Justina Pelletier, 15, went into Boston Children’s Hospital with a case of the flu. That was nine months ago, and the hospital still refuses to release her to her parents.
“It is kidnapping,” said father Lou Pelletier in an interview with WTIC-TV.
Justina had been diagnosed with a genetic disorder called mitochondrial disease several years ago. The condition causes weakness and reduced muscle coordination, but Justina still enjoyed a normal life.
When she caught the flu, her parents took her to the hospital to see a specialist. The doctors claimed that Justina actually had somatoform disorder, a psychiatric illness, and the hospital has detained her ever since.
“They came in, and they said we cannot take Justina out of the hospital. They called DCF,” says Justina’s mother, Linda Pelletier.
The hospital doctor said that Justina was exhibiting “regressive behavior” and that “both parents’ [showed] resistance towards recommended treatment plans.”
The parents were escorted from the hospital by security guards, and have lost custody of their daughter. “They were actually being accused of being too active in pursuing healthcare matters for their child,” says Dean Hokanson, a psychologist who has been treating Justina for five years.
Justina’s parents simply want to have their daughter home, and for her to continue the course of treatment recommended by her previous physicians. One of those physicians, Tufts Medical Center specialist Dr. Mark Korson, wrote in an e-mail, “I am dismayed. … It feels like Justina’s treatment team is out to prove the diagnosis at all costs. … The [Boston Children’s Hospital] team has demanded that Justina be removed from the home. … This represents the most severe and intrusive intervention a patient can undergo … for a clinical hunch.”
Justina’s parents are now only allowed to see her one hour per week, and can speak to her on the phone twice per week. Justina still sneaks them notes, folded in origami.