Pelletier family announces lawsuit against Boston Children’s Hospital

The family of Justina Pelletier, a teen who was placed in DCF custody in 2013 after a medical dispute, has announced a lawsuit against Boston Children’s Hospital. 

The Pelletier family is suing Boston Children’s Hospital and Alice Newton for civil rights violations and medical malpractice. 

In 2013, Pelletier was placed in the custody of the Department of Children and Families for 18 months following a medical dispute with the hospital. 

Doctors at Tufts Medical Center diagnosed Pelletier with mitochondrial disease, a disorder that occurs when structures that produce energy for a cell malfunction. It causes poor growth, developmental delays and muscle weakness. 

Doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital believed Pelletier’s symptoms were psychological and accused her parents of medical abuse. 

On Thursday, the family announced the lawsuit. Reverend Patrick Mahoney spoke outside of the State House on Thursday, and said through the "negligent and abusive" actions of the hospital, the "unthinkable happened."

"Justina Pelletier was wrongfully and unjustly ripped from the loving arms of her loving family," Mahoney said. "The action of Boston Children’s and the defendants set off a chain reaction of events that can only be described as a nightmare for Justina and for the family."

Justina spoke out on Thursday.

"I just don’t understand how this happened," she said. "And I just really don’t want this to happen ever again to any other family."

Boston Children’s Hospital released this statement regarding the lawsuit:

“Boston Children’s Hospital welcomes the opportunity to vigorously defend the medical care it provided to Justina Pelletier. We are committed to the best interests of our patients’ health and well-being, according to the high standards we follow for every patient placed in our care. Out of respect for the patient’s privacy and the ongoing legal process, Boston Children’s is unable to provide further comment about the specific issues of this case at this time.

Regarding general questions about religious and education services, Boston Children’s offers patients and families access to a broad complement of services that are outlined at http://www.childrenshospital.org/patient-resources/family-resources . Specifically, patients and their families have access to Boston Children’s multi-faith chaplaincy, which offers spiritual support 24 hours a day to people of all traditions and those with no religious affiliation to assist and support our patients and their families.  Boston Children’s also offers educational tutoring for all eligible patients, with a full time teacher on staff to provide ongoing education as appropriate for each individual patient.

Boston Children’s and its providers are required by state law to report cases of suspected child maltreatment to the Department of Children and Families (DCF). DCF is solely responsible for investigating reports of suspected child maltreatment and for deciding whether to go to court to request temporary custody of a child.  The Hospital never decides who has custody of a child in any case of alleged child maltreatment. The Hospital is not the custodian or the legal guardian of the patients in its care, nor is it affiliated with any state agency. Boston Children’s does not keep patients in its care against the direction of the custodial guardian.”

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