Family Rejects Doctor’s Psychiatric Diagnosis, Turns Out to be Right
When the mother and father of Justina Pelletier brought their child into Boston Children’s Hospital, they were told their daughter had severe psychiatric issues. The parents rejected that claim, and that is when the hospital reportedly became aggressive. They accused the Pelletiers of medical child abuse (Munchausen Syndrome by proxy) and were successful in having child welfare advocates remove their daughter from their home. The hospital proceeded to run dozens of unnecessary tests on the girl, but it was later determined that she suffered from a rare mitochondrial disorder that affects cellular energy production. The parents had been right all along. Meanwhile, they were facing charges that they intentionally were causing their child’s ailments for attention, had their daughter removed from their home, and had to fight with authorities to regain custody of her.
Medical Child Abuse
The hospital claims that it had no intention of accusing the parents of intentionally harming their daughter until her father came into the hospital demanding that she be released and saying that the hospital had “taken her hostage.” At that point, the hospital says that they were “required” by law to file an abuse report to the Department of Children and Families because they had a suspicion of abuse.
The abuse report set off a 16-month custody battle between the hospital and Justina’s parents. The case drew national attention as the Pelletiers justifiably believed that their parental rights had been violated.
The hospital claims that the Pelletiers were “resistant” to the hospital’s diagnosis of psychiatric problems and became hostile toward their treatment plan. Justina had been sick and plagued by developmental delays since her birth. But the psychiatrists in this case had not exhausted all somatic possibilities before pursuing psychiatric treatment.
Worse still, this wasn’t the first time this happened to the Pelletiers. Another report was filed by a Connecticut hospital (Tufts) also saying that Justina suffered from a psychiatric condition. Nonetheless, Justina had been diagnosed with a mitochondrial disease, but doctors believed that the extent of her symptoms were unusual for that condition. Doctors believed that Justina required psychiatric care.
Essentially, this is what can happen to any parent in the U.S. that doesn’t agree with their doctor’s diagnosis. They can have their children taken away from them.
Justina was placed in a locked ward for children with psychiatric problems. Her parents say that while she didn’t have psychiatric problems before treatment, she does now. They say Justina suffers from PTSD related to her stay at the psychiatric hospital that she was forced into by doctors.
The case will likely come down to whether the jury believes that it is okay for a hospital to involve authorities if parents don’t fully accept their medical diagnosis. In 2014, the court ordered that Justina Pelletier be reunited with her parents. The parents have suffered severe emotional and financial damages and claim that their daughter has suffered emotional trauma as well.
Talk to a Tampa Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you’ve suffered worsening symptoms due to an incorrect diagnosis, talk to the St. Petersburg medical malpractice attorneys at Masterson, Hoag & Smith for a free consultation.