Justina Pelletier – Caught in Struggle Between Two Hospital Diagnoses

Staff Writer | March 3rd, 2014

Justina Pelletier Case: Was Hospital Malpractice the Cause?Is the Justina Pelletier case due to hospital malpractice? One medical center in Connecticut diagnosed the young girl with a mitochondrial disorder – a genetic disorder that impacts energy production in cells – and treated her accordingly. Another hospital in Massachusetts contradicted the previous diagnosis and told Justina’s parents her symptoms were psychosomatic (in her head) and wanted to treat her for a mental illness.

When the parents refused to change the treatment protocol given at the Tufts Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital called in Child Protective Services for backup, which resulted in Justina being taken from her parents. Justine has been kept by the state of Massachusetts for a year, spending at least part of the time locked up in the psychiatric ward.

The ensuing court battle resulted in a gag order, which prevented the parents from talking about the case and kept all the proceedings private. The gag order itself raised eyebrows and concerns by many in the legal arena, including the American Civil Liberties Union. The first amendment lawyers are set to challenge the gag order in a hearing in March 2014.

Justina’s father decided the gag order was too much and decided to tell their story – court order or not. Massachusetts Child Protective Services filed contempt charges against Mr. Pelletier immediately after he made public comments about the case. Several different news media sources picked up the story, bringing it to the attention of lawmakers.

Massachusetts Representatives called for the immediate release of Justina back to her parents. In fact, it was reported that 12 representatives were willing to back a resolution that would lead to the release of Justina. They planned on bringing it to the next session, which opens up on March 5, 2014.

Representative Jim Lyons voiced a passionate statement shared by many people all over the country, “The Pelletier case is a dispute between conflicting medical opinions… the decision on which medical treatment to adopt should rest with the parents, not with DCF. The Department’s heavy-handed, unjustified interference with the rights of these parents is an example of what is wrong with this agency.”

Child Protective Services decides to send Justina back to Connecticut

In a recent twist of events, the Department of Children and Families announced they would be returning Justina back to Connecticut and back to the same medical center for treatment whose diagnosis resulted in Justina being taken from her parents. The contempt charges against Mr. Pelletier were also dropped.

In their first public comment, the Massachusetts child protective services agency summed it up like this: “Our primary goal has always been the health and well-being of Justina. We want the parents to be able to work with the providers and courts to ultimately move Justina back to her home state of Connecticut. That is the objective, and is consistent with our previous efforts to find an appropriate placement near her home.”

What to do if you experience hospital malpractice in NY

If you or a family member were misdiagnosed and suffered as a result, The Sanders Firm may be able to help. Our firm has served as New York’s top medical misdiagnoses lawyers for over 45 years. Our success has resulted in recovering damages in multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts for many New York residents. Schedule a free case review today – 1-800-FAIR PLAY.


  1. The Blaze - Major Updates in Justina Pelletier Case: Lawmakers Get Involved, Teen Will Not Be Transferred to Foster Care, http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/02/26/major-updates-in-justina-pelletier-case-lawmakers-get-involved-teen-will-not-be-transferred-to-foster-care/

  2. Fox - Mass. Representatives Ask DCF To Release Justina Pelletier, http://foxct.com/2014/02/26/mass-representatives-ask-dcf-to-release-justina-pellitier/

  3. Huffington Post - First, Do No Harm: How We Failed Justina Pelletier and Her Family, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cristy-balcells/first-do-no-harm-how-we-f_b_4843997.html

  4. Boston Globe - Mass. agency says it is actively working to return Justina Pelletier to Connecticut, http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/health/blogs/white-coat-notes/2014/02/28/state-agency-says-actively-working-return-justina-pelletier-connecticut/LC9tDimNCROWHGsjuxWtAO/blog.html