Teen In State Custody After Boston Hospital Accuses Parents Of Medical Child Abuse

BOSTON — A juvenile court hearing Friday could decide the fate of a 15-year-old patient who’s been at Boston Children’s Hospital for almost a year because of a dispute about her medical care.

Justina Pelletier is in state custody after the hospital accused her parents of medical child abuse.

The Connecticut teen went to the Children’s for treatment for mitochondrial disease, which is a rare disorder that affects how cells produce energy.

Although she had been treated for the disorder at Tufts Medical Center, Children’s said she did not, in fact, have the disease.

Dr. Scott Pomeroy, who chairs the neurology department at Children’s, says the hospital works hard to correctly identify the disorder, which is done with multiple diagnostic tools.

“Boston Children’s is deeply concerned by the misinformation surrounding this particular case, but the hospital is unable to comment on specific patient care matters or any situation in which state child protective services is involved,” he said.

A judge has issued a gag order, instructing those involved not to talk publicly about this case.

Cristy Balcells — executive director of Mito-Action, a Boston-based nonprofit supporting mitochondrial disease patients and their families — joined WBUR’s Morning Edition to discuss the complex disease. Balcells is a registered nurse and the mother of a child with mitochondrial disease. She has also been in contact with the Pelletier family.

She says this is not the first time that children have been taken from their parents because of a dispute with doctors about how to treat the disease.

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  • eat_swim_read

    DCF in Mass. & all states function on the flawed judgments of low-level bureaucrats – CPS. DCF resisted hiring a medical director for seven years after legislation mandated it. These folks push back and DCF’s sharp elbows are nothing new.
    Hospitals brimming with large-ego drs. are also not prone to criticism and are used to hearing the word yes. The teen’s own long-time dr. disagreed with the seizure and was stunned by the medical abuse label – a reputation killer for the brave family.
    The fact that well-paid DCF leaders are embarrassed is no reason to continue to imprison this teen.
    Shame on the governor for not freeing her sooner.

  • Kabong30

    She was treated for the disorder and her sister has it as well. You also haven’t noted that once treatment for the mitochondrial disorder was stopped her condition deteriorated precipitously. She was an ice skater and now that Children’s Boston is caring for her she can no longer WALK. Tell the whole truth here.

  • kmdickson0308

    Well, no one characterized this harassment and abuse wrongly. Psychiatry is not either scientific or a medical practice and to diagnose a psychiatric illness in the presence of real medical signs – to include TLR2-agonist tolerance and mycoplasma adhering to mitochondria, causing fatigue – is certainly well known to real scientists. And no one should hold their breath over Tufts having any real scientists. We know what they did with Lyme Fungo-Borreliosis (Allen Steere and Mark Klempner are mass murderers):

    • Kabong30

      Tufts was treating her previously and successfully. I think that the good news here is that Tufts is being brought back into this (when their doctors were previously shut out) and once they are free of Children’s Boston, I would think that they would simply release the child back to her parents and treat her actual disease.

  • cannotsay

    The suffering the nut jobs at the psychiatric department of BCH have subjected this family to is unacceptable. I am happy that it seems that the case is in its way to resolution. If I were the parents, after securing Justina’s custody I would submit BCH to a lawsuit of the kind that would shame them for a while. Further, I would reach out to other families who got caught in similar travesties to sue collectively. In parallel, the state should also be check whether criminal prosecution is warranted against the doctors that have kidnapped this child for almost one year!

  • grannykate62

    Since when does a psychologist override an MD?? Very crooked dealings at BCH-5th child in 18 mos. Sounds like a turf war after Dr Korson left BCH for Tufts. Those involved at BCH and DFCS and judge should be jailed in a locked psych ward for years after what they have done to this child, family and Mito community

  • Coalition for DiagnosticRights

    The more important question here is “What is somtoform disorder”? It is a diagnosis mired in controversy. At this point there is deep division within psychiatry as to what the label amounts to, so much so that it’s just not clear what it means to say that a patient has it.

    People wonder whether what’s happened to Justina and her parents happens to others, and the answer to that question is a resounding yes.

    It is appallingly common for doctors to deny basic rights to patients and parents when somatoform disorder is considered. It is appallingly common for doctors to mistakenly deny medical care to those who need it based on reckless diagnosis of somatoform disorder.

    Get the facts. Visit us at The Coalition for Diagnostic Rights:


  • lowCal90

    As Tocqueville observed, individualist principles and democratic processes are diametrically opposed to the centralized control and plunder of the collectivists.

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