Tell MA Hospital and Child Services to Release 15-Year-Old Held Without Parents' Consent

  • by: Susan V
  • target: Boston Children's Hospital and Department of Children and Families

Fifteen-year old Justina Pelletier was held hostage by Boston Children’s Hospital for over eleven months. Although Justina suffers from a rare physical condition, BCH doctors wanted her treated for mental illness.

The story gets even worse. Because Justina’ parents have followed several specialists’ recommendations in treating her for mitochondrial disease, BCH doctors accused the parents of “over-medicalizing” her. BCH made no effort - even refused - to speak with Justina's doctors or try to understand her complicated medical condition. Instead BCH acted as if the parents had abused Justina.

The state's so-called child protective services has taken this negative portrayal of the parents as their cue to take custody of Justina, hold her in a psyche ward and severely restrict her parents’ ability to have any contact with her.

Justina’s father has his own “diagnosis” for what BCH and DCF are doing - it’s called kidnapping. And he's now speaking out publicly, asking for a law - Justina's Law - to stop this kind of abuse of children and parents.

Justina’s is not an isolated story. For these repeated offenses both BCH and MA Department of Children and Families should be investigated by an independent body outside of the state. 

In the meantime, tell both BCH and DCF to release Justina to her parents’ care at once!

We, the undersigned, insist that Justina’s parents have the right to decide which doctors their daughter sees and the treatment she undergoes.

In fact, Boston Children’s Hospital’s own policy regarding “Patient and Family Rights” says that:
“In this hospital, you or your family have the right to… consult with a specialist at your request and expense.”

Cristy Balcells, founder and director of says Justina’s diagnosis, though often misunderstood, is legitimate, and that the condition affects several body organs and therefore requires treatment from a number of specialists.

Like other conditions that are often misdiagnosed as mental illness, including conditions like traumatic brain injury, lyme’s disease and even strep, mitochondria disease is frequently misunderstood and misdiagnosed because of the erratic nature of the symptoms involved.

Lack of understanding of an illness is no excuse whatsoever for either hospitals or child protective services to take over and decide what is best for a child, when the child’s parents are already working with legitimate specialists they believe are giving the child proper care.

Both Boston Children’s Hospital and Massachusetts DCF should undergo independent investigations for their role in this kidnapping of Justina. But in the meantime we request that Justina’s parents’ custody of their daughter be restored.

Thanks for your time.

Update #33 years ago
Despite widespread public outcry, advocacy efforts and criticism by doctors and investigators outside Boston Children's Hospital, Judge Johnston just made Justina a permanent ward of the State of Massachusetts - until the parents "prove they are capable of caring for their daughter" - as if they haven't done that already. Please share this petition and demand an end to this outrage and the unconditional return of Justina to her home and family.
Update #23 years ago
Great News! After the court failed to release Justina to her parents this week and ordered her into foster care, Massachusetts lawmakers intervened with a resolution asking the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to initiate the process of reuniting her with her parents. Please keep the pressure on MA DCF to let Justina go home at once!

Update #13 years ago
Justina has recently been moved to a non-medical facility where she is being held until the court, not the parents, decide her fate. All report updates show the parents did nothing at all to justify being treated like child abusers. Her father Lou is now speaking out and asking for a law - Justina's Law - to end this injustice in America. Please continue to insist that Justina be allowed to return home to her parents' care and for a federal investigation into this incident.
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