No one is happier today than 16 year-old Justina Pelletier, the Connecticut teen who was taken into state custody last year, who has finally been released and is back home with her family.
The Daily Mail is reporting that Justina was released from the “secure unit” she’d been held in after her parents won custody.
The jubilant teen was grinning from ear to ear as she enjoyed her first taste of freedom in more than a year, saying “I’m so happy. I’m so excited!” as her mother happily loaded her belongings into the family car.
“We are just so happy our daughter is finally coming home,” said her father, Lou Pelletier. “It has been 16 months of torture but finally justice is being done.”
The family’s plight began in February 2013 when Justina came down with the flu. She suffers with mitochondrial disease, a chronic genetic disease that causes muscular weakness, poor growth, neurological problems and can affect many organs in the body. Because her regular doctor was away, he suggested that the family take her to Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) to have her flu symptoms treated.
Experts at BCH determined that Justina did not have mitochondrial disease after all, but was suffering from Somatoform Disorder, a stress-related mental illness. When her parents protested this new diagnosis, hospital staff called welfare workers who won custody of the child.
Before the family realized what was happening, Justina was whisked away into a psychiatric ward where she was taken off the medication that had been keeping her well and only allowed to see her family once a week.
Meanwhile, the Pelletiers began what would be year-long battle with the Masschusettes Department of Children and Families to regain custody of their daughter.
Despite the fact that the state tried to put a gag order on the Pelletiers to keep them from going public with their story, they refused to obey and the ensuing media firestorm allowed the country to watch in horror as the family lost numerous court battles to a state that refused to give up custody of their child.
In February of this year, when a court ruled that Justina would be turned over to the foster care system, her mother collapsed into a dead faint and had to be taken out of the courthouse on a stretcher.
But on Tuesday, when Massachusettes Judge Joseph Johnston ruled that Justina was to be set free immediately, that same distraught mother was said to have “screamed with joy.”
The family’s struggle is not yet over, however. As a result of the state’s actions, and the erroneous new diagnosis, Justina Pelletier went from being an ice skating fanatic to a girl who is now confined to a wheelchair and is unable to walk.
The teen is in dire need of healing and for this reason, the family is keeping her homecoming low-key.
“Her condition has deteriorated terribly since she was taken from us. She’s no longer jumping jacks and ice skating, she is paralyzed,” Lou told the Mail. “‘She needs time to adjust to being home and I think she wants that to be low key. We need to help her back to health.”
They also need to get her caught up on the 16 months of schooling that she missed during her involuntary “incarceration.”
But she’s not the only one in the family who needs healing.
“I am still very angry at the psychiatrists, Boston Children’s Hospital and the Department of Families and Children for putting Justina through this,” Lou admitted. “They are sadists and psychiatry is the devil as far as I am concerned. My daughter was used as a lab rat, a cruel experiment.”
He is determined to never let this happen again – to anyone.
Once Justina is well enough, the whole family is planning to go to Washington DC to begin lobbying lawmakers for “Justina’s Law” which will ensure that no child who is admitted to a hospital is ever taken into custody like this again.
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