A Battle for Parental Rights: The Justina Pelletier Case

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Air Date: May, 5 2014

Host: Jim Schneider

Guest: Mat Staver

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Mat Staver is the Founder, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, an international, non-profit litigation, education and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life and the family.

This Crosstalk began with news regarding a critical U.S. Supreme Court decision. In the case of Town of Greece vs. Galloway the court ruled that prayers at the state and local level (including those that are said in the name of Jesus are constitutional and are not indicative of an attempt to coerce people to adopt a particular religion.

As reported by Crosstalk on April 1st, in January of 2013 Justina Pelletier (then 14 years old) developed flu-like symptoms and could not eat. She had been diagnosed by a doctor at Tufts Medical Center in Boston with a mitochondrial disease. At the advice of this same doctor she was taken to Boston’s Children’s Hospital because Justina’s gastroenterologist had moved to that hospital.

After taking her to BCH she was seen, not by her gastrointestinal doctor, but by a doctor who had been out of medical school for 7 months. He did not consult the treating physicians, did not look at other medical records and in the end, he disagreed with the diagnosis. He felt the problem was not physical but mental. A psychologist was brought in and it was determined that Justina had a somatoform disorder (it’s all in her head) despite the fact that all possible physical conditions were not ruled out.

A new one-page plan-of-treatment was presented to Justina’s parents stating that the medical treatment she’d had before would be discontinued, they could not speak of anything medical in the presence of Justina and a second opinion could not be sought. Instead of signing off on that document, her parents asked to discharge her so that she could be taken back to Tufts Medical Center. BCH responded by calling in the Department of Children and Families and they took jurisdiction of the case.

Basically, DFC indicated that if BCF feels Justina’s condition is mental but the Pelletier’s want to take her to Tuft’s Medical Center, DCF considers such a move as medical abuse.

Interestingly, the psychologist responsible for Justina’s situation is getting federal funding from the National Institute of Health to study the kind of symptoms she is alleged to be suffering from. He’s also written an article stating the one out of every two minors who have physical complaints have nothing physically wrong with them.

Liberty Counsel has filed a writ of habeus corpus with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to argue that Justina should be let go because the lower court judge didn’t do his job. Massachusetts state law requires a hearing to be done within 72 hours after a child is taken by the state. Justina’s 72 hour hearing didn’t conclude until 2 months later. After such a hearing, the judge is supposed to give a detailed written Findings of Fact if DCF is to continue to hold custody of the child. This was not done in Justina’s case.

More Information

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick
617-725-4005—Boston office
413-784-1200—Springfield office
202-624-7713—Washington, D.C. office

Daniel Malloy—Governor of Connecticut

John Polanowicz—Secretary of Health and Human Services


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