Boston Psychiatric Unit’s Year Long Incarceration of Teenager Justina Pelletier Merits State Investigation..

…according to Mental Health Watchdog, CCHR

Los Angeles, California (PRWEB) April 01, 2014


For thirteen months, Lou and Linda Pelletier’s youngest daughter, Justina Pelletier, has been held in Boston Children’s Hospital psychiatric unit. In deteriorating health, and confined to a wheelchair, the 15-year-old learned this week that there will be no pardon from the Massachusetts psychiatric unit.[1] Because a child’s well-being hangs in the balance, Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) calls on the Massachusetts State Attorney General to investigate Boston Children’s Hospital Psychiatric Unit, “Bader 5,” and specifically require the treating psychiatrists to provide medical/scientific proof of the alleged diagnosis, Somatoform.

CCHR also supports legislative action instigated by Massachusetts State Representative Marc Lombardo to start the process of releasing Justina Pelletier to her parents [2] but said this should be expanded to investigate the influence of psychiatrists’ opinions resulting in state removal of children from their families.


After months of fighting for the teenager’s freedom, the Pelletiers were dismissed by the Juvenile Court and denied custody of their ailing daughter. Juvenile Court Judge, Joseph Johnson’s reason for denying the Pelletiers’ right to decide their daughter’s medical treatment was his belief that the Pelletier’s will not comply with the state’s directives. The Judge further wrote in his decision that he believed Justina suffered from “a persistent and severe Somatic Symptom Disorder,” the very psychiatric diagnosis the Pelletiers have been fighting since first admitting Justina to Boston Children’s Hospital.[3]

In issues relating to the medical validity of mental disorders such as Somatoform, it is worth noting that that the former Task Force Chairman of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), psychiatrist Allen Frances, stated in a June 2, 2010 Psychology Today article, “Psychiatric Fads and Overdiagnosis,” that, “There are no objective tests in psychiatry—no X-ray, laboratory, or exam finding that says definitively that someone does or does not have a mental disorder.”

CCHR states that, as psychiatrist Allen Frances admits, there is no medical test for any mental disorder, and therefore the diagnosis of Somataform is only one of “belief” and not of medical fact.

The forced psychiatric incarceration of Justina, against the family’s wishes, centers on the growing divide between medical diagnosis with confirmatory lab tests, and psychiatric diagnosis which is based on diagnosing behaviors, and for which there are no confirmatory lab tests. Even the American Psychiatric Association in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders admits that, “…no definition adequately specifies precise boundaries for the concept of ‘mental disorder.'”[4]

Some of the facts in the Pelletier case include:

    •     In 2011, Justina had been diagnosed by, and receiving treatment from, Dr. Mark Korson, a physician at Tufts Medical Center, for Mitochondrial Disease, a genetic medical condition. Less than 24 hours after having been admitted to Boston Children’s Hospital for flu-like symptoms in February 2013, Justina’s medical diagnosis was changed to the psychiatric disorder Somatoform.[5]

Upon learning of the psychiatric diagnosis, the Pelletiers attempted to discharge Justina from the hospital. In response, the Hospital filed an allegation of medical child abuse against them.[6]


  •     In February 2013, “guidelines” were drafted by Boston Children’s Hospital in regard to Justina’s case which set strict limitations on medical discussions with the family and eliminated interaction with providers outside the hospital.[7]


  •     The social worker with the Department of Children & Families in an affidavit given to the Juvenile Court accused the Pelletiers of “obstructing her care.” It also failed to include that the social worker had spoken directly to Dr. Korson, who had explained Justina’s mitochondrial diagnosis in great detail.[8]


  •     In October 2013, reporter Beau Berman of Fox CT started an investigation into the Pelletiers’ story and did an exclusive interview with Justina’s father. But on Nov. 7, 2013, the Juvenile Court Judge issued a gag order on the Pelletiers.[9]


  •     After a year of psychiatric care, Justina’s older sister, Jennifer, who has also been diagnosed by Tufts with mitochondrial disease, reports that Justina’s condition is “scary” and she had never seen Justina in worse condition.[10]


  •     On March 25, 2014, the Juvenile Court judge ruled in favor of Boston Children’s Hospital and Justina became a ward of the state, severely restricting the Pelletiers’ access to their daughter.[11]


CCHR states that, “Clearly, in the hands of the Massachusetts Dept. of Children & Families and Boston Children’s Hospital’s psychiatric unit, the teenager’s condition is deteriorating, and it is her treating psychiatrists that are putting Justina at ‘imminent risk of serious harm.’ And while ‘reckless endangerment‘ charges are usually directed at parents neglecting or putting their child at risk, Massachusetts legislators should be looking at revising the law to ensure State ‘guardianship’ of a child and psychiatrists treating under that guardianship are not immune to such charges, where the child is put at ‘substantial risk of serious bodily injury’ or ‘impairment of a function of a body member, limb or organ.’ Surely, when a child’s life is at stake, even the governing bodies overseeing those institutions that claim to represent the best interests of children, would demand proof of the medical diagnosis.”

Read full article here.

About Citizens Commission on Human Rights: CCHR is a non-profit, non-political, non-religious mental health watchdog. Its mission is to eradicate abuses committed under the guise of mental health and enact patient and consumer protections. CCHR has helped to enact more than 150 laws protecting individuals from abusive or coercive mental health practices.


[1] Docket No. 13CE0034BO, Trial Court of the Commonwealth, Juvenile Court Department, Boston Division, “In Re: Care and Protection of Justina Pelletier,” March 25, 2014; “Family of Justina Pelletier devastated after Mass. judge’s ruling,” Fox News, March 26, 2014,

[2] House Docket, No. 4157, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, “Resolutions Acknowledging Serious Concerns regarding DCF’s handling of the Justina Pelletier Case,” March 12, 2014; Beau Berman, “Mass. Reps Create New Resolution to Release Justina Pelletier,” Fox CT, March 26, 2014,

[3] “Mass. granted permanent custody of Justina Pelletier,” Boston Globe, March 25, 2014,

[4] Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, American Psychiatric Association, (Washington, DC, 1994), p. xxi.

[5] “Family of Justina Pelletier devastated after Mass. judge’s ruling,” Fox News, March 26, 2014,

[6] Neil Swidey and Patricia Wen, “A medical collision with a child in the middle,” Boston Globe, December 15, 2013,

[7] Neil Swidey and Patricia Wen, “A medical collision with a child in the middle,” Boston Globe, December 15, 2013,

[8] “Frustration on all fronts in struggle over child’s future,” Boston Globe, December 16, 2013,

[9] Beau Berman, “Hospital Holds West Hartford Girl For 9 Months After Parents Argue Diagnosis,” Fox CT, November 19, 2013,; Beau Berman, “Motion For Contempt Filed Against Father Of West Hartford Teen Justina Pelletier,” Fox CT, February 19, 2014,

[10] Beau Berman, “Sister Says Justina Pelletier’s Health ‘Worst Ever,'” Fox CT, March 22, 2014,

[11] Docket No. 13CE0034BO, Trial Court of the Commonwealth, Juvenile Court Department, Boston Division, In Re: Care and Protection of Justina Pelletier, March 25, 2014; “Family of Justina Pelletier devastated after Mass. judge’s ruling,” Fox News, March 26, 2014,


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