Mass. teen in medical custody back home
WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — The 16-year-old who has been the center of a 16-month custody dispute with the state of Massachusetts was returned on Wednesday to her home in Connecticut.
“It's an unbelievably emotional day,” Lou Pelletier said when carrying his daughter inside.
A Massachusetts judge on Tuesday ordered the release of Justina Pelletier to her parents.
The girl's long-running legal battle began when her parents disagreed with a psychiatric diagnosis provided by Boston Children's Hospital. The parents wanted Justina returned to her original physician at Tufts Medical Center, where she was previously treated for mitochondrial disease, a group of rare genetic disorders that affect cellular energy production. The state's Department of Children and Families ultimately took custody of Justina, claiming she is the victim of “medical child abuse.”
For months, her family was allowed visits and phone calls once a week.
Jennifer Pelletier said her younger sister, who remains in a wheelchair, has lost significant weight since the dispute began.
“Yes, it's great Justina is coming home,” she said. “But the bad part about this is Justina has still suffered … She's truly like a rag doll. She has no muscle on her bone.”
In May, Justina was moved from Massachusetts to a facility in Thompson, Conn., allowing her parents to visit their daughter.
The Rev. Patrick Mahoney of Liberty Counsel, which represented the Pelletiers in court, said Justina's father was prepping their home for her midday arrival.
“This is a joyous day,” Mahoney said. “The Pelletiers are thrilled — 16 months they waited for this day.”
Despite the joyous development, Mahoney said the family is determined to ensure that no one else experiences the same nightmare and accompanying setbacks as Justina, who had read at a seventh-grade level before her legal and medical ordeal. She now reads at a first-grade level.
Despite all the hoopla, Justina quickly felt right at home. She cuddled on the couch with her three sisters and the family's dogs.