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Massachusetts retains custody of Connecticut teen

The parents of a 15-year-old girl from Connecticut lost another round in their battle with Massachusetts Department of Children and Families and Boston Children's Hospital in the ongoing custody case surrounding the girl.

A recent ruling by a Massachusetts juvenile court judge states that the girl will be moving to a different foster care facility on Boston's North Shore. The ruling indicates that the girl remains medically stable; however, her worried parents note that her condition has declined and that she now can only navigate in a wheelchair and has a swollen, distended abdomen, a possible indicator of infection or protein deficiency.

The child custody saga began over a year ago when the parents brought their daughter, who was suffering from the flu, to Children's Hospital for treatment. Prior to her bout with the flu, she had been undergoing treatment at Tufts Medical Center in Boston for mitochondrial disorder, an aggregate of genetic illnesses affecting the manner in which cells produce energy. It can cause problems with the brain, muscles and gut.

Doctors at Children's Hospital did not believe the young girl suffered from that condition, diagnosing her instead with somatoform disorder, a psychological condition where the patient's symptoms are real, but for which there is no biological or physical basis. Administrators at Children's Hospital lodged a complaint against the parents, accusing them of "medical child abuse" and forcing the State of Massachusetts to take custody of the teen.

The girl has spent the past year hospitalized, at times on a locked psychiatric ward, with only limited visitation with her parents permitted.

Juvenile Court Judge Joseph Johnston is mulling a plan to appoint the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center in Worcester as overseer of the teen's medical care, a move that may at least temporarily defuse the tensions between Tufts and Children's Hospital in Boston.

Cases like these are clearly a parent's nightmare scenario -- seeking medical treatment for their child only to be accused of abuse. Any parent facing such an agonizing set of circumstances should retain the counsel of a Massachusetts attorney who is intimately familiar with family law in order to preserve their parental rights and protect their child's best interests.

Source: The Boston Globe, "Conn. teen in long custody battle to move again" Patricia Wen, Feb. 25, 2014

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