological rather than physical. When her parents, Lou and Linda Pelletier refused to accept the new diagnosis, the DCF obtained a court order giving them custody of Justina Pelletier. The family has been fighting to regain custody ever since, and the Justina Pelletier custody case has increasingly made headline news.

Additionally, an increasing number of people have joined the struggle to have Justina, who is from Connecticut, returned to the care of her parents. There have been rallies and vigils, and even a TweetStorm on Monday evening that had a reach of 4,717,900 and 13,485,341 impacts. But in spite of this overwhelming support, she remains at Wayside in the custody of the Massachusetts DCF.

Justina Pelletier Custody Case
Melissa Kerins with her Save Justina banner at yesterday’s rally outside the Boston courthouse.

A crowd rallied outside the court yesterday carrying banners calling for the release from DCF custody of the Connecticut teenager. There was also a prayer vigil outside the court while the session was in progress. Several people addressed the crowd, including Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Washington-based Christian Defense Coalition who said this was not “a partisan issue” but “an issue of justice.” State representative Jim Lyons, one of several lawmakers who tried unsuccessfully to force the House of Representatives to get involved in the case, said what was happening “should alarm every parent in America.”

The Pelletiers in the Dr. Phil Show

Yesterday the Dr. Phil show featuring Lou Pelletier and two of Justina’s three sisters, Jennifer and Jessica (who also suffers from mito) was broadcast throughout the US. Titled The Fight over Justina: Medical Child Abuse by Parents or Abuse of Power by a Hospital? it also featured several medical specialists, a family law attorney, and Rev. Mahoney.

In pre-recorded snippets, Jessica explained that mito is “100 percent real,” and that it affects every part of the body. She said it made her extremely angry to hear doctors from BCH claiming it is a “non-existent” condition. Because of this belief Justina has been taken off her Tufts’ medication for mito, and consequently, said Jessica, “she looks horrible.”

“My sister is deteriorating before my eyes,” said Julia, adding that she was losing her hair due to stress. She also claimed that Justina had been “put into a walking harness device to force her to walk.”

This entire situation is beyond criminal.
Jennifer Pelletier

Dr. Phil asked Jessica and Jennifer, who are both adults who now live on their own, if they believed their parents were “a danger” to their sister. Both women responded.

None whatsoever. I come from a loving family. This is just crazy.
Jennifer Pelletier

They’re tearing our family apart. I don’t understand how this is still going on. It’s disgusting. This needs to stop.
Jessica Pelletier

Both sisters want to get Justina home so the family can get her the treatment she desperately needs. “Before we took her (to BCH) she was in ice skating shows. Now she is paralyzed and can’t even stand up,” said Jessica.

Dr. Phil then asked Dr. Charles Sophy, the Medical Director for the County of Los Angeles DCF, who is also a Dr. Phil Advisory Board member, under what circumstances parents should not dictate medical care. If they were “using their power,” he said, though in this case there was no evidence of any malpractice. Typically the DCF would step in if they believed the child was in danger either in terms of “a real safety risk” or suspicions that were significant enough to allow the DCF to hold the child for 72 hours while an investigation was carried out, Dr. Sophy said.

Dr. Sophy then asked Lou Pelletier if the Massachusetts DCF had ever interviewed the family, to which Pelletier replied that no-one had never been to the house and that they had never been interviewed, even telephonically. He also said that the Tufts doctors were doing as much as possible to help, but because they were hospital employees, they had been “blocked out.” There would also have been dismay on their side when the Justina Pelletier custody case was postponed following reports that the Massachusetts DCF ignores Dr. Phil and his efforts to intervene.

Why Mitochondrial Disease is Difficult to Diagnose

Dr. Travis Stork, an ER physician and co-host of The Doctor, explained why mito is such a difficult disease to diagnose. Mitochondria, he said, “really are the power-plant of every cell in your body except for your red blood cells.” So all the food one eats, and all the oxygen one breathes in requires the mitochondria to make the energy the cells need. Mitochondria are present in every major organ and so can affect virtually every system in your body, he said. This is why “it is so confusing and why there can be disagreement amongst medical experts.”

Dr. Phil then asked Lou Pelletier to confirm that after the family had issued a writ of habeas corpus against the DCF last summer, the psychologist at BCH testified in court that Justina had somatoform disorder, while a neurologist at the hospital claimed it was conversion disorder. “So they are disagreeing with themselves!” He also wanted to know if the psychologist was doing any sort of research program on somatoform disorder.

Lou Pelletier’s response was that there are four papers on somatoform she has authored that they know about, including one that says “50 percent of all pediatric patients have somatoform.”

The Fight to Reunite Justina Pelletier with her Family

Dr. Mahoney, who went to Los Angeles with the Pelletiers to record the show, told Dr. Phil that the family had been “living a nightmare” since Justina was “ripped from them.” He said they had their child taken from them “because they were following what the doctors told them to do,” a situation he has never heard of before. She must be reunited with her family “now,” he said.

“It is easy for us to believe that the parents did something wrong. The alternative is that the government moved in with impunity in front of everyone and removed the child from a loving home. But that’s exactly what happened.”

Dr. Phil said it was good public policy for children to remain with their biological parents, but it was true that there are “pathological family units.” For this reason, when it comes to any form of “child abuse” one has a “false positive situation,” he said. “Instead of innocent proven guilty, you have to assume something is wrong until you prove it isn’t in this situation.”

He went on to speculate that the hospital would assume “these parents” were keeping their daughter sick by rewarding her for “sick behavior,” taking her to doctors and literally “cutting her up” by enabling her to have surgeries. However, even if one was to assume the hospital was correct, said Dr. Phil, there should be an investigation – “a finding of fact and a finding of law.”

Dr. Sophy confirmed that the hospital would have to interview the parents and previous doctors to make sure that the person who undertook the 25-minute interview that led to a new diagnosis was in fact correct. They should have called the Connecticut DCF and asked them to do a home investigation said Dr. Sophy, and then undertake any counseling required to bring family back together again.

Areva Martin, a Los Angeles family law attorney who is also a child advocate, told Dr. Phil she believed there was no reason for Justina not to be at home with her family. “This is an example of the system gone wrong,” she said.

Statements Read and Posted by Dr. Phil

Dr. Phil read a statement that was issued by BCH while Justina was still in their care that stated they were “pleased with the progress” she was making. It was issued at a time that her parents were extremely concerned about her deteriorating health. The statement also said that the hospital was distressed that “inaccuracies” about the case had caused undue concern for families who had children with mito, who were in the care of BCH.

He also drew attention to a statement from Wayside that refused to confirm “any information” about people “who may or may not be in our care.”

A third statement from Dr. Dean Hoskanson previously chief psychologist of Connecticut Children’s Hospital who treated Justina from 2006, is posted on the Dr. Phil Show website. He stated that he has always “questioned the diagnosis,” and knew of nowhere in the US where treatment would be “a locked removal” from the family. He personally believed Justina was depressed because she was in pain and was unable to stay in school because of extreme fatigue – even though she desperately wanted to be in school with her friends. His diagnosis was low-grade depression secondary to her physical condition. He also stated that there was “a lot of interest in somatoform at BCH, more than any place that I know.” He had confidence in Dr. Mark Korson’s diagnosis of mitochondrial disease.

It is also clearly stated on the Dr. Phil Show website that the DCF continually ignores Dr. Phil who has “reached out to” them “several times, but they have not returned any calls.” Since it was expected that Judge Johnston would deliver his ruling on the Justina Pelletier custody case yesterday, the dismay felt at the courthouse had a ripple effect as supporters worldwide discovered that the case had been postponed and that it would probably be another four days before a decision was announced by the judge.

By Penny Swift

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12 Responses to "Dismay as Justina Pelletier Custody Case Postponed DCF Ignores Dr Phil"

  1. tracy thaden   March 21, 2014 at 9:59 am

    Is it possible this is not the first instance of this sort of collaboration between the medical community and child protective authorities to devastate and tear apart a family at their leisure? I urge other families who have experienced this to come forward and speak truth to power….

  2. Cheryl   March 20, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    Thank you Penny Swift for the most informative article/newscast I have read/seen since the case was postponed on Monday.

    You are one of the few people who has noticed or pointed out that THREE WEEKS AGO THIS CHILD WON THE RIGHT IN COURT TO GET PROPER MEDICAL CARE FROM TUFTS DRS AND NO ARRANGEMENTS HAVE BEEN MADE FOR HER TO GET THIS CARE. She continues to be in misery EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY. This is clearly medical abuse at the hands of the government.

    I have ME/CFS and I have had mitochondrial damage and I can tell you that in fact, forcing this child to walk in her present condition is torture. I forgive Dr. Phil for not understanding that and wanting to stay away form words like torture. But he needs to understand that a person with mitochondrial issues being forced to do things that your body does not have the energy to do, not only increases the misery, but can cause permanent damage. (I know. Because of pushing myself to do things that my Dr. thought I should be able to do I became bedridden for 5 years.)

    But also, the psychological torture of no one believing that you are really ill is even worse than the deprivation of TV and music, etc. I noticed a picture Justina made for her parents that had the words “Love” and “Believe” on it, and the fact that she asked her parents if they believe her. This girl needs to get back home with her family NOW.

    I hope and pray that Justina will get the proper medical care before she dies in the hands of DCF, which is a very real possibility.

  3. Audra   March 19, 2014 at 9:10 am

    @ Juliana…let’s not generalize and try to be rational…all psychologists are not narcissistic.

  4. Jack Smack   March 19, 2014 at 7:29 am

    The current iteration of America is disgusting. Our so called leaders are no longer worthy of common decency or respect.

  5. justinreilly   March 19, 2014 at 3:37 am

    Get this kid back to her family. I have represented people in these type of cases and all I have to say is shame on Judge Johnston, DCF and B Children’s Hospital. They have no conscience whatsoever, torturing this poor child.

    Justin Reilly, esq.

  6. Laurie   March 18, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    I am disturbed by the lack of support from Governor Patrick. Where are you? This is a disgrace to our state and country. This girl has not been educated for the past 1 1/2 years and has been treated like the victims of the holocaust. I remember thinking as I visited the museum this summer, this would never happen in America. WRONG! I’d like to see if this was the governors daughter or President Obama. Let Justina go home!!!!!

  7. Samantha Rose   March 18, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    *To the psychiatrists and psychologists at BCH* – this is why we have lab rats and laboratory animals – to test psychiatric drugs on. You do NOT need to medically kidnap children, make them wards of the court and then test your drugs on them as you see fit.

    Why has/is Justina since being in your ‘care’, not receiving schooling? Why is she not allowed the normal things that a teenage girl usually enjoys – computer/music/TV? You have breached just about every human right that Justina has.

    Why do you think she is better off under your ‘care’ in a locked psych ward and why does the opinion of your mental health care team supersede that of the TUFTS specialists? What makes you better and what gives you the right to disregard another professional doctor’s diagnosis and treatment?

    Do you really believe that Justina has improved whilst under your ‘care’? When she was with her parents she was an active young girl – living with an illness that did not stop her from living her life? Now she is unable to walk and is in a wheelchair and has visibly deteriorated, yet you claim she has improved.

    What are your motives for doing what you are doing to this family?

    Because from where we (the public) are standing – your reasons are clear for all to see, money, corruption, psychiatric experimentation and a complete refusal to admit that you were and still are wrong.

    You have ignored all attempts at contact from Dr Phil and the chance to put your side of the story across, and going by the information given on the show, you have also failed to adhere to procedures when you seized Justina and are still failing to adhere to them now.

    Hand Justina back – her parents won’t back down and the public will not shut up until you do.

    Because there is no carpet big enough to sweep this under and we (the public) as well as Justina’s family, are not going away either and what is more we are a force that cannot be gagged.


  8. Debbie Brenner   March 18, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    Since when can the DCF dictate who represents this family? REALLY??? They are trying to stop their choice of an attorney just like they put the gag order on the Dad! Seems to me that BCH was and still is up to some highly secretive medical testing on this child and now they are worried they will get caught. Why else would they take her like this and try to keep everybody quiet about it? Never even talking to her original doctors and never even having DCF visit the family home to SEE if it was in fact a safe environment. My best friend was a CPS case manager for several years and this is not how it works! They visit the home and have safety monitors in place etc. etc. etc. No protocol was followed at all…this is so crazy and no judge seems willing to stand up and call a spade a spade!

    • educationiskey   March 19, 2014 at 2:01 pm

      He is not barred in the state of MA nor is he a family attorney. DCF has every right to object. He should not really be doing anything in the state of MA but in order to be added to the case he would have to petition – which he did and the judge would rule. and all of his “constitutional concerns” are for media attention. As seen clearly in these comments the American people clearly do not understand law and will latch onto a big media show and run with it….

      • Simplyfree   March 19, 2014 at 4:41 pm

        “The People” May not understand the intricacies of law but they certainly do understand the simplicities of Injustice!

  9. ErinEN   March 18, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    I am in Canada and have been following this story from the very beginning. I am so very sorry for what this family is going through and terrified of the direction this is going. I have a daughter with medical issues and every time I have to take my daughter to a doctor I think of Justina. I can only hope that you get your daughter back and that her team at Tufts can return her to her previously healthy state. I think of your family every day and am waiting, with fingers crossed, for good news for you. I think what they have done to your family is disgusting and that this judge is having some sort of sick fun at your expense. I hope that when you get her back someone has to pay for this atrocity. If you are not given your daughter back very soon I think that you should gather all your thousands of supporters (My husband and I would fly down to join you) to march into Wayside and just take her. Security may be able to hold of a couple people but they couldn’t hold all of us off. Blessed Be!

  10. Juliana   March 18, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    Dr. Phil’s show brought me to tears. My daughter has mito. She was athletic (on track and volleyball teams) when she started to have extreme pain in her legs at age 14. Soon afterwards, she could not eat without her stomach looking like she was pregnant. She was also unable to go number 2.

    I live in South Florida and jumped from hospital to hospital as I watched my daughter deteriorate. I was desperate for a diagnosis but the best I got after her suffering for an entire year and a half was Gastroparesis. After going to Cincinnati Children’s for unsuccessful surgery, she got diagnosed with Colonic dysmotility. After another year, she saw Dr. Flores at Tufts, underwent excrutiatingly painful tests, and was introduced to Dr. Korson. At last she got diagnosed with Mito. During this time, all doctors were skeptical of my motives so I was prepared to bite back because I had researched munchausen and told them there was no way for a person to willfully make their organs stop working.

    Thank God I followed my gut and never took her to BC where everyone was telling me to take her. As a parent who was desperate and exhausted, I cannot imagine having to also deal with this incomprehensible mess. There is nothing more difficult than to deal with a sick child and being at the mercy of the medical community.

    My recommendation to ALL parents is to be extremely wary of psychologists. I actually put an order in her chart that prevented psychological examination because I was warned by a few mothers in a support group how damaging these exams could be. It seems that psychologists only see what they want to see and twist their questions to fit their outcome.

    I am so sorry that Justina and her family has to endure this hardship. May the Lord give you supernatural strength every day to fight this. My prayers are with you.

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