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Arthur Schaper: Free Justina, Now!

Friday, April 11, 2014


Last week, I reported on the disturbing legal-medical-political case of Justina Pelletier of West Hartford Connecticut, a fifteen year old diagnosed initially with mitochondrial disorder, then re-diagnosed with a severe mental disorder by Boston Children’s Hospital.

The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families has now taken “permanent” custody of young Justina, meaning that they decide when she can go home with her parents.

Slate Magazine summarized the first clash between parent and government-hospital:

When her father tried to have her discharged to take her back to Tufts, the Boston Globe reports, “he watched a swarm of hospital security approach to guard each exit.” The hospital “filed an allegation of medical child abuse” against the couple for seeking what the hospital deemed as “unnecessary treatment” and petitioned the state for custody.

A sad and scary tale, indeed.

While waiting indefinitely (and inexorably) for the day they can take their daughter home, the Pelletier parents can only visit their daughter and call her once a week. Some of the professionals are disputing whether the parents are causing the daughter’s mental problems. Allegations of medical abuse – Munchausen’s by proxy, for example – do not negate the fact that while the symptoms of Justina’s illness resist clear diagnosis, that is no excuse for the state of Massachusetts to hold the Pelletier’s daughter indefinitely.

One Massachusetts resident shared with me his outrage about Beacon Hill’s inaction:

The governor now says he can't do anything to help her, Baloney!

State police are investigating threats against the hospital and staff because of this case, but nothing regarding the hospital’s overreach into this family’s plight. The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families has stirred up so much controversy, that no other agency will intervene.

A few issues come to mind when evaluating at this tragic case.

1. At what point does the state have the authority to trump parental rights?

After fourteen months, Massachusetts has not presented a compelling case that Justina’s parents have abused their child. Granted, the welfare of a child in immediate danger should not force legal authorities to follow bureaucratic protocols. Still, emergency injunctions should be challenged in a timely manner. Fourteen months is too long.

2. What role does Obamacare play in this debacle?

Instead of medical professions, key health care decisions are falling under the purview of the government. The IRS enforces individuals to purchase health insurance or pay a fine. At what point will the state exchanges start picking winners and losers, i.e. which patients receive necessary treatment or a staggered hospice with death to follow?

A state hospital, with the power of the judicial powers that be, has forced a sick young lady to endure privations in a psych ward and deteriorate. These very circumstances should infuriate anyone with authority whether legal or moral in the Commonwealth.

And the above allegations beg the next question:

3. Why has this aggravated usurpation of power received so little press in the media?

The same breakdown in political accountability in Rhode Island (complaisant media with a complacent electorate) does not bear out in Massachusetts, at least regarding individual outrage about Justina’s plight. Facebook has a Free Justina Now page and A Miracle for Justina site, too.

Regarding a complaisant media, one news commentator, former Arkansas Governor and Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee spotlighted this case. With terse words for “The People’s Republic of Massachusetts”, Huckabee has criticized the DCF repeatedly, and then recently reported:

A spokesman from the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families specifically asked me to correct three things --

Number one: that the state kidnapped the girl.

Number two: that no evidence has ever been presented to support abuse or neglect.

And number three: that the state never conducted an investigation or spoke with the family.

Huckabee offered to set the record straight, but the state of Massachusetts has held onto the girl for fourteen months, and the state holds the conflicting arguments that the parents are not fit parents, yet at the same time they want to return to the child to her parents: a real yet scary and confusing scenario.

Despite the legal back-and-forth stalling any resolution on this matter, the state legislature has just introduced a bill, HD4212, which would allow Justina to go home. This bill could be passed in one day.

From MassResistance:

The Legislature has the ultimate authority to act on this. It has the constitutional power to free Justina. And it could get it done very quickly - if it chooses to.

Refusing to sit by while Beacon Hill does nothing, and “Mister Governor” Deval Patrick’s silence gives tacit approval to Justina’s involuntary confinement, pro-family activists have stepped up grassroots efforts to #FreeJustina.

Visit this link to find a copy of the one-page bill which Justina supporters are bringing to their representatives. Rep. Lenny Mirra (R-West Newbury) has already filed a bill “by request”, but the reticence of liberal lawmakers to upset Patrick, and Republicans to disturb the desired quiescence of the minority leadership (plus concerns about relation from judges and public employee interests).

Once again, it is within the power of Massachusetts residents, with channeled outrage over this tragic case, to make Beacon Hill listen and free Justina Pelletier.

Arthur Christopher Schaper is a teacher-turned-writer on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance. Follow him on Twitter @ArthurCSchaper, reach him at [email protected], and read more at Schaper's Corner and As He Is, So Are We Ministries.


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