Eleven months after she was brought to Boston Children’s Hospital by her mother, 15-year-old Justina Pelletier will be released to a transitional facility and will remain in the care of the Massachusetts child protection agency, a judge ruled Friday.
The move, which will take place in the next few weeks, comes after a nearly year-long battle in a so-called “medical child-abuse case.”
It has pitted the teenager’s parents against the hospital over whether Justina’s prior mitochondrial disease diagnosis was in fact accurate or whether she was instead suffering from a psychological condition, The Boston Globe reports.
After originally being treated by Dr. Mark Korson at Tufts Medical Center for the genetic disorder, which can lead to problems with the gut, brain, muscles and heart, Justina was transferred to Children’s.
According to The Boston Globe, when the medical staff proposed a new plan – that ultimately ended with her inside the locked psychiatric ward – her parents pushed to have Justina discharged and returned to the care of her former physician. The request was denied by the hospital, which in turn accused Justina’s family of abuse.
Ultimately, Children’s was granted guardianship of Justina last February.
“The hospital does not keep patients in its care against the direction of the custodial guardian,” Boston Children’s Hospital said Friday in a statement.
In addition to her upcoming transfer, Judge Joseph Johnston’s motion also allows Tufts – and Dr. Korson – to regain primary medical responsibility of Justina as they develop a plan for her care. Although a time frame has not been set on how long she will remain at the residential facility, it is believed the teenager will stay there until doctors can asses her ability to adapt to a non-hospital environment.
Justina’s parents, whom The Boston Globe reports have a history of conflicts with medical personnel, and her caregivers are also expected to use this time to establish a working relationship and familiarize themselves with the court’s proposed code of conduct.
Denying the state’s request to maintain custody for at least six months, the judge hinted to handing over custody to the Pelletiers should they abide by the plans set forth, otherwise, according to The Boston Globe, Justina would likely be placed in foster care.
Following Friday’s ruling, Justina’s father, Lou, emerged from court alongside his wife and told the crowd of supporters the turn of events were “basically positive … the proof will be in the pudding.”
A hearing to further discuss Justina’s care is scheduled for Feb. 4.