A Small Victory for Justina Pelletier?


By Susan Knowles – susanknowles.com

Justina Pelletier left Massachusetts today and was transferred to a facility in Connecticut, where she is a resident.  Does this mean that there was a small victory for Justina?

As you may recall, Justina Pelletier, a 15 year old Connecticut teen, diagnosed with mitochondrial disease by Tufts Medical Center in Massachusetts (Tufts), was transferred to Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts (BCH) after her Tufts’ doctor wanted her seen by a specialist there.  Subsequently, Justina was removed from the custody of her parents by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in February 2013 after BCH’s psychologist determined that she was suffering from a psychological disorder rather than a medical issue.

Some may see Justina’s move today as a victory for her, following the long-standing controversy between her parents and the state of Massachusetts when Justina’s parents were accused of “medical abuse” by BCH and subsequently lost custody of her to DCF.

A closer look, however, reveals that Justina is no closer to being reunited with her parents following her move to Connecticut. However, the mood of those involved in supporting her may have shifted to a more positive tone.

Reverend Patrick Mahoney, spokesperson for the Pelletier family, tweeted out following Justina’s move that, “Today was an amazing day! We are now seeing light at the end of the tunnel in Justina returning home.”  Others are cautiously optimistic.Justina and sisters at Susan Wayne

As many may already know, the Susan Wayne Center of Excellence in Connecticut, where Justina was transferred to earlier today, is owned by the Justice Resource Institute (JRI).  JRI is a Massachusetts owned organization with a location in Connecticut.

You may remember last week, that Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, objected on behalf of Justina’s family, to Justina’s placement in the center.  Mr. Staver’s objection stemmed from the fact that Justina was to be housed at the behavioral issues wing of JRI’s center, instead of a rehab therapy center.  The family had requested that Justina be placed in the Gaylord Rehabilitation Center instead, due to the fact that it is staffed with medical professionals and convenient for family visits.

Mat Staver in his letter to Mr. John Polanowicz, Secretary of Health and Human Services in Massachusetts, pointed out that the JRI Susan Wayne Center describes itself as “a research-based, therapeutic education focused on children that are intellectually, emotionally, and behaviorally disabled and that cannot be served in alternative educational settings” and who “function within the mild to moderate intellectually disabled range.”  The Center “uses a system of incentives to help students acquire positive coping behaviors and avoid maladaptive ones.”  Staver went on to say that, “The Center may be a licensed special education provider but it does not appear to be a licensed medical services provider.”

There have been no reports from the parents or any released to the public that mention any behavioral issues that Justina may have.

Additionally, the report from BCH’s psychologist alleges that Justina has suffered “medical abuse” by her parents and suffers from a somatoform disorder. Where are the allegations by BCH that Justina has behavioral issues that must be controlled or modified in some way?  None, to date, have been forthcoming.

Also, although Justina has special education needs, no mention has ever been made to the public by the parents, the school, BCH, DCF or others that she falls within the mild to moderate intellectually disabled range.  All indications are that she was successfully functioning in her public school setting and did not require an alternative educational setting such as are provided by the Susan Wayne Center.

Finally, what will become of Justina’s medical needs?  Will she be seen by her Tufts doctor in Boston, Massachusetts or will another doctor, perhaps unfamiliar with mitochondrial disease, take over her case?  Only recently did the court in Massachusetts allow Justina to be seen by her Tufts doctor.  A request by DCF could potentially change the judge’s order at any time due to the logistics of transportation to and from Tufts.  It is yet to be seen what happens.

A photo taken by Fox News Connecticut today of a somber looking Justina sitting in the back of an ambulance on her way to her new facility is illustrative of a young teen who has been through what her family and others may describe as an ordeal with no end in sight.Justina ambulance

The reporter on scene, Beau Berman from Fox News Connecticut, indicated that the JRI Susan Wayne Center where Justina will now be housed, is in a “very rural” location.

In the past, the Wayside Youth and Family Support facility in Framingham, Massachusetts, from which Justina was just transferred, have made previous statements that the parents, at times, could not see Justina during their limited and supervised one hour per week visitation, because of security concerns due to public protests and media attention.  Potentially, those concerns appear to have been removed.

However, we also know that in the past, the family was under a gag order by the court that prohibited them from speaking to the media about the case.  Lou Pelletier subsequently violated that “court order” (which was later dismissed) in an attempt to save his daughter.

If this remote location was an attempt by Mr. Polanowicz to keep Justina’s plight out of the public eye it will most likely fail. More and more in the general public are learning the facts about Justina Pelletier’s case and are beginning speaking out against what they perceive an injustice to Justina and her family.remote Justina location

A website on Facebook dedicated to getting the word out about Justina’s case (Free Justina from Boston Children’s Hospital) has approximately 11,400 members strong and growing.  Another Facebook page set up for Justina (A Miracle for Justina) has over 43,000 likes.

Additionally, the loyal protesters in Massachusetts who have spent many days and weekends protesting in front of the courthouse and the Wayside facility, will only find protesters in Connecticut who are willing to pick up Justina’s cause and continue, along with others, to inform the public about Justina Pelletier’s case, until she is finally returned home.

Once Justina has been returned to her parents, the Facebook group, the Massachusetts protesters, and other supporters, vow to continue speaking out until other children, who they believe have been unjustly taken from their parents by BCH, DCF, and organizations, are returned home. The legal battle continues.



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