A tragic story that we’ve been missing, but Kevin Kuros is looking for answers.
You may have missed the story of the Pelletier family. I had, until I came to a bloggers get together in Alexandria this weekend and national blogger Fingers Malloy asked me about it. FoxCT has some of the details.
The medical mystery and custody nightmare for these parents is blowing up nationally and going viral online.
At one point Wednesday, it was the number one most talked about topic on social media site twitter, according to www.theblaze.com.
West Hartford’s Lou Pelletier has been battling to regain custody of Justina for more than a year now after he disagreed with a new diagnosis for his daughter by Boston Children’s Hospital doctors.
“She is at her breaking point, and we can’t stand anymore and allow this to happen,” said Lou Pelletier Thursday night on Fox News.
Despite a gag order issued by a judge in November, Lou and his wife, Linda Pelletier, are breaking their silence.
It remains unclear if what they are saying is, in fact, a violation of that gag order.
Due to the story now coming to light, Representtative Kevin Kuros asked for guidance from the Massachusetts House Counsel. After the jump you will see a Facebook post from Kevin and the guidance he received.
Getting many calls, emails and FB messages about the Pelletier family’s horrible situation where their daughter was visiting Children’s hospital and was put under state custody. Many people are reaching out to their legislators asking us to do something, with the “something” being unclear what it can or should be.
So, I had a lengthy conversation with House Counsel on Wed to discuss what if anything could be done. A summary, in no particular order, and with the disclaimer that I am not an attorney:
(i) A co-equal branch of government (the judiciary) made a determination on a case using the process and guidelines established by the legislature. The legislature is designed to be methodical and deliberative, while the judiciary is designed to responsive on a case by case basis and interpret the guidelines put in place by the legislature.
(ii) Children’s Hospital is one of if not the best children’s hospitals in the country. They do not make a habit of requesting protective custody if they do not feel it is warranted. The easiest thing in the world for Children’s to do would be to release the child to the parents to return to CT and wash their hands of it. They feel strongly enough about their diagnosis that they are willing to weather the storm of negative publicity.
(iii) At the heart of this situation is a difference of opinion in diagnosis. Everyone has been lead by the media to believe that Children’s is wrong and that Tuft’s and the parents are right. The truth is that none of us knows who is right or wrong, despite the heartache of the parents.
(iv) The one impartial person who has heard all sides of this (the judge) has sided with Children’s. These are not easy decisions to make. For example, in a divorce case the child may want to live with the father. The father may want the child. The mother may not want the child, but if the father is an alcoholic and unable to provide for the child the judge may award custody to the mother which makes none of the three of them happy but in the opinion of the judge is in the best interest of the child.
(v) In cases like these, the child is assigned a Guardian Ad Litem, whose sole job is to advocate for the best interest of the Child. Not the parents, not Children’s, not Tuft’s, not the State’s interest. The Child’s.
(vi) The House could call an oversight hearing via the Post Audit and Oversight committee. This would be window dressing. Because any pertinent information would be protected under Federal HIPAA laws and could not be discussed without seeking a receiving permission to waive privacy prior to the hearing. But even if the House held a hearing and found misconduct, we’d have no jurisdictional authority to do anything about it.
(vii) A grand jury could theoretically be empaneled to investigate it, but there would need to be a legal presentment of criminal activity. Again, this is a disagreement about diagnosis. While parental rights come into play, in lieu of any criminal charges being filed by someone with standing in the case, there is little that can be done.
(viii) One of the only legislative remedies (for the future) might be to increase the frequency with which legal review of court mandated guardianships must be performed. However, this doesn’t happen in a vacuum and we must recognize that it would create additional strain on the court system. There are 7000 kids under DCF care in the state so we’d be dramatically increasing caseload in response to this case when the process works exactly as designed more often than not.
There’s probably more, but that touches on the main points of my discussion with House Counsel and other conversations I’ve had on this very sensitive, disturbing case.
Not the answers most people want to hear, but I hope it sheds light on the complexity of the issue. And just for the record, I am far from a defender of DCF’s recent track record, as I was one of 24 legislators who recently called for the resignation of the DCF commissioner.
There will be more to come from this story I’m sure.