Final Custody Decision Expected For West Hartford Girl In Boston Hospital
by Beau Berman
Friday could be “judgment day” for a West Hartford teenager held inside a hospital against her will for 11 months.
A Boston judge is set to decide whether the girl will return to her parents in Connecticut or remain in state custody.
But on the eve of the decision, our continuing Fox CT investigation has revealed new details once again.
In a new development, former Boston Children’s Hospital nurse Katie Higgins, who has been following the case from the start, wrote a scathing letter this week to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Attorney General Martha Coakley, Massachusetts Department of Children & Families Commissioner Olga Roche.Higgins’ letter alleges the hospital is actually comitting “medical child abuse” by pulling Justina off most of her previous medications for mitochondrial disease.
Higgins says that as a result, Justina’s health has deteriorated.
Read Higgins’ letter:Higgins-letter-PDF
Perhaps more potent is another letter.
Former Federal Prosecutor Barry Pollack is demanding an investigation into Boston Children’s Hospital’s “Bader 5 Unit,” where Justina is said to be held.
Pollack is the longest-tenured member of the Board of Directors for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
“Parents have raised several different types of diagnoses that were made by other qualified doctors where Children’s has disagreed, and unlike most doctors, when there’s a disagreement or a debate, where they encourage second opinions, some of the doctors at Children’s hospital recommend locking children up in Bader 5,” said Pollack in a December interview with Fox CT News.
Read Pollack’s letter:Pollack PDF
It was on Feb. 10, 2013, that Justina was admitted to Boston Children’s hospital under the recommendation of her physician at Tufts Medical Center.
It was at Tufts that she had been diagnosed with the lesser-known mitochondrial disease years earlier.
One of her GI specialists had transferred to Boston Children’s Hospital.
While she had been active and ice skating as recently as December 2012, by February 2013 Justina had become weakened by the flu.
She was taken by ambulance from Connecticut to Massachusetts and admitted to BCH.
But once admitted, a different team of doctors came in and examined her.
Parents Lou and Linda Pelletier were told Justina had something called “somatoform disorder,” meaning her pain was caused by a mental condition, not mitochondrial disease.
When Justina’s parents disagreed with that diagnosis and asked to discharge their daughter they were told they could not.
When tempers began to rise, the Pelletiers say that hospital security escorted the Pelletiers out of the building.
The hospital eventually filed a 51-A form, accusing the family of “abuse or neglect.”
Meanwhile, local support can be seen in West Hartford, where Heather Harwood, a mother who has two kids with mitochondrial disease, is driving to Boston to lead a rally outside the courthouse hearing on Friday.
“There’s a lot of people in the mitochondrial community who are coming to show support for her and raise awareness for mitochondrial disease, and then there are concerned parents and citizens who just believe this is an injustice being done and want to make it heard,” said Harwood.
She didn’t know the Pelletiers until she saw Fox CT’s first report on Justina on Nov. 18, 2013.
“I think that the parents have been angry, and I think they’ve been frustrated and upset. I think, though, that if you put yourself in their shoes, how could you not be upset?”
Harwood has since become a friend of the family and has driven to Boston for several of the custody hearings and rallies outside the courthouse.
“This could be me. Me and my husband could be accused of the same thing because we’ve got the same diagnosis from the same doctor with a lot of the same symptoms. And I would hope that if it happened to me that other people would be there,” she said.
National and worldwide interest can be seen on Facebook pages dedicated to Justina, where hundreds have commented in support of the family.
Meanwhile, when Fox CT asked Boston Children’s Hospital for a response to Barry Pollack’s letter, a spokesman only said that the hospital denies the allegations, and he called those allegations “ridiculous.”
A gag order was issued by Judge Joseph Johnston on Nov. 7, after Fox CT asked to enter the courtroom.
Fox CT reached out to Boston Children’s Hospital for comment multiple times both before and after the gag order was in place, but the hospital has repeatedly declined to comment directly on the case.
A spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health told Fox CT the department cannot comment on any pending or open complaints.
Fox CT will be in Boston outside the courtroom providing immediate updates once the judge renders his decision.
For the most up to date live updates follow Beau Berman on his social media accounts: