State agrees teen should be returned to family in controversial medical-diagnosis case

Family Law

State agrees teen should be returned to family in controversial medical-diagnosis case

Jun 12, 2014, 07:41 pm CDT

A video plea from Justina Pelletier.

Two years ago, Justina Pelletier was a competitive figure skater, although she had experienced bouts of illness for years.

Doctors at Tufts Medical Center in Boston had diagnosed the Connecticut teenager as having mitochondrial disease, a group of rare genetic disorders. But when she was taken to Boston Children’s Hospital in early 2013, after having trouble swallowing, eating and walking, doctors disagreed. They said she primarily needed psychiatric, rather than medical, treatment and, when Pelletier’s parents angrily refused to sign off on a treatment plan that included withdrawing medication prescribed by Tufts doctors, contacted Massachusetts’ child protection agency to discuss “medical child abuse” charges, according to a Boston Globe article published last year.

A judge sided with the hospital 16 months ago, granting custody to the state of Massachusetts with very limited parental visitation. The teen’s parents have been fighting to regain custody ever since, in what has become a controversial, much-publicized parental-rights case.

Now it appears they may be about to prevail: In what legal counsel for the family is portraying as an about-face, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Family Services has filed a motion recommending to the judge that Pelletier, 16 years old and confined to a wheelchair, be returned to her family, Fox News reports. She was transferred to a Connecticut facility closer to her family last month.

An earlier Boston Globe article links to a Facebook page that includes a video by the teenager, directed to the judge. On it, she begs “please, right now, please let me go home right now, I need to be home with family.”

A spokesman for the secretary of Massachusetts Health and Human Services told Fox in a Wednesday email: “We are pleased that the family has engaged around the reunification plan and we have filed papers in court to support our shared goal of bringing Justina home.”

In a court filing for the state, general counsel Andrew Rome says Lou and Linda Pelletier have demonstrated “sufficient evidence of a material change in circumstances” to regain custody, the Globe notes.

The reunification plan requires the parents to comply with a Tufts treatment plan for their daughter and participate in family therapy.

Attorney Mat Staver, who serves as chairman of Liberty Counsel, represents the family. “She’s now getting treatment from Tufts medical providers, and they’ve agreed to return her to her family,” Staver told Fox News. “This really cuts out the basis for why they took her in the first place.”

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