For anyone familiar with the Justina Pelletier case, things are happening – hopeful things.
I am a believer: I believe in the promise of Romans 8:28, that God works in all things to bring about good. And I stand confidently on the promise stated by Joseph in Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Justina’s experience, and that of the other children who lived the same nightmare on Boston Children’s Hospital’s Bader 5, will lead to the saving of many lives, mark my words.
Last week, a suit was filed on behalf of a girl who had her working diagnosis ignored in favor of a somatic disorder and was confined for more than a year on Bader 5 against her parents wishes. The parents were threatened with losing their daughter if they did not cooperate, so they cooperated (under severe threat, so absolutely no judgement here) while their daughter was subjected to isolation, restraints, and lack of proper medical care for her real medical condition as her health severely deteriorated.
No, that girl is not Justina, but the cases sound remarkably similar, don’t they? The major differences I can see are that A) the young lady at the heart of this suit was eventually discharged (read: tossed aside) when her condition deteriorated so badly she was not making any progress, while Justina is still in custody of DCF and B) the parents of this girl cooperated as opposed to fighting DCF like the Pelletiers. The latter seems to explain why she was tossed aside when they were done with her and Justina remains in custody. For anyone who wants to criticize the Pelletiers, this case obviously shows that NOT fighting is not a great solution either.
This federal suit is accusing DCF of doing the bidding of doctors at BCH instead of properly investigating the medical child abuse allegations. The MA Attorney General, Martha Coakley is also named in the suit. With any luck, Bader 5 and the administration of BCH will have some questions to answer so they can change the policies that allowed this to happen in the first place.
“The basic request is for a federal court to apply the constitution to say parents have the right to take care of their children without undue interference from a state agency,” said Barry Pollack, the lawyer who is representing the family. The suit states: “DCF has not established any rules or regulations concerning ‘medical child abuse’ or ‘doctor shopping’ but has taken action against parents, such as the mother and father, for consulting with and seeking care for their children from multiple doctors or specialists at different facilities” and goes on to name names of the infamous Bader 5’s staff.
This is very, very good news for all children who may need the services of Boston Children’s Hospital and for the parents who walk through the doors with the knowledge that they are one doctor away from losing their child. This suit shines a light directly on the scary and subjective category of medical child abuse. DCF, in Massachusetts and elsewhere, must define the term clearly and balance the rare cases of such behavior that might put children in jeopardy with the many, many cases of kids who have rare diseases and whose parents are just trying to provide the best care possible. They need to come up with clear rules to deal with the subjective labels of ‘doctor shopping’ and all of the other red flags that get parents into a mess at BCH: this suit is forcing their hand.
While they are at it, they could come up with some ideas for parents who fall into some gray area of obviously not abusing their child but who could benefit from genuine support in the face of the extraordinary challenges families living with rare diseases face. And, since we are making changes, let’s just rework the whole definition of psychosomatic illness in the DSM V. (I know, that one is a pipe dream but a gal can dream, can’t she?)
It all boils down to this: DCF needs rebuilt from the ground up and this suit will help ensure protections for kids with rare diseases are part of the new framework.
Back to Bader 5 for a minute, here is a pretty damning letter from Barry Pollack regarding Bader 5 – he unequivocally says it needs to be shut down, referring to the fact that the ‘anti-parent approach at Bader 5 fails to respect the time-honored importance of the parental relationship, at the expense of children and families’ and stating that ‘Children in Bader 5 can be blocked from the outside world and even at times daylight. For those children, like all victimized children, an important step in recovery can be an acknowledgement of wrongdoing by an institution that has failed them. Bader 5 has clearly failed and hurt many of its patients and their families.’
As for Justina, thankfully she is no longer incarcerated on Bader 5. We are very hopeful she is going home soon. This past Friday, lawyers for the family filed a motion for Justina to be released since the requirements of the reunification plan have all been met and on Monday the family spokesman met with Health and Human Services Secretary Polanowicz, who stated his people were looking into their own motion to release Justina asap. Furthermore, DCF has now stated publicly that they will not object to the motion filed by the family and ‘shortly’ will file asking the judge to dismiss the case. We will just assume when they say ‘shortly’ that it means what we take it to mean and that Justina will be sleeping in her own bed before the scheduled June 20th court date.
I previously asked “What was the Point?” and I stand by my firm belief that Justina and her family were wronged. Heinously wronged. This whole situation is wrong in every possible way.
However, the flip side of that is that there will be good brought of the wrong that has been done. Changes are coming, probably in different venues, in different ways – this law suit will force needed change upon DCF, there will be some version of Justina’s Law down the road and there will undoubtedly be other changes in various places. But the bottom line is that Justina (and Elizabeth Wray and this nameless child who Barry Pollack is seeking justice for and all of the other unnamed children who have suffered on Bader 5) will have not suffered for no reason: reform will come and it will change business as usual at DCF and BCH. What was meant for evil is being taken and used for good. God bless each of the children who have suffered at the hands of the arrogant doctors at BCH and from the appalling misbehavior of DCF.