A state agency in Massachusetts that took custody of a young girl over her parents’ objections and interfered with her medical treatment is being accused of contempt of court.
The non-profit legal advocacy group Liberty Counsel, which has been trying to get Justina Pelletier returned to the custody of her parents so her medical treatment can be resumed, announced Monday it has filed a request for a judicial determination of contempt of court against the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.
It was March 3 when District Judge Joseph Johnston approved a written agreement transferring care for the teenager to Tufts Medical Center. The parents had been taking her to the hospital for treatment before the state agency intervened.
“Despite this enforceable order, DCF still has not made appointments with Tufts,” said Liberty Counsel in its explanation of the request to the court.
“The Pelletiers have spoken several times to Dr. Korson, who was treating Justina before this debacle began, and they obtained an appointment date. Dr. Korson said that he wants to see Justina and resume her treatment immediately, but on Friday, March 21, DCF said it will not honor any appointments with Tufts until the judge rules on Tuesday.”
The girl was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease, which causes muscle pain and weakness, several years ago. However, when she was taken last year to Boston Children’s Hospital, apparently with the flu, doctors said she had a mental condition and took custody away from her parents.
According to WTIC-TV in Hartford, Conn., her sister, Jennifer, over the weekend said Justina is now in poor condition.
“Her physical appearance, just from seeing her, it’s scary. Her legs are more swollen. They’re cold to the touch. She has no feeling in her feet,” Jennifer told WTIC
Justina, from West Hartford, has been at Wayside Youth and Family Support Network in Framingham, Mass., recently.
“A child’s health and welfare are hanging in the balance. We cannot continue to withhold treatment from this young girl,” said Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel. “It is obvious to everyone but DCF that this disease is physical, not psychiatric. DCF should stop delaying, obey the court order, and send her to Tufts for medical treatment today!”
Liberty Counsel said it was preparing other legal pleadings to remove DCF from the case entirely.
“DCF has abused its authority. DCF had no right to come between Justina and medical care,” Staver said.
Staver explained the case was in court before Johnston last week on two matters, including his motion to be admitted to the case and a request to return Justina to her parents.
Johnston had claimed he would rule by the end of last week, but the latest announced time frame for a decision is Tuesday.
Staver appeared in court last month trying to get permission to help the family, and the state agency said it didn’t want his assistance. The state agency ultimately declined to submit its reasons, but the judge has yet to rule, officials said.
“The delay tactics, hoping that the press will lose interest in this case, must cease. Justina must be returned to her parents’ custody and Tufts’ care,” Staver said.
The dispute over custody of Justina has been raging for more than a year, and the Boston Globe reports the girl has spent most of that time “in a locked psychiatric ward” at Children’s Hospital.
“In all my years in practice, I have never seen a more barbaric overreach by a state agency,” he said.
He told WND it’s very important to get Justina the appropriate medical treatment immediately.
He also told WND that the state agency has a reputation for overreach and for being less than responsible. The contempt ruling request is based on the agency’s treatment of this family, and of the court, Staver said.
“They’ve lost 134 children, they don’t know where they are,” he pointed out. “And 94 children over the last few years have died in their custody.
“This is an agency that is out of control.”