Court keeps teen from devastated parents because doctors disagree on diagnosis

Massachusetts will retain custody of a 15-year-old girl under a controversial legal theory called “medical child abuse,” a juvenile court ruled Friday.

Justina Pelletier walked into world-renowned and politically-connected Boston Children’s Hospital with her mother 10 months ago and now has to be pushed around in a wheelchair, which begs the question, who is the one guilty of medical abuse?


A year earlier, Dr. Mark Korson, chief of metabolism at Tufts Medical Center, had diagnosed the girl with a rare condition called mitochondrial disorder. She seemed to respond well to the medication and treatment he prescribed — until early this year, according to The Boston Globe.

The flu exacerbated her condition in February, prompting her mother to rush her to the emergency room at Boston Children’s. Within three days, doctors there concluded that Korson had misdiagnosed Justina, saying she didn’t have mitochondrial disorder after all — it was all in her head.

When the parents announced their intention to discharge their daughter and take her to Tufts, Boston Children’s officials called the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, accusing the parents of medical child abuse.

The state has had emergency custody ever since. Justina remains at Boston Children’s — most of the time in the psychiatric ward — while her condition steadily declines, according to MyFox-CT.

Lou and Linda Pelletier’s hopes of bringing their daughter home for Christmas — or at least take her to Tufts — were dashed Friday when Judge Joseph Johnston appointed a new independent guardian ad litem and scheduled a hearing for Jan. 10.

The Globe reported:

It remains unclear exactly who is responsible for Justina’s prolonged stay at Bader 5, the psychiatric ward at Children’s where bed space is typically in high demand. Children’s officials have indicated that, once a patient is medically stable, they move for discharge, but cannot do so if the legal custodian — in this case, the state— does not identify a safe location for the patient to go. The state, meanwhile, has apparently struggled since the summer to find a suitable residential center or foster home for Justina.

Watch the following recap of Justina’s case from The Globe:

If it’s all in Justina’s head, why does her condition continue to deteriorate? She has three sisters living at home. How can the state say Justina is being subjected to medical child abuse but not her siblings? The next hearing was delayed so the state could provide new information. What can the court possibly learn in the next three weeks that it hasn’t in the last 10 months?


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