Judge Awards Permanent Custody of Justina Pelletier to Mass DCF

Kermit Cole

The Boston Globe reports today that Massachusetts Juvenile Court Judge Joseph Johnston has awarded permanent custody of Justina Pelletier to the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, giving the agency the power to “decide whether or when Pelletier should be returned to her West Hartford, Conn., home.” A previous story from the Globe had said state childcare officials were “actively working to return” Pelletier to her home state.

Article: Mass. granted permanent custody of Justina Pelletier (Boston Globe)

Also See:
Raw Footage of Interview with Lou Pelletier (Fox News CT)
Lou Pelletier: Justina dying under care of Massachusetts (Fox TV)
In Re: Care and Protection of Justina Pelletier Disposition Order (Commonwealth of Massachusetts)
Massachusetts Given Permanent Custody Of Justina Pelletier (Fox News)
A Miracle for Justina (Facebook Page)
Judge Joseph Johnson delivers blow to the family of Justina Pelletier (Fiddaman Blog)
Judge Rules Justina Pelletier to Remain in State’s Custody (The Blaze)
Justina Pelletier’s Health is “Scary” Her Sister Says in New Interview (LifeNews.com)
Attorneys File Contempt Motion Against Department of Children and Families in Justina Pelletier Case (LifeNews.com)
Mislabeling Medical Illness As Mental Disorder: The Eleventh DSM-5 Mistake (Huffington Post)
Justina Pelletier placed in permanent state custody in Massachusetts  (Daily News)
Family of Justina Pelletier devastated after Mass. judge’s ruling (Fox News)

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected]

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  1. Let’s face it, it seems the parents are not helping their daughter with their escalation strategies. We really don’t know what Justina’s medical problems are, if there are any. Maybe she has mitochondrial disease, maybe her parents just fucked her up? “Persistent and severe Somatic Symptom Disorder” doesn’t help either. How do you treat it? With all kinds of psychiatric medications?


    • When your tool box is only filled with hammers of course everything looks like a nail to you. Of course they’re drugging her since that’s the only “treatment” that they have for everything. I suspect if you presented with a hangnail to a psychiatrists she or he would prescribe some antipsychotic. It’s the only thing that they know and they only thing that legitimates them as “real doctors”. I suspect that the Somatic Symptom Disorder is nothing more than a huge bunch of quackery.

  2. In my humble opinion, the judge ‘s statement, blaming the Pelletiers, seems to be a punitive attack on the parents’ right to free speech, speech that is proportional to the egregious nature of their plight and reasonable in light of the indefensible provocations which they have endured. Where is the concern for justice and mercy? I don’t see it.

  3. And now we see the unholy Triumverate that we’re dealing with. It’s the troika that will drag us over the cliff. Psychiatry, the drug companies, and now the legal system have joined together and seem determined to force us to do as they see fit; all “for our own good,” of course.

    If this doesn’t frighten you and cause you to stop and take stock of what is happening then I don’t know what will. All the “diagnoses” in the DSM are totally dubious and without any scientific backing at all but the legal system is obviously a believer.

    Eventually everyone will be forced to bow down and worship at the altar of Psychiatry and Big Pharma.

  4. Here is the judge’s order, which was delivered by fax.


    I am just a lay person, of course, but I have no idea what to make of this order. He is focusing on the issue of which state Justina should be in, which he concludes is CT. Yet he grants permanent custody to MA DCF, writing they should work harder to place Justina in CT. The findings in the order would also seem to suggest that perhaps CT DCF believes there is no case against that parents, as they (CT DCF) “declined to file the case in CT.” And since the allegations of medical abuse (never pursued criminally) are based upon MA Boston Children’s, it would seem to me there is effectively no case in CT, as Tufts was treating for mito.

    He also concludes that in his opinion Justina has Somatic Symptom Disorder, but I see no clear opinions on whether he believes the parents were guilty of any sort of abuse or medical abuse against Justina. (He is very concerned about their alleged verbal abuse against various institutional employees.) Of course, that is the way CPS works – once the case is open, it is no longer about right or wrong or whether the parents are guilty of anything, but whether they fully submit and cooperate. Obviously, the Pelletiers have failed to do that.



    Recent pictures of Justina, which would seem to support that she is being medically neglected by MA DCF. Remember, she is reported in a facility that is not in any way a medical facility.

    Just me knocking thoughts around. Whole thing makes me sick. It’s like the war between the states or something.

    • Okay, let’s look at the picture again, this time the original photo and not the photoshopped one:


      To me (as a lay person) it doesn’t look so dangerous. Yes, there are at least bruises, but do you really believe the medical staff wouldn’t spot a sepsis and wouldn’t treat it? As far as I remember the tube is from the time before Boston Children’s Hospital. It’s one of the reasons they suspected medical child abuse, because they concluded it’s unnecessary.

      What’s happening on that picture? You see the Justina’s mother and some other person pulling up Justina’s shirt and pulling down her pants a little bit. Taking a photo, releasing it to the press. We don’t see Justina’s face, we don’t know if she agrees with it or not.

        • AA, I don’t know how they came to the decision and who was involved. What qualifications and information do we have to know that Justina’s parents don’t abuse her?

          But I think we agree, that this somatic symptom disorder diagnosis is questionable.

          • Oli, in the US, someone is innocent until proven guilty which means they are entitled to a jury of their peers. The constitution does not label a person guilty until proven innocent.

            And if Justina’s parents are suspected of child abuse, why haven’t they been arrested? And if Tuft’s allegedly performed all these unnecessary medical procedures on Justina, why hasn’t anything been done to them?

  5. Oli,

    Many people with psych labels don’t get medical treatment because everything is blamed on their alleged mental illness. So no, I don’t trust the medical staff at all to pay attention to Justina’s needs.

    As far as the religious right getting involved, as a left wing liberal who normally despises what they stand for, I applaud them big time for giving a damm. And frankly, I don’t care what their motivation is if it gets Justina back to her parents.

    • A friend is going through this right now.

      When you want help from the mental health services and you ask for it you probably won’t get it.

      When you do not want the sevices and tell them they will not leave you alone.

      When you have a physical illness, once you have a serious diagnosis, they will say you are imagining it or being manipulative.

      I know someone else who had their arm broken by a restraint team in hospital. The staff refused to believe her arm was broken for three days. They said she was being manipulative and trying to escape.

      Justine and her family are now in Kafka land, where whatever they do will be seen as proof of their collective illness

  6. I have to agree with AA on this one as well, even as someone who identifies as liberal (and probably more liberal than Obama on many things too), that the religious right and Glenn Beck types have taken up the mantle here in no way changes my mind about Justina Pelletier’s case and how wrong it is. The far-right’s involvement is just a demonstration that we can always find some similarities with others and that political alliances and agreements aren’t so clear cut. Remember that it was fiscal conservatives like Reagan (as governor of CA) who signed off on deinstitutionalization measures like the LPS Act, even if they didn’t care one bit about funding community care in the future.

    I saw the news today and was just as heartbroken as I am sure everyone else here is. As other posters have noted, while it may not have been advisable for Justina’s parents to allegedly (this is important, this is not proven, but merely an allegation of DCF that the judge has sided with) used profanity and generally been rude or verbally aggressive towards DCF in terms of getting what they wanted, for Judge Johnston to use this in any way as a reason why Justina should not return home is punishing the parents for being rude, rather than acting in the best interests of the child and respecting the reasonable rights of parents to have custody of their children.

    How many parents out there who genuinely love their children and do everything to provide for them wouldn’t be swearing and frustrated and upset if an agency used physical force to suddenly snatch their child? If DCF is going to take the no-prisoners, we must act now approach whereby the Pelletier parents’s (or for that matter, Justina’s) opinions have no meaning, that there is no room for disagreement on a drive-by somatic disorder diagnosis made within hours, I don’t blame them for being upset and violating what we would consider societal norms about politeness and cooperation.

    That DCF and Boston Children’s decided to use the physical and legal force of the state means that there is little such thing as cooperation and working together towards a mutually beneficial outcome. It’s incredibly naive of Judge Johnston to think that if Boston Children’s calls DCF on mandated reporter legal grounds, and DCF asserts emergency legal custody, and physically removes the parents, that somehow all that was needed was just talking nicely to DCF to get an informal resolution. Boston Children’s and DCF could have tried to offer an informal resolution or a conditional custody arrangement before seizing Justina. But they didn’t. DCF played hardball from the start, and the Pelletier parents’s only chance was to do the same.

    In all of this the one person that I think we should keep in mind is Justina herself, the person who is the proverbial rope that gets stretched and broken and abused, but overlooked, while in a tug-of-war between two fighting sides. I’m not sure why Justina is not allowed to speak for herself (or at least, why the public doesn’t hear what she says), because at the end of the day this is about Justina, not DCF, Boston Children’s, or even her parents. It’s about her.

    My guess is that if Justina had a say she would say she wants all this nonsense over and wants to just to return home so she can go back to school and ice-skating and all the other things that make fifteen year olds tick and give them opportunities to lead happy adult lives. As a young adult myself who still has a strong memory of what my high school years were like, I’d want just the same.

    I’ll defer to what Justina thinks on this, but I personally would not see a bright future for myself if I lost at least three years of my adolescence and high school years locked up in an isolated institution. How many colleges will accept someone either taking no classes or trying to study makeshift in a residential facility? How can someone successfully enter college and thrive there after not living in the outside, real world for years? What happens to extracurriculars, friends, family, and internships and summer jobs? It’s all gone. That’s the real tragedy here. I truly hope that Justina at some point in her life will be able to overcome these incredible roadblocks that DCF has put in her way and wish her the best of luck.

  7. This is a situation where there is common ground among those with different politics.
    Skepticism of psychiatry is universal.
    I believe that BCH took a deliberate shortcut to a spurious “somatoform” dx. by not talking to Korson and Flores.
    Lou and Linda aren’t perfect, but who is. Good people can act like jerks and that holds true for many on a hospital staff. This is the real world, buttons get pushed, and a dx/pill isn’t required.
    The parents can appeal in 3 months and maybe the DCF can loosen up their grip in the mean time.
    An investigation by an objective, outside, authority should begin. JCAHO should make themselves useful.

    • I hope we could All take something from these blogs, cut and paste it to an email to send to our representatives, asking them to speak out against what is happening in Massachusetts. Doesn’t there need to be a convocation of ethicists and reformers to articulate a resolution? I have been advised to send a fax because it will likely receive attention sooner. It’s wonderful that we are encouraging each other here. Let’s make sure that we transfer/convert this energy to the drive shaft so that we are not just singing to the choir. I’m open to more ideas, as well. We are trying so hard to work within the law , but we’ve hit a wall. The law has become a very high wall. Sorry for the “Clang.” I like the idea of a Clang Gang picketing with many alliterated posters. I’m not trying to be funny. I’m frustrated.