State asks judge to restore custody to parents of teen after year-and-a-half long medical imprisonment

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(NaturalNews) The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) made a dramatic change recently in its 16-month episode involving teenager Justina Pelletier, asking a juvenile court judge if the agency can return the girl to her parents.

The Boston Globe and other papers reported that the change of heart by DCF came after the agency removed its longstanding opposition to sending Justina back home, saying that her parents, Lou and Linda Pelletier -- who have been fighting to have their daughter returned -- have now met conditions that the agency sought from them. As a result, all parties will now ask a judge to sign off.

The Globe reported:

Judge Joseph Johnston had given the state permanent custody of Justina in March, after a highly publicized battle involving dueling diagnoses from doctors at Boston Children's Hospital and Tufts Medical Center and allegations of medical child abuse leveled against her parents.

In his March ruling, Johnston had sharp words for the Pelletiers, faulting them for behavior he contended had scuttled previous attempts at compromise.

Never should have happened, but welcome to Amerika 2014

The department filed its request to the judge late in the afternoon of June 6, seeking his permission to send Justina back home. The couple's attorneys, who are from West Hartford, were told of the decision a few days later, the Globe said.

Justina's case has drawn national attention, because it highlights the murky line between psychiatric and biological illness, the state's seedy involvement in deciding the matter and the "fraught terrain of medical child abuse accusations," said the Globe.

Britain's Daily Mail further reported:

The move came after a highly publicized battle involving differing diagnoses from doctors at Boston Children's Hospital and Tufts Medical Center and allegations of medical child abuse against her parents.

The Globe noted that in recent months the case has taken on a political element. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick's top health official, Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz, took on the highly unusual role of trying to reach a resolution.

A reunification plan that Polanowicz outlined in a May 5 letter listed four conditions that Justina's parents would have to comply with in order for DCF to support giving them back custody of their daughter. That included being required to follow through with Tufts Medical Center's care plan for Justina and participate in family therapy.

The Globe said that, in the state's most recent court filing, general counsel Andrew Rome wrote that Justina's parents had met their obligation to present "sufficient evidence of a material change in circumstances."

Officials in Massachusetts became involved in Justina's case because, even though she was a resident of a neighboring state, she was nonetheless a patient at Boston Children's Hospital when, in February 2013, hospital officials accused her parents of medical child abuse.

'Now that you have complied, here is your daughter'

Though a specialist at Tufts had previously given Justina a working diagnosis of mitochondrial disease, which is a group of rare genetic disorders that affect how cells produce energy, a team at Children's later concluded that her problems were mostly psychiatric. When the Children's team tried to change Justina's treatment plan, her parents strongly objected and the case wound up in juvenile court.

A judge handed Massachusetts temporary custody of Justina in February 2013, and she spent much of the next year locked in the psychiatric ward of Boston Children's Hospital. Later, she was moved to a residential facility in Framingham.

The Globe reported that, for most of the last month, Justina had been staying at the JRI Susan Wayne Center for Excellence, which is a residential facility in Thompson, Conn., about 90 minutes away from her parents. Justina's mother and maternal grandmother have been living in a nearby hotel so they could visit her every day, according to her father. In late May, family and friends threw her a surprise party for her 16th birthday.

The lesson all along has been: "We are the state and we know better." Only now, after Justina's parents have complied with the requirements of a state in which they did not even live, can they have their daughter back.


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