After Being Kidnapped by Department of Children and Families, Justina Pelletier is Home Free

Photo: Bharani Padmanabhan


By: Bharani Padmanabhan MD PhD – June 18, 2014

justinaisfree!Justina Pelletier, one of four children of Lou and Linda Pelletier, was diagnosed with Mitochondrial Disease by Dr Mark Korson at Tufts Medical Center 2 years ago. Her elder sister Jessica also has the same disease and almost died from it before the family, from West Hartford CT, first found Dr Korson and managed to get her diagnosed and treated 4 years ago. 

Dr Korson used to practice at Harvard’s Children’s Hospital in Boston but moved to Tufts 12 years ago.

Due to a complete shut-down of her intestines, Justina received a cecostomy at Tufts at the hands of famed gastroenterologist Dr Alejandro Flores. In January of 2013 Dr Flores was lured away to Children’s.

Till February 2013 Justina was in good health, was a competitive ice skater and loved going to school every day. West Hartford had established an Individual Education Plan as she had suffered a small stroke as a child from her Mitochondrial Disease. Justina excelled at her studies. 

In February 2013 she came down with the flu and her body shut down. She was taken by ambulance to Harvard’s Children’s Hospital and solely for insurance reasons as someone from outside Massachusetts was taken to the Emergency Room though she had a bed waiting on Dr Flores’ service. 

Within 25 minutes of arriving at the ER, Justina was informed by a neurologist that Mitochondrial Disease does not exist and that she had a purely psychiatric illness called Somatoform Disorder.

Somatoform Disorder is a speciality of Dr DeMaso, the Chief of Pediatric Psychiatry at Children’s, who has written the textbook on this diagnosis.

For 2 days the parents entertained the various pronouncements of the team at Children’s but became worried when presented with a Care Plan that prohibited them from ever seeking a second opinion for their child. 

Bharani Padmanabhan

Justina was transferred to a locked psychiatry ward where she remained for 11 months. For much of that time there was no oversight by DCF, who deferred totally to Children’s decisions. 

In November this story was broadcast on WTIC FOX CT by Beau Berman whereupon the Judge verbally ordered the parents that he was placing them under a gag order. They were specifically ordered to not talk about Children’s Hospital’s insistence that they agree to never take Justina back to Tufts in order to regain custody of their child. 

At Children’s Justina was informed daily by Harvard’s Child & Adolescent psychiatrists that her symptoms were all in her head. She did not receive any schooling those 11 months. Visits with the family were denied for 2 Christmases and 2 Easters along with numerous family birthdays. She was allowed one 20-minute phone call per week and one 1-hour visit with her family per week. Those visits took place under armed guard. The parents were prohibited from taking photos of the child.

By January 2014 the parents had become alarmed that she was going to die as she was now unable to stand by herself or walk. She was now wheelchair-bound which was new.

The Valley Patriot newspaper stepped in and filed the first Motion in Court against the gag order on Constitutional grounds. The Massachusetts ACLU declined to do so. The gag order was rescinded but not till after the father had gone on the Glenn Beck show in order to appeal for the nation’s help. DCF filed a Motion to throw the parents in jail in response but this became moot as the gag order was proven unconstitutional.

After the case hit national headlines the parents received pro bono legal counsel from Liberty Counsel of Washington DC who also filed two other cases in Massachusetts Appeals Court. A nonpartisan group of community activists came together under the “Free Justina” campaign to push for family rights and to end her stay in a locked ward. Numerous rallies were held. 

justinaishome!12The matter was helped significantly by the involvement of two Massachusetts Legislators, James Lyons of Andover and Marc Lombardo of Billerica, who stepped up to help a family from out of state who had no local representation. They tried twice to get the Legislature to intervene productively but could not overcome the national reputation of Children’s Hospital.

The public campaign however drew in the Governor who directed the Secretary of Health to resolve the issue. Secretary Polanowicz managed to get DCF to agree to terms that the parents had been requesting for more than a year. Finally all parties filed Motions to dismiss the case, which the Judge accepted on Tuesday the 17th of June, 2014. 

She is back under the care of Dr Mark Korson at Tufts.

After 16 months in Massachusetts Government custody, Justina Pelletier returned home today at noon to a joyous welcome from family, friends and her favorite dog Roxie. Her arrival was recorded by 6 TV crews and numerous reporters, including from the Valley Patriot.

Unlike the time before her stay at Children’s this time Justina had to be carried everywhere in her father’s arms. The family hope she will be able to regain the ability to walk by herself. Justina herself said to this reporter that she is waiting to be an ice skater again as well. Throughout the day Justina was visibly delighted to be home and enjoyed the company of visitors and the press. She also gave a solo TV interview to Beau Berman at FOX CT.

A huge celebration is planned for the near future to be attended by activists from all over the United States who pushed for her release.

28 Responses to "After Being Kidnapped by Department of Children and Families, Justina Pelletier is Home Free"

  1. Marianne O'Malley   June 19, 2014 at 7:55 PM

    So glad your daughter is in your arms. What Children’s did to you is beyond the realm of thinking. Focus on Justina and push forward. Love your strength.

  2. Serena   June 20, 2014 at 9:37 AM

    Ive witnessed too many injustices by hospitals backdoor politics in Massachusetts. I’m so happy Justina is home and will keep her in my prayers that the negligence done to her causes no permanent problems.

  3. Bonnie Davis   June 22, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    I Learned Through My Own Experience That The Aclu Has An Agenda And Sticks To It And It Doesn’t Cover AverAgE American Families Attacked By Powerful institutions. My Child’s Issueswere Lyme Related And We Were AttAcked In A VarietY Of Ways Over It. I Know She Has A Diagnosis But I would Verify With A Llmd That Lyme Is Not One Of Her issues

  4. Beth   June 22, 2014 at 10:08 AM

    I can’t wait for lawsuits to be filed and the various parties to be held accountable. Whatever little scheme BCH, DCF, and the Judge has going on needs to be revealed so that they can’t do this to any other family.

  5. Fina DeSantis   June 22, 2014 at 11:44 AM

    My 11 year old fell sick 01/13 with flu like symptoms. By 8/13 she had to use a wheel chair when walking more than a few yards. She’s been diagnosed with POTS, which I’m still unsure if that is the correct diagnoses but she is now walking on her own two feet. She’s continuing to recover as I hope and know that you will as well. Best wishes to and your family.

  6. Daniel Lee   June 22, 2014 at 1:46 PM

    Children are routinely taken from good parents every day court is in session. The setting is usually when one parent decides to divorce the other, and the reason Justina is receiving so much attention is because she was taken from parents who were not divorcing.

    • Mary Bissell   June 22, 2014 at 4:06 PM

      Actually, this kind of case is more common than many people know. This one just happened to strike a chord.

  7. Jenn   June 22, 2014 at 3:57 PM

    I’m having issues with dcf in florida as well, they are pains in the rear, I trusted my Daughter farther to protect her, why I could get back on my feet cause I was thinking on her well being and being homeless in my opinion was not an option, I asked for help from her dad. florida being a wetlock state ( me and her farther never married.) we couldn’t afford court so we worked things out among our-self’s . well now hes facing to lose custody over her due to criminal charges, and I been in her life even though she was under his roof, and I been trying to help out as much as I can. Im trying to get them to give her back to me, I have a clean record all around, and now im back on my feet and able to support her on my own again. but this is like pulling teeth with them, and like they disregard my rights as mother, I asked for help from her farther, I thought I could trust him, it was the only mistake I made, and he took advantage of that.

  8. TheRealTruth   June 22, 2014 at 4:00 PM

    No, the real reason she was kidnapped was for experimental drugs AND having a healthy insurance carrier. You know how much BCH AND DCF GOT IN “FEDERAL BONUSES AND GRANTS! Specifically from testing on humans for Big Pharma!

  9. Mary Bissell   June 22, 2014 at 4:03 PM

    Doctors *really* need to be more careful about diagnosing something as a psychiatric disorder. For three years, I tried to get help for a severe breathing problem which was getting worse and worse, but doctors kept telling me it was all in my head, even though from my symptoms it was clearly physical. I finally saw a psychiatrist just in case, and he diagnosed me with agoraphobia! I have no idea how he got that. He didn’t even tell me. Another psychiatrist told me he had put it in my chart. When I finally was able to get real medical care, my problem was so bad by then that I had to be bed-bound for four years. I only got better a year ago, and my muscles are still weak from being in bed all that time.

  10. Judy Saxby   June 22, 2014 at 5:53 PM

    God Bless you Justina, and your whole family!

  11. LaTryce Parker   June 22, 2014 at 9:29 PM

    This is injurious to any child and parent. My son and I are enduring a desperation of the sort. Although he is only doors away from me I am denied access. I miss him so very much.

    • Margaret   June 23, 2014 at 10:25 AM

      🙁 Lord Jesus, care for this dear mother. in Jesus’ NAME, AMEN.

  12. Sharon Bennett   June 22, 2014 at 10:18 PM

    I am so glad Justina is home. I learned of her predicament from a friend on Facebook. I have been following it for some time. I have been praying for her & the family during this horrifying experience. So happy she is home. I am Praising the Lord for answered prayers. Thank the Lord her father persevered as well. Happy , Happy , Happy for her & family, too.

  13. maria   June 22, 2014 at 10:47 PM

    I lost costudy of my daughter 15 yes ago because the hospital would did not like the fact I was 16 so they would not tell the truth about the fact the reason my daughter got sick is cause my breast milk was metalica sorry not a great speller but hospitals and children’s hospital refused to help me and did away with my daughter file it was just found two years ago it took me having two more kids and finding a Docter that was good but it does not help with my now 15 year old

  14. citrus08   June 23, 2014 at 12:18 AM

    Comprehensive yet succinct description of a complicated case. You don’t find this quality journalism in many news sources these days. Thank you!

  15. Callie   June 23, 2014 at 12:52 AM

    In the USA it isn’t in their interest to diagnose patients IMHO. You are passed from one clinically “qualified” friend to another who fleece you till you’re broke and may still have no diagnoses. Their aim is to keep themselves and their family and friends in a luxurious lifestyle. What a system! The patient is last.

  16. Leatanya Koppa   June 23, 2014 at 12:56 AM

    This happens everyday. CPS/DPS and whatever other names they like to use kidnap children from safe and loving homes all the time. The system is corrupt and until people wake up and demand a change, it will continue to happen.

  17. Chastity Renee   June 23, 2014 at 4:39 AM

    I have two words… SUE THEM.

  18. Connie Smyly   June 23, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    I saw the program about Justina on Dr. Phil and have always wondered since then how she is doing and how the court case was proceding. I am so glad to hear that she is once again in good hands and on the way to recovery.

  19. mary   June 23, 2014 at 10:17 PM

    Never go to Children’s Hospital! Do NOT think this can’t happen to you! It has happend to me and several other innocent parents! Glad she is back where she belongs!!!!

  20. fndhope   June 25, 2014 at 12:59 AM

    We are so glad to see Justina finally made it home where she belongs. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for patients to be diagnosed with psychosomatic labels when medical professionals are faced with symptoms they do not understand. Patients and their symptoms are then often disregarded.

    As people, we have an obligation to not only speak but to shout when faced with injustice. Sitting by in neutrality or condemning anyone to silence only encourages the tormentor and adds to the injustice.

    Silence cripples democracy and incarcerates the human mind.

    • Sky   June 25, 2014 at 6:55 PM

      Somatoform disorder appears to be today’s version of “hysteria” or “it’s all in your head, dearie”. It’s bullshit. Doctors should be banned from diagnosing psychiatric illness for physical symptoms. Just because they can’t name it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. And once you put that label on people, there’s a good chance they’ll never find someone to believe them and find out what the real problem is.

  21. sharon   June 25, 2014 at 9:45 AM

    Praise God… I am so very sad that it took so long to bring Justina home! I have been praying for your family and I live in Colorado. This should have never happened. I rejoice with you that she is home where she belongs, may your family be blessed beyond measure of being together once again.

  22. Rose Curatolo   June 25, 2014 at 4:13 PM

    This is a terribly tragic story- but not specifically just about what happened to this girl and her family….. It is how Big Pharma, the government, so called caring “Children’s Hospitals” and Doctors, etc., cover up their ignorances by removing children and by throwing a general diagnoses on them to justify their stupidity, in the meantime, ruining and losing lives, in the process!!!!!!!

  23. Erika Saraiva   August 5, 2014 at 7:22 PM

    I’m surprised no one ever did harm to dyfs…

  24. joannecameron12   July 5, 2015 at 11:32 PM

    So what was the correct diagnosis?

    • Bharani Padmanabhan MD PhD   August 13, 2018 at 10:45 AM

      Mitochondrial Disease