Mom of Sick Connecticut Teen 'Collapses' in Court After Judge Sends Kid to Foster Care

Justina Pelletier's parents are upset, say decision crossed "so many lines."

ByABC News
February 25, 2014, 2:30 PM

Feb. 25, 2014— -- Justina Pelletier, the Connecticut teenager who has spent the last year in state custody in a case that has pitted Boston's top doctors against a family who claims their daughter is being medically mistreated, will go into foster care, a court has ruled.

In a two-hour closed door hearing on Monday, Justina's mother "collapsed" and was taken to a local hospital and her father "shouted in anger" when they were told by a Department of Family and Children's judge continued to deny the family custody of their 15-year-old, according to the Boston Globe.

Lou and Linda Pelletier, of West Hartford, Conn., have been fighting for their daughter who they say has mitochondrial disease, a rare genetic disorder with physical symptoms that can affect every part of the body.

Boston Children's Hospital reported the Pelletier's to the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families for suspected child abuse in February 2013. She was confined to its psychiatric unit for treatment for a somatoform disorder for nearly a year before being moved to a residential facility for mental health treatment, according to the family.

"We are just so stressed out," Lou Pelletier, a financial planner and father of three daughters, told today. "What they put us through yesterday crossed so many lines. My wife has been at the breaking point."

Family court Judge Joseph Johnston has sent Justina to Shared Living Collaborative in Merrimac, a non-medical facility run by the state, according to the family.

The family said they had brought in additional First Amendment lawyers who are opposing a gag order placed on all involved in the case and say they hope to bring Justina home. The custody case has dragged on since last fall and was continued until March 24.

"The court really didn't accomplish much," said Mathew Staves of Liberty Counsel , a conservative organization that advocates for "religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family,” who was at hearing.

"She is not doing very well," said Staves. "Linda saw her on Friday … and there were five DCF workers present. There is no private time and she is not allowed to take cell phone photos of her daughter. ... She had red marks on her abdomen and she was very week. It's now the third semester of school since February 2013, and they haven't given her any education, she can't attend church. It's unbelievable."

"If she had somatoform disorder, then her condition would have improved," he said. "She's not gotten any better."

Pelletier had already broken an Essex County family court judge's gag order with earlier this month, saying, "I have got to save my daughter's life."

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.

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.