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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Justina Pelletier: A Pawn in a Psychiatric Game of Chess




Earlier this week I wrote about 15-year-old Justina Pelletier, a young girl caught in the mental health system and the opinions of apparent professionals.

In brief, Justina was diagnosed with mitochondrial disorder, a chronic, genetic disorder that occurs when the mitochondria of the cell fails to produce enough energy for cell or organ function.

Her parents, Lou and Linda Pelletier, took her for a routine visit to a Connecticut Children's Hospital back in 2013. Justina had come down with the flu, which can affect mitochondrial disease sufferers in a more pronounced way than the average person.

Instead of being treated for her flu, Justina was referred to a psychologist who, after a brief conversation, diagnosed her with somatoform disorder, an apparent mental disorder characterized by symptoms that suggest physical illness or injury.

24 hours later Justina's parents were served a 51A, a report of alleged physical or emotional abuse. By treating their daughter with medication for her mitochondrial disorder they were deemed to be 'abusing' her by over-medicalizing her.

This was back in 2013.

A few days ago, her parents attended a hearing at a Boston courthouse opposing the wishes of the Department of Children and Families who wanted to place their teenage daughter in foster care on Boston’s North Shore.

Bizarrely, Juvenile Court Judge Joseph Johnston agreed with the Department of Children and Families.

A gag order has been in place since 2013 that prohibits Justina's parents from speaking to the press about their daughter's plight.

Yesterday, the Boston Globe, who have been covering this story for a while, reported that Justina "is likely to remain for now at a Framingham residential facility where she’s been for the past month and not move to a Merrimac foster care placement that was discussed in juvenile court Monday."

This from the Boston Globe:

At the closed-door hearing this week, Juvenile Court Judge Joseph Johnston spoke about a plan by the state Department of Children and Families to transfer 15-year-old Justina Pelletier to Shared Living Collaborative in Merrimac. But this facility has apparently backed away from the idea, largely because of the highly contentious nature of the case and the national media attention it has drawn, these sources said.
Meanwhile, one of the sources said the judge on Monday expressed openness to allowing Justina to return to her West Hartford, Conn., home to live with her parents, as long as certain oversight conditions were met.
Many social networks have been outraged by the treatment of Justina and various campaigns have been started, I myself suggested that Boston Children's Hospital's corporate sponsors be boycotted whilst others created Facebook pages and expressed their anger via Twitter.

It would appear that the "professional adults" just haven't got a clue what they are doing.

We have the medical opinion of a mitochondrial disease doctor at Tufts Medical Center who took into account all the evidence so diagnosed and prescribed drugs to treat Justina's mitochondrial disorder [part of his evidence was that Justina's sister also had the hereditary disorder].

Then we have the opinion of a psychologist who, after a brief conversation with Justina, decided she was 'faking it' - This opinion led to Justina being taken away from her parents and having her treatment for mitochondrial disorder stopped and being treated for an "illness" that she probably hasn't got.

After being passed around from pillar to post Justina still, after many months of uncertainty, still remains in limbo.

This is nothing more than Justina being used  as a pawn in a game of psychiatric chess, and not a very good one at that.

It's time for Justina to go back to where she belongs - to her family home - to her loving parents.

It's also time for the mental health services involved in the decision making of this poor girl to take a long, hard look at themselves.

Chess just isn't for them. One has to have a certain level of skill to play the game.


Bob Fiddaman

If you are going to Tweet this story, please use #FreeJustina as a hash-tag.





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