Juvenile judges in Massachusetts and other states routinely sever parental rights on the grounds of wrongful medical treatment. Suspicions of medical child abuse are generally brought to the courts' attention by research hospitals who upon occasion have pursuits outside the well-being of the child.
When the intervenors are successful the institutions are permitted to keep the children, proceed with divergent courses of medical treatment and bill Medicaid for the cost. If the now ward of state has a condition of interest to the research facility the child may be selected for experimental therapies such as psychiatric isolation. Parents, foster children and their former physicians have no voice in these decisions.
Circumstantial evidence suggests that Boston Children's Hospital was engaged in somatoform disorder research when the psychiatric staff filed a medical child abuse complaint against Justina Pelletier's parents. Justina was not the only child targeted by the hospital. The Boston Globe reported that at least five other children over an eighteen-month period preceded the path of Justina in Boston Children's Hospital medical child abuse complaints.
A lawsuit filed in May 2014 alleges that the parents of a child who was receiving treatment at Boston Children's Hospital in June 2012 were put on the state abuse watch list and were then threatened with loss of their daughter if they did not agree to her psychiatric confinement.
The taking of Justina Pelletier by Judge Joseph F. Johnston on the basis of a medical child abuse allegation is an example of the unchecked power of hospitals, the Department of Children and Families and the Massachusetts juvenile court system.
Although medical child abuse was not addressed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in their ruling against the Department of Children and Families et al in March 2014 the court found that the Massachusetts child protection agency's practices were "conscience shocking" and were depriving foster children of constitutional protections.
The decision by Judge Johnston to allow the incarceration of Justina Pelletier, a fourteen-year-old foster child with no history of mental issues, meets the Supreme Court's test of "shocks the conscience."
The following is a brief recap of the Pelletier travesty as reported by The Boston Globe. Dr. Alice Newton and Judge Joseph F. Johnston were the parties responsible for Justina's sixteen-month captivity.
Dr. Alice Newton, head of Boston Children's Hospital child protection team, notified the state Department of Children and Families in February 2013 that their newly-admitted patient, Justina Pelletier, was a victim of medical child abuse. Swayed by Dr. Newton's certainty Judge Joseph Johnston held within days that Justina Pelletier had been harmed by her parents, Lou and Linda Pelletier. The rationale for taking Justina: the parents were permitting Dr. Mark Korson of Tuft's Medical Center to treat their daughter for a mitochondrial condition.
Dr. Newton conveniently neglected to tell Judge Johnston that Boston Children's Hospital treats mitochondrial disorders and performs the highly criticized cecostomy surgery.
If Lou Pelletier had obeyed Judge Johnston's gag order, Justina may have remained a ward of the state until her eighteen birthday.
Former rulings make it clear that Judge Johnston erred when he chose to separate Justina from her parents and place her under state custody for the reasons cited by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in Sevigny’s Case, 337 Mass. 747 (1958). :
The courts are not to determine which side of a medical dispute is sound where each side is supported by reason and logic.When Judge Johnston returned Justina to her parents on June 18, 2014 the contretemps became moot. But the question remains, was Judge Johnston conducting a kangaroo court ?