Sunday, March 30, 2014

Judge Joseph Johnston and the Justina Pelletier Case


Your special-needs, fourteen-year-old, daughter, is deprived of home and school and is placed in a psychiatric ward for ten months because a hospital review team altered her admitting diagnosis from physical [Tufts Medical Center- mitochondrial disease] to mental [Boston Children's Hospital-somatoform disorder].

The parents disagreed with the proposed psychiatric BCH treatment plan and asked that their daughter be transferred back to Tufts Medical. The answer was negative.

This is the crux of the controversial Justina Pelletier medical child abuse allegation on the part of Boston Children's Hospital and illustrates a dysfunctional Massachusetts juvenile protection system. A recent Massachusetts Department of Children and Families audit confirmed that the agency had failed to protect children in its custody.

If the child's parents had been silent and obeyed Judge Johnston's gag order the circumstances of Justina's usurpation would be unknown. The Boston Globe's extensive reports have raised questions regarding the immediacy and necessity of removing Justina's care from parental control to the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, her thirteen-month detention and circumscribed visitations.

Prior to Judge Johnston's permanent custody ruling, Lou and Linda Pelletier were allowed an hour a week with their daughter. Now MDCF has forbidden the family any physical contact with their daughter.

In spite of conflicting expert medical testimony , Judge Joseph Johnston stated in his latest disposition that Justina is suffering from psychosis induced by her parents and will remain a ward of the state, perhaps until her eighteen birthday. Judge Johnston would prefer that the Connecticut Department of Children and Families assume responsibility but the agency has declined.

By all accounts Juvenile Judge Joseph Johnston has not been an impartial overseer. He provides no explanation for his gag order or the state's effort's to charge the parents with contempt of court. Because of media attention, these punitive directives have been withdrawn. Judge Johnston should have appointed a guardian ad litem in February to protect Justina's interests but inexplicably waited until December.

Somatic System Disorder , a novel disputable psychiatric term, is a difficult to access condition yet Boston Children's Hospital staff was able to determine the cause of Justina's illness in less than three days. That quick judgment and the fact that BCH, according to The Boston Globe, has a suspicious history of alleging somatoform medical child abuse should have red-flagged the hospital's credibility before the court.

Judge Johnston has subjected Justina Pelletier to extreme stress—locked confinement—and yet would have the public believe that the parents are responsible for his decisions. The court had considered granting conditional parental custody in December but was stayed by the Pelletiers' "very concerning conduct." Judge Johnston is requiring that Lou and Linda Pelletier undergo clinical and psychological evaluation as a condition for custody.

From the evidence presented it does not appear that Judge Johnston has been acting in Justina's best interests. He disapproves of the Pelletiers obstreperous behavior but that is of no import. Justina has the right to return home and to her Tufts physicians. It is not the family's fault that two medical institutions have a conflict of opinion regarding Justina's course of treatment.

What is the state of Justina's health? Judge Johnston did not address that most important question in his four page critique.

The Globe's reports are "A medical collision with a child in the middle" and " Frustration on all fronts in struggle over child’s future"

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