Linda and Lou Pelletier from West Hartford, Connecticut are the parents of 15 year old Justina. Justina was originally diagnosed with a rare, genetic mitochondrial disease. She was being treated at Boston’s Tufts Medical Center. In February 2013, Justina was barely able to walk and virtually stopped eating so her parents took her to Tufts. She was sent to Boston Children’s Hospital because her Tufts gastroenterologist had recently transferred there. At Children’s Hospital, the doctors disputed the diagnosis and began to suspect that there was a psychological issue and that her parents were blocking the psychiatric care that she needed.
The parents complained of the change in treatment without involving Justina’s gastroneterologist. They then threatened to take Justin from Children’s hospital and back to Tufts. At this point, the doctors reported their suspicions of medical child abuse to the state and the child protective agency took emergency custody of Justina.
Justina has been in Boston Children’s Hospital for the last ten months, mostly in the psychiatric ward. The state has had difficulty placing Justina in foster care or a residential center due to her complicated case. Justina’s parents have been trying, over the last ten months, to regain custody of their daughter.
Their last court date was at the end of December, 2013. They had been hoping that Justina could return by Christmas. The Judge ruled that Justina would remain in the custody of hte state but that a court investigator should look at the case and set a new hearing for January 10.
Due to the gag order placed on this case preventing the release of information, we don’t know most of the details of this case or facts. It does appear that based on an evaluation, there was some determination of "medical child abuse" which, according to this article, is "applied to parents suspected of interfering with their child’s medical care of pushing for unnecessary and even harmful treatments." The Pelletiers are still attempting to regain custody of Justina.
In California, the standard is the best interest of the child(ren). A determination would be made whether withholding treatment is in the best interest of the child(ren). In an instance where withholding or refusing medical treatment would result in the death or series injury in a minor child, it is likely that a judge would appoint a guardian ad litem for the minor who would then authorize the medical treatment, even if it is against the wishes of the parents.