More delays in Justina Pelletier case, as bigger picture emerges

As today’s Boston Globe article by Neil Swidey explains it:

Lawyers for the girl’s parents and for the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, which has had legal custody of Pelletier for more than a year, said the judge informed them that he will instead notify them of his decision by the end of the day on Tuesday.

Judge Joseph Johnston had pledged during a hearing Monday to rule by the end of the week, and there was no immediate explanation for the delay. The motion, presented by the 15-year-old’s court-appointed lawyer and the lawyers for her parents, Linda and Lou Pelletier of West Hartford, Conn., calls for the parents to be awarded “conditional custody” of their 15-year-old daughter. Johnston would be able to revoke the parents’ custody if they violate the terms of the agreement, which includes ensuring that Justina receives proper medical care and schooling.

You read that right. The same judge that had promised last Monday that a decision would be made this afternoon has deferred his decision until next Tuesday.

Ominous parallels between this and other cases continue to emerge with each passing day.

The tragic story of young Chelsey Cruz was well detailed by the Hartford-Courant.

Her mother testified before a Connecticut committee investigating its own department of social services on December 18, 2008, detailing her experience with Boston Children’s Hospital, saying:

We sought help from the Boston Children’s Medical Center. And at first, they agreed and began to wean her off the medications. She began to look and feel better. However, one fatal visit occurred when a chief doctor came on the scene. He demanded that Chelsey be put back on the experimental medications and threatened to call DCF if I resisted. I asked to seek a second opinion and was immediately dismissed. My daughter was forcibly admitted and guards were placed outside her door, keeping me from my child.

Massachusetts Department of Social Services and the Department of Children and Families in Connecticut worked to entrap us, and an order of temporary custody was obtained in Boston. I was told by the Boston Department of Social Services that I was no longer able to make any medical decisions for Chelsey. I went to the local newspapers with my story, sharing my pain and my hope to gain justice.

Far less publicity has been provided to Elizabeth Wray, who was held in Boston Children’s Hospital’s Bader 5 unit under circumstances similar to Justina’s case.

According to a posting on the Free Elizabeth Wray Facebook page: “After 10 months as a ward of the State of Massachusetts, Elizabeth returned home in August 2013.” Her condition is reported as improving.

The Hilliard family’s nightmare began in 2006, when their daughter, Eithene, was born with multiple birth defects. By age 2 1/2 her condition worsened, and she suggested to doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital that her daughter should be tested for mitochondrial disease.

When she and her husband approached Children’s Hospital with the possibility that she had mitochondrial disease, they were immediatly met with resistance, particularly from the hospital’s genetics and metabolism departments. The child protection team thereafter became involved.

There is also the troubling case of Bret Bohnin in Alaska. And the Gary Harvey case in New York.

Bobby Schindler knows the situation well. As Bobby explains it: “It was nine years ago, March 18, 2005, that my sister, Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed by order of Pinellas County Florida Court Judge, George W. Greer. It was by Greer’s order that Terri would slowly die by way of starvation and dehydration. It took almost two-weeks.”

Over time, he writes, a familiar pattern has emerged:

Indeed, we receive calls similar to what our family experienced – a domestic dispute over the care of a family member. However, more and more, we are getting calls from people who are fighting physicians, ethic committees, or the health care facilities where their loved ones are being treated.

It can even go as far as, if you can believe it, families having their loved ones stripped away from their care by the hospital, losing complete custody.

When this does happen, there appears to be a certain pattern that begins the process.

First, the hospital physicians, nurses or even the staff will create or exaggerate a situation involving the family, most times without any real evidence, or they will fault the parents or loved one who is the caregiver with some type of mishap with the patient.

Often times what follows is the family member(s) who were making medical treatment decisions are vilified, or accused of being the problem. This gives the hospital a reason to intervene and subsequently take action to deem the family incompetent as the caretaker.

The hospital can then go as far as restricting visitation rights, or completely stopping any family member from visiting their loved one, claiming that they are a “threat” to the care of the patient.

The hospital can then go to court in order to gain control of the patient by requesting that a guardian be appointed or even the hospital itself, in place of the family members who were caring for their loved one.

The family who was once in the position of taking care of their loved one is now on the outside looking in – having no legal rights or any ability to help or even visit them.

It can happen anywhere. Some time ago, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported on cases of parents being charged with medical abuse. A Seattle pediatrician named Kenneth Feldman figured prominently in many of these cases.

At that time, at least five families had claimed that they were victimized by a misdiagnosis that ripped apart their lives. As the paper explains it:

Feldman, one of Washington’s top child-abuse experts, considers himself an authority on Munchausen by proxy – a controversial mental illness that drives mothers to deliberately make their children sick, or falsify symptoms, in order to get attention for themselves. Fathers are almost never diagnosed with the disorder.

Many experts believe the syndrome to be rare, but Feldman is convinced otherwise. During the last 25 years, he’s been involved in more than 100 Munchausen cases – far more than any other doctor in the state.

Because Feldman works for Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Seattle and consults for the state’s Child Protective Services agency, those allegations invariably trigger strong emergency responses, often resulting in the removal of young children, at least temporarily, from their homes.

The picture that emerges as people continue to connect the dots is rather amazing.

“Philip Patrick died a horrifying death as a ‘medical hostage’ at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville, TN,” explains the MAMA web site. Thus, Mother’s Against Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy Allegations was born.

The site remains on line after many years. Mito-moms and other advocates ought take heed: There is a significantly bigger picture here waiting to be revealed.