Parents Hail Small Victory for Justina Pelletier as Tufts Doctors Take Charge


Justina was a seemingly healthy teenager performing jumps and spirals at a skating show, then six weeks later, on Feb. 10, 2013, she was in the emergency room at Children's Hospital in Boston after a severe bout with the flu, refusing to eat and barely able to walk, according to her family.

Under the care of Korson at Tufts Justina had a device surgically implanted because her bowel had essentially shut down. She was also on multiple medications.

A team of doctors at Boston Children's said her symptoms were psychosomatic, according to the family. The hospital then filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, as required by law, because they suspected the parents of child abuse for subjecting their daughter to invasive medical treatments and denying her mental health therapy.

They laid out a treatment plan for Justina, which her parents refused to sign, and on Feb. 14, 2013, when they attempted to check their daughter out of Boston Children's to take her back to Tufts to resume medical treatment, the family said they were told by Boston Children's that they could not discharge Justina.

Justina was diagnosed with somatoform pain disorder, a psychiatric condition when a person experiences physical pain for which no known medical explanation can be found, according to her family. The case highlights a growing concern among those with rare diseases and autoimmune disorders that physical symptoms that cannot be explained will be dismissed by doctors as psychosomatic.

Last week, Judge Joseph Johnston sent Justina to Shared Living Collaborative in Merrimac, a non-medical facility, but now, according to the family, Justina will stay in Framingham. "They couldn't handle all the media attention and wouldn't take her," said Pelletier of the Merrimac facility.

"We are exasperated and exhausted," he said. "These are false medical abuse charges against our family for supposed unnecessary surgery, going to some of the top doctors in the country, medically verified and insurance approved. I should be happy about the this latest victory, but I am not."

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