Justina Pelletier, now 15, was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease by physicians at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. Doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital disagreed with the diagnosis, believing she had somatoform disorder instead.
Mitochondrial diseases result from failures of the mitochondria, specialized compartments present in every cell of the body except red blood cells. Mitochondria are responsible for creating more than 90% of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support growth. When they fail, less and less energy is generated within the cell. Cell injury and even cell death follow. If this process is repeated throughout the body, whole systems begin to fail, and the life of the person in whom this is happening is severely compromised. The disease primarily affects children, but adult onset is becoming more and more common.
Diseases of the mitochondria appear to cause the most damage to cells of the brain, heart, liver, skeletal muscles, kidney and the endocrine and respiratory systems.
Depending on which cells are affected, symptoms may include loss of motor control, muscle weakness and pain, gastro-intestinal disorders and swallowing difficulties, poor growth, cardiac disease, liver disease, diabetes, respiratory complications, seizures, visual/hearing problems, lactic acidosis, developmental delays and susceptibility to infection
A somatoform disorder is a mental disorder characterized by symptoms that suggest physical or injury – symptoms that cannot be explained fully by a general medical condition or by the direct effect of a substance, and are not attributable to another mental disorder (e.g., panic disorder). In people who have a somatoform disorder, medical test results are either normal or do not explain the person’s symptoms, and history and physical examination do not indicate the presence of a medical condition that could cause them.
Patients with this disorder often become worried about their health because doctors are unable to find a cause for their symptoms. This may cause severe distress. Preoccupation with the symptoms may portray a patient’s exaggerated belief in the severity of their ill-health. Symptoms are sometimes similar to those of other illnesses and may last for several years. Usually, the symptoms begin appearing during adolescence, and patients are diagnosed before the age of 30 years. Symptoms may occur across cultures and gender. Other common symptoms include anxiety and depression. In order for an individual to be diagnosed with somatoform disorder, they must have recurring somatic complaints for several continuous years.
Somatoform disorders are not the result of conscious malingering (fabricating or exaggerating symptoms for secondary motives) or factitious disorders (deliberately producing, feigning, or exaggerating symptoms) – sufferers perceive their plight as real. Additionally, a somatoform disorder should not be confused with the more specific diagnosis of a somatization disorder. Various laboratory tests, physical examinations, and surgeries on these individuals show no evidence supporting the idea that these exaggerating symptoms are present. Mental disorders are treated separately from physiological or neurological disorders. Somatoform disorder is difficult to diagnose and treat since doing so requires psychiatrists to work with neurologists on patients with this disorder. Those that do not pass the diagnostic criteria for a somatoform disorder but still present physical symptoms are usually referred to as having “somatic preoccupation.”
In presenting these two definitions, there is no suggestion intended that Justina is suffering from hypochondria; it’s just so you know what Boston Children’s is accusing the girl of having. The hospital, however, appears to be suffering from Napoleon syndrome. According to the father, Boston Children’s has ties to Harvard University, which in turn has many political ties. They seem more concerned with their reputation than with treating this teenager.
Once the gag order was in place, the mainstream media would no longer touch the story. That’s when Lou Pelletier contacted Glenn Beck about his daughter’s plight.
The Pelletiers lost custody, at least temporarily, of Justina to the DCG on Feb. 14, 2013. After taking her to Boston Children’s Hospital a few days prior when she had the flu, they say doctors at the hospital wanted to change her treatment regimen. Those physicians believed Justina had somatoform disorder, a psychological disorder that said the symptoms she experienced were all in her head. The Pelletiers, however, disagreed and believed she should continue treatment for mitochondrial disease, a disease she was diagnosed with and had been treated for by doctors at Tufts Medical Center.
When the Pelletiers went to Boston Children’s Hospital on Valentine’s Day 2013 to have their daughter discharged and taken to Tufts, they were served with a 51A form instead — one that accused them of medical abuse. Essentially, they were accused of treating their daughter medically in a way that she didn’t need.
Since that day, the Pelletiers have had limited communication with their daughter and faced numerous court hearings as it is still being decided what will happen with regard to her custody and treatment. The next court date for this case was on Monday, Jan. 24.
TheBlaze reached out to the Suffolk County Family and Probate Court to confirm the filing and were told to contact juvenile court in this case instead. The Suffolk County Juvenile Court Division told TheBlaze it could neither confirm nor deny a contempt of court filing at the time because records within the division are confidential because they involve children.
The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) filed for Lou Pelletier — the father of 15-year-old Justina Pelletier who is the center of a controversy and legal battle involving custody, parents’ rights and two medical diagnoses — to be held in contempt of court, a family source told TheBlaze.
When Pelletier spoke with TheBlaze this week about Justina and the controversy regarding her diagnosis that led custody to be taken away from her parents for the last year, he broke a gag order issued by a Massachusetts judge.
The source, who asked to remain anonymous fearing further legal repercussions, said Tuesday the state’s DCF filed that Pelletier be held in contempt of court for breaking the order, using stories on TheBlaze and one that appeared last week in the New York Daily News as evidence.
Pelletier admitted to TheBlaze earlier this week that he wasn’t sure if his speaking out would help his family or hurt it.
“Should I even be doing what I’m doing today?” Lou told TheBlaze Monday. “You’re scared. If I do this, is it going to make it worse for Justina? Is it going to make it better? I need to save my daughter. It’s not this court house. It’s not the state of Massachusetts,” he said at another point in our interview. “If we don’t do something, she is going to die.”
The injunction preventing the Pelletiers from talking publicly about their daughter in the context of the case was issued Nov. 7, 2013, according to WTIC-TV. The gag order was issued after the media investigation by WTIC’s Beau Berman.
Going against a gag order, if found in contempt of a court order, could be considered either civil or criminal. Civil contempt of court would involve a failure to obey a court order. Criminal contempt of court is often issued as punishment to prevent future acts of contempt.
Penalties for being found in contempt of court, depending on the type, range from being required to pay the legal fees to paying a fine to jail time.
Jim Ianiri, an attorney in the Boston area who has been involved in custody battles over medical issues since the 1990s but who is not involved in this case, shared his legal expertise with TheBlaze about this situation.
“The court is going to determine whether or not to hold [a person] in contempt of court, and then impose the appropriate penalties, if you will, on that,” Ianiri explained.
A party files a motion to find someone in contempt of court. Then a judge would have to grant the motion, or allow motion, and then find someone in contempt of court or not in contempt of court, Ianiri continued.
“What they’re looking for is a contempt order. An order finding [someone] is in contempt could result in a fine,” he said.
Ianiri also speculated that in this case it would be civil contempt of court, as he thought criminal “is a little more extreme.”
In an interview with Glenn Beck this morning on his radio program, Justina’s father said that Justina’s former doctor came to check up on her at Boston Children’s. Her mother was with her. Justina and her mother gave the doctor a big hug. Then, the father relates, in a blink of an eye, a social worker came into the room, grabbed the doctor by the collar and dragged him out, telling him he had no authorization to be there.
This appalling story is what happens when government gets involved in health care. Parents are denied the right to choose the most effective treatment for their daughter? When they protest and come to transfer their daughter back to the original hospital, where she was being successfully treated, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families takes custody away from the parents, and won’t even allow them to see their child? When the father takes his case to the Media, the judge slaps a gag order on him, threatening him with a hefty and imprisonment if breaks the order? And when he reaches out to a media outlet (TheBlaze) beyond the government’s reach to threaten and intimidate, the charge is issued by the judge?
This could be any of your children. Or an elderly parent. Or you. Massachusetts is one of those states that adopted its own form of universal health care – and this is the result. This is the government determining it knows what’s better for your children than you or your own doctor. This is a government stifling and even criminalizing your right to protest and demand redress. This is the government censoring the media. This is a government grossly abusing its powers.
Five days ago, Boston.com reported that two dozen Massachusetts lawmakers had sent a letter to Gov. Deval Patrick seeking the resignation of DCF Commissioner Olga Roche. Citing what they called a mishandling of cases by the Department of Children and Families. Eight Democrats signed Thursday’s letter asking for the resignation of Commissioner Olga Roche.
The agency has been under scrutiny since social workers lost track of Jeremiah Oliver, a 5-year-old Fitchburg, Mass., boy who has not been seen by relatives since September and is feared dead. His mother and her boyfriend have pleaded not guilty to charges in connection with the case.
‘‘Both Democrats and Republicans agree that Commissioner Roche has not offered a comprehensive solution to solving the epic failures of the Department of Children and Families, and it is time for some leadership that will make protecting children its number one priority,’’ Republican State Rep. Ryan Fattman of Webster, Mass., said in a statement.
And now this. A seriously ill child is essentially being held prisoner at Boston Children’s Hospital, now a ward of a state whose DCF commissioner is under fire to resign because of mishandling of cases. They refuse to recognize the diagnosis of a competing hospital, throwing her original doctor out of the hospital. The father has now been charged with contempt of court for pleading his daughter’s case to anyone who can and will broadcast it to anyone who will listen and help before the girl dies.
A sick girl being treated (or in this case, being denied treatment) by a severely dysfunctional, bureaucratic, politically-connected medical system. What’s the name for this disease?
Statopia? Sociophrenia? Totalitaraform? Whatever it is, it’s contagious.
What’s the cure?
An injection of pure freedom.
Good luck to Mr. Pelletier and our prayers to Justina that she’ll be both well and free, very soon.