Originally Published: ABC News
One day Justina Pelletier was a seemingly healthy teenager performing jumps and spirals at a skating show and six weeks later, on Feb. 10, 2013, she was in the emergency room at Children’s Hospital in Boston after a severe bout with the flu, refusing to eat and barely able to walk.
Her parents, Lou and Linda Pelletier of West Hartford, Conn., say their daughter was diagnosed and being treated at Tufts Medical Center for mitochondrial disease, a rare genetic disorder with physical symptoms that can affect every part of the body. Justina’s sister Jessica, 25, is also being treated for the disease.
But three days later, a team of doctors at Boston Children’s said her symptoms were psychosomatic, according to the family. The hospital then filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, as required by law, because they suspected the parents of child abuse for subjecting their daughter to invasive medical treatments and denying her mental health therapy.
They laid out a treatment plan for Justina, which her parents refused to sign, and on Feb. 14, 2013, when they attempted to check their daughter out of Boston Children’s to take her back to Tufts to resume medical treatment, the family said they were told by Boston Children’s that they could not discharge Justina.
“We never got anything in writing,” said Lou Pelletier, a financial planner and father of four girls. “While all the security guards were showing up, we actually called 911 and said our daughter had been kidnapped by Boston Children’s Hospital.”
Pelletier said three detectives spoke to the family, then they were brought into a room and the medical team told them the hospital had contacted the DCF and under a “51A,” the section of Massachusetts law that mandates health officials and others to report suspected child abuse, and “they were taking custody of our daughter.”
“We didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye,” he told ABCNews.com.
Pelletier said his family gave its statement to the state regarding allegations of child abuse in a legally mandated hearing within 72 hours of the state taking custody, but that the court process “took until April.”
For the last year, the 15-year-old has been in state custody under court-ordered treatment in a complex medical case that has pitted those involved in her care against her family and enraged advocates.