Mad In America / Science, Psychiatry and Community

Justina Pelletier Supporters Say:  Close Harvard’s Abusive Psych Ward at Boston Children’s Hospital

January 21, 2014

Find out just what any people will quietly submit to, and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them…The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.

— Frederick Douglass

On Friday, January 10, I participated in a demonstration at the courthouse in Boston where the fate of teenager Justina Pelletier was being decided, in a courtroom closed to the public, as almost all such life and death decisions about children are made across our country.  I had flown in the night before from California, and between my jet lag and the snow and freezing temperatures, my too-old body felt pretty stressed.  But it was the right thing to do.

The demo was sponsored by a loose coalition, a group called Mito Action (mostly parents of kids with Justina’s rare medical condition and other parents), and added to by some of us psych survivors and others who are committed to fighting for human rights in the mental illness system.  There were about twenty of us demonstrators, and a great deal of media coverage – at least four or five TV crews and the mainstream newspaper, the Boston Globe.

Demonstrators at the January 10 hearing, left to right:  Ted Chabasinski (California); Shuko Tamao (Amherst); Melissa Kerins (Boston); and “Scott” (Long Island, N.Y.)

Though the demo was smaller than I and the organizers had hoped, most of the TV people and the reporter for the Globe interviewed some of the demonstrators, and there was a lot of coverage afterwards, much of it rather confused.  The most confused coverage, to me, appeared in People magazine, but I suppose it was good that they reported on it.  I think the confusion was mostly caused by the gag orders the judge had imposed on the parties to the case, and the secrecy of the proceedings, which as I have said before are a nationwide practice intended to protect the child “protection” agencies and, yes, the judges.

The consensus of the media reports was that Justina would be moved out of Bader 5, the Harvard Psychiatry Department’s ward at the hospital, and sent to a “stepdown facility,” whatever that is, which would be in Connecticut, and that the girl’s medical treatment would be coordinated by the original Tufts Medical Center doctor who had  diagnosed her with mitochondrial disorder, a rare and not yet generally accepted metabolic disease.  According to some media reports, the purpose of the transfer from Harvard’s Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) was to see if Justina could function in a more “normal” environment.  Some of the media reports said that a likely outcome at the next hearing, scheduled for February 4, would be that custody of the girl (though not legal custody), would be returned to her parents, under strict guidelines set by the court and the child “protection” agency, also known as the Department of Children and Families (DCF).  There is no doubt that the guidelines will include continuing to drug the child.

Just as I was finishing this article, the Boston Globe reported that Justina had been moved to a psychiatric facility in Framingham, not far from Boston, and that the Tufts doctor would not be involved with Justina’s “care” after all.  My informants tell me that the Globe would be the most reliable source of the intentions of DCF, since apparently some official of the DCF has been feeding the Globe information about DCF’s activities and their point of view.  The agency is doing this in spite of the gag order the judge imposed on all parties to the case.  One can be sure that if Justina’s parents violated the gag order, they would be summoned before the judge in an instant for a contempt of court hearing, yet the court seems to be allowing the agency to get away with this.

It would be more just to let all parties say what they want to say, as, unlike most custody cases, the public is already involved.

Meanwhile, DCF itself, generally recognized as incompetent, is being investigated by the state, and I am told that there will be a legislative hearing on January 23.  It will begin at 11 am, in the Gardner Auditorium at the Statehouse in Boston.  I urge all of my readers who care about this to show up at that hearing.  A large turnout will show legislators that the public is concerned and paying attention.  One of the issues that surely will be taken up at this hearing is how DCF lost track of a five-year-old child entrusted to their care, and still does not know where he is (or even if he is alive).

We need no media reports to tell us that Justina has been heavily drugged over the past year, as the Bader 5 psychiatrists are all acolytes of the notorious Harvard child psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Biederman, who has received millions of dollars from drug companies to promote the mass “medication” of children.  And Justina’s new placement in a psychiatric facility means the drugging will continue.

As most of MIA readers know, psychiatric drugs have powerful bad effects on the metabolic functioning of those who are forced to take them, particularly girls and young women.  Justina’s medical problem is basically a metabolic one, and instead of being treated for her medical condition, she is being given drugs that exacerbate it.  My informants involved in fighting for Justina’s freedom say that she is now unable to walk and that her physical condition is deteriorating.  Many are worried that she will not survive, and so am I.  I believe that part of the reason the hospital, through its agent the DCF, went along with moving the girl out of the hospital is the bad publicity that would have ensued if she had died there.  If she dies, what will all the apologists for Harvard’s psychiatry department say?

Rebecca RileyRebecca Riley

It was one of Dr. Biederman’s disciples several years ago who was responsible for the death of Rebecca Riley, whom she diagnosed (without even seeing her) as “bipolar” from the age of two, another diagnosis promoted by Doctor Biederman, who could fairly be described as the leader of child psychiatry in America (just like the psychiatrist, Doctor Lauretta Bender, who experimented on me with shock treatment when I was a little boy).  Rebecca died at the age of four, of multiple organ failure caused by the massive amounts of psychiatric drugs she was given in her short life.  Amazingly, it was the parents who were put on trial for Rebecca’s death, while the psychiatrist who did this was forced to testify under a grant of immunity from prosecution.  After the trial, the jury foreperson, in a very unusual statement, said to the press that the jurors thought it was the doctor who should have been put on trial.

Below is testimony by the bereaved father of a child whose son was taken from him by Harvard psychiatrists at the age of two and heavily drugged.  The little boy died at the age of five.  Notice that this parent is not a hedge fund manager or a doctor.  And neither is any other parent Harvard says should have their children taken away from them.

In what may be an important new development in the last few weeks, again well reported in the media, Barry S. Pollack, a lawyer who has represented several families in similar cases to Justina’s, wrote to the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (you can download the letter here) demanding the closure of Bader 5, Harvard’s psychiatric ward at the children’s hospital, “unless and until the Commonwealth can confirm the safety of children there.”  Pollack, a former federal prosecutor and the longest-serving board member of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, minced no words as he mentioned several Bader 5 abusive staff by name.  As a lawyer myself, I know you don’t do that unless you have facts to back up what you are saying if you don’t want to lose a defamation lawsuit.  Katie Higgins, a former nurse at Bader 5, now turned whistleblower, made the same accusations.

And some of my contacts among the concerned parents will be making the same demand.

Another hearing about Justina is scheduled for Tuesday, February 4 – most probably in the morning – at the Edward Brooke Courthouse, 24 New Chardon Street in Boston.  Demonstrators will gather at 10 am and plan to be there until 1 pm.  If I can raise the money, I will come from California again to be there.

I urge everyone who reads this to participate.  Nothing will change unless we make it change.  What has been done to Justina and her parents, and to many other children and families, by Doctor Biederman’s Harvard Child Psychiatry Department, is one of the most outrageous of many outrages perpetrated by psychiatry, and this is a chance to show the public what psychiatric power and its abuse really means.

And if you are religious, or even if you’re not, please pray that Justina survives what is being done to her.

  Still Crazy After All These Years:  Ted Chabasinski, now a patients’ rights lawyer, was taken from his parents when he was six years old, experimented on with a course of electric shock treatment, and then sent to a state hospital for the rest of his childhood.  He writes about the power of psychiatry and how it is abused, especially against children.