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“Medical care that causes severe suffering for no justifiable reason can be considered cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and if there is State involvement and specific intent, it is torture.” - United Nation’s 2013 Report by the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
For thirteen months, Lou and Linda Pelletier's youngest daughter, Justina, has been a prisoner at the hands of Boston Children's Hospital psychiatric unit accused of suffering from an obscure "mental disorder," Somatoform, which a leading psychologist describes as being "nothing more than a destructive and unreliably applied label." In deteriorating health, and confined to a wheelchair, the 15-year-old learned this week that there will be no pardon from the Massachusetts Psychiatric Puritans.

Because a child's well-being hangs in the balance, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) calls on the Massachusetts State Attorney General to investigate Boston Children's Hospital Psychiatric Unit, "Bader 5," specifically requiring that the treating psychiatrists provide medical/scientific proof of the alleged diagnosis, Somatoform.

CCHR also supports legislative action instigated by Mass State Representative Marc Lombardo to start the process of releasing Justina Pelletier to her parents but said this should be expanded to investigate the harmful influence of psychiatrists' opinions resulting in state removal of children from their families.

After months of fighting for the teenager's freedom, on March 25, the Pelletiers were summarily dismissed by the state's inquisitors - the Juvenile Court - and denied custody of their ailing daughter. Juvenile Court Judge, Joseph Johnson's reason for denying the Pelletier's right to decide their daughter's medical treatment was his belief that the Pelletiers will not "comply" with the state's directives.

The Judge further wrote in his decision that he believed Justina suffered from "a persistent and severe Somatic Symptom Disorder," the very subjective psychiatric diagnosis the Pelletiers have been fighting since first admitting Justina to Boston Children's Hospital, suffering severe flu-like symptoms. Based on no medical proof, Judge Johnson bought the psychiatric opinion...Justina is mentally ill.

Like Maryanne Godboldo's long struggle in Detroit, Michigan to regain custody of her 12-year-old daughter, Ariana, the Pelletiers' nightmare began when they dared to question the psychiatric diagnosis. They committed the ultimate sin of failing to follow the psychiatric directives and, therefore, are deemed non-compliant and unfit. As is the case with so many of these state child abductions, the assault on the Pelletier family begins and ends with a subjective psychiatric diagnosis.

The family's visit to Boston Children's Hospital in February 2013 was at the recommendation of her treating physician at Tufts Medical Center, Dr. Mark Korson. The Pelletiers entrusted to Boston Children's Hospital their daughter's care. In the ensuing firestorm that would result from this trust, it appears this was the Pelletiers' first and only mistake.

The subsequent forced psychiatric imprisonment of Justina, and the loss of the child's civil and human rights, centers on the growing divide between medical science and subjective psychiatric diagnosing. In 2011, Justina had been diagnosed by, and receiving treatment from Dr. Korson for Mitochondrial Disease - a rare genetic condition, where specialized compartments of cells (except red blood cells), fail, resulting in less energy generated within the cell. When repeated throughout the body, the health of the person is severely compromised.

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Based on what can only be described as a “cozy” relationship between the Hospital’s “child protection team,” its psychiatric staff and the Department of Social Services, the Hospital filed a child abuse or neglect form against Justina’s parents.
Less than 24 hours after having been admitted to Boston Children's Hospital, Justina's medical diagnosis was ignored in favor of a psychiatric one, Somatoform; that is, your physical complaints are "all in your head" and you are mentally ill. It has about as much science to support it as Dr. William Griggs' "witch" diagnosis in the late 1600s that claimed the afflictions of the girls in Salem village were caused by "an evil hand," not by natural causes.

Upon learning of the psychiatric diagnosis and the suggested "treatment," the Pelletiers attempted to discharge Justina from the hospital for legitimate medical care elsewhere. Based on what can only be described as a "cozy" relationship between the Hospital's "child protection team," its psychiatric staff and the Department of Social Services, the Hospital filed a child abuse or neglect form against Justina's parents.

The social worker with the Department of Social Services apparently chose to use the eenie meenie method of describing the "facts" of the case to the Juvenile Court. For example, the affidavit accused the Pelletiers of "obstructing her care," and also reported that Boston Children's Hospital does "not know where the parents picked up the current diagnosis and they are hard to disprove."

The social worker failed to include in the affidavit that she had spoken directly to Tufts' Dr. Korson, who had explained Justina's mitochondrial diagnosis in great detail. The Juvenile Court judge ruled in favor of Boston Children's Hospital and Justina became a ward of the state, severely restricting the Pelletiers' access to their daughter.

In fact, the February 2013 "guidelines" drafted by Boston Children's Hospital in regard to Justina's case included: "set strict limitations on medical discussions with the family and eliminate interaction with providers outside our hospital" such as Dr. Korson. Unbelievably, the family and the treating physician were to be excluded from any conversation about the health and well-being of the 15-year-old captive.

The "guidelines" are a direct contradiction to what the psychiatric "team" muttered in published psychiatric papers. For instance, Dr. Simona Bujoreanu, Assistant in Psychology, and Dr. David DeMaso, psychiatrist-in-chief, both of Boston Children's Hospital, co-authored an article entitled "Enhancing Working Relationship between Parents and Surgeons."

In describing the treatment modality, DeMaso and Bujoreanu explain:
"The working relationship between parents and surgeons is fundamental in providing excellent health care to children and adolescents. The breakdown of this working relationship has a significant potential for detrimental effects on individual well-being and adverse systemic outcomes...."
Apparently this parent/surgeon relationship only works when it fits DeMaso and Bujoreanu's needs.

For months the Pelletiers tried to regain custody of their daughter through the courts. But this human rights fiasco was a bubble desperately looking for a pin and, in November of 2013, reporter Beau Berman of WTIC-TV went public with the story. Not surprisingly, no sooner had Berman's report surfaced when the Pelletiers were shackled with a gag order.

When asked in an interview to explain how parents could be told that they had to accept the hospital's completely subjective psychiatric Somatoform diagnosis as a condition for regaining custody, psychiatrist DeMaso stressed it wasn't up to Children's to determine custody. DeMaso said, "That's DCF." The hospital spokesman added, "We can't be responsible for what DCF says or does."

Both DeMaso's and the Hospital's reply is disingenuous at best. After all, it was psychiatrists at Children's who initiated legal action by bringing in social services and accusing the Pelletiers of neglect and abuse and failing to accept their opinion over the medical facts of Justina's treating physician.

Yet, under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), it appears that the Pelletiers did what is required of them under the law - done everything they could to prevent the physical harm of their daughter. Under CAPTA, child abuse and neglect means:
  • Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker that results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation;
  • An act or failure that presents an imminent risk of serious harm.
On the other hand, after a year of psychiatric "care," Justina's older sister, Jennifer, who also has been diagnosed by Tufts with mitochondrial disease, reports that Justina's condition is "scary" and she had never seen Justina in worse condition. Clearly, in the hands of the Massachusetts DCF and Children's psychiatric unit, the teenager's condition is deteriorating, not improving. And it is her treating psychiatrists that are putting Justina at "imminent risk of serious harm." Justina is now in a wheelchair.

While "reckless endangerment" charges are usually directed at parents neglecting or putting their child at risk, Massachusetts legislators should be looking at revising the law to ensure State "guardianship" of a child and psychiatrists treating under that guardianship are not immune to such charges, where the child is put at "substantial risk of serious bodily injury" or "impairment of a function of a body member, limb or organ."

Additionally, under the United Nation's 2013 Report by the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Pelletiers certainly could claim Justina's human rights have been violated: "Medical care that causes severe suffering for no justifiable reason can be considered cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and if there is State involvement and specific intent, it is torture."

Surely, when a child's life is at stake, even the governing bodies overseeing those institutions that claim to represent the best interests of children, would demand proof of the medical diagnosis. Or is it possible that Massachusetts has so easily forgotten the dreadful prosecutions of Salem, born from rumor, speculation and belief?