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Parents Battle for Custody of Sick Daughter Seized by State: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

The troubling custody case of Justina Pelletier, 15, who has spent the past 12 months in the care of the State of Massachusetts, will come to an end this week when a judge rules on her case, reports The Boston Globe.

Lou and Linda Pelletier lost custody of their daughter while she was undergoing tests at Boston Children’s Hospital. The Pelletiers disagreed with BCH diagnosing their daughter as having somatoform disorder, which is psychological. She had previously been diagnosed by doctors at Tufts University Hospital as having mitochondrial disease, which creates low-energy in a person due to cell deficiency.

When they tried to check her out and bring her back to Tufts, the state seized their daughter.

Here’s what you should know about this complicated situation:


1. Her Parents Can Only See Her for 1 Hour a Week

According to the call-to-action site for Pelletier’s cause, Lou and Linda Pelletier can only see their daughter for one hour a week. Their visits are heavily supervised. They’re are also entitled to one 20-minute phone call per week. The hospital where Pelletier is being held, in Framingham, Massachusetts, is nearly two hours from the Pelletier family home in West Hartford, Connecticut.


2. Up Until February 2013, Justina Was a Normal Teenager

Just six weeks before being admitted to Boston Children’s Hospital, Justina was performing in an ice-skating show in Connecticut. On February 10, 2013, she was admitted to the Children’s Hospital in Boston with a severe flu. She was unable to walk or eat.

In a previous health incident where she was sick, Dr. Mark Korson, the Chief of Metabolism at Tufts University Hospital, inserted a device into her stomach after her bowels had effectively shut down. It was then that she was diagnosed as having mitochondrial disease. At the time of her admittance to Boston Children’s, she was also taking several medications, reports ABC News.

Her parents say that under the treatment of Tufts, she was living a normal life and thriving. But in the past year, they say, her condition has deteriorated.

3. BCH Say the Pelletiers Subjected Their Daughter to Child Abuse

Justina Pelletier Facebook

Justina pictured in November 2012. (Facebook)

Doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital believed Justina’s symptoms were psychosomatic and diagnosed her as having Somatoform disorder. The hospital filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, as required by law in cases of suspected abuse. They believed the Pelletiers were subjecting their daughter to child abuse by forcing her to undergo invasive medical procedures instead of treating her symptoms through psychiatry. When the Pelletiers attempted to discharge their daughter at Boston Children’s Hospital on February 14, 2013, they were blocked.

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4. A Judge Ordered Her to Move Her to a Non-Medical Facility

In late February 2014, Judge Joseph Johnson moved Pelletier to a non-medical facility in Merrimac, Massachusetts. Linda Pelletier told the media that the facility wouldn’t take her and she had to be moved back to Framingham. “They couldn’t handle all the media attention and wouldn’t take her,” Linda Pelletier told the media, she added:

We are exasperated and exhausted. These are false medical abuse charges against our family for supposed unnecessary surgery, going to some of the top doctors in the country, medically verified and insurance approved. I should be happy about the this latest victory, but I am not.


5. Justina’s Sister Also Suffers From Mitochondrial Disease

Justina Pelletier Sister Jessica

Justina pictured with her sister Jessica in February 2014. (Facebook)

The Tufts University medical staff, including Dr. Korson, are also treating Justina’s 25-year-old sister for mitochondrial disease. ABC News refers to the condition as a “rare and poorly understood disorder that can affect every system of the body.”

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