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Teen In Medical Dispute Sent To Foster Care

BOSTON (CBS) - A Connecticut couple sobbed outside a Boston courtroom after a legal setback in their yearlong battle to regain custody of their daughter.

The state of Massachusetts took charge of Justina Pelletier as her parents and doctors at Children's Hospital continue to clash over her diagnosis and treatment. The teen's mom broke down in court. Paramedics wheeled Linda Pelletier from the courthouse Monday afternoon minutes after she collapsed upon hearing a judge order her embattled teenaged daughter into foster care.

"This child has been ripped away from this family," Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition said.

A year ago, Justina Pelletier was still ice skating as she underwent treatment for mitochondrial disease -- a rare and controversial disorder where the body's cells can't produce energy, triggering chronic fatigue and severe digestive problems.

Gordon Russell's wife died from it. "This girl is in trouble," he says. "And we are all standing around watching her deteriorate."

Trouble began when the Pelletiers brought Justina into the Children's Hospital ER last February where they say doctors quickly cast aside her diagnosis, instead concluding her problems were of psychiatric origin.

When the Pelletiers objected, Children's brought in DCF and the state took custody of Justina, essentially ruling her parents were committing child abuse by pursuing medical rather than mental health treatment.

"They see their daughter suffering and in pain and they are not able to do something about it so that has obviously taken a toll on the family," says Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel.

On Monday, with a small band of supporters in tow, the Pelletiers had hoped to take Justina back to West Hartford with them, or at least see her medical treatments reinstated, but they got neither. Several weeks ago the judge authorized Justina's move from Children's Hospital to a psychiatric facility in Framingham. Monday, that same judge ordered her moved to foster care within the next 48 hours.

"They are outraged by that," Rev. Mahoney says. "There's no medical attention there."

While Justina's parents obey a judge's gag order, Rev. Mahoney says the teenager's condition continues to worsen.

"They want their daughter with them," Rev. Mahoney says. "There's no argument that she was doing better under their care than under the care of the government."

Children's has declined comment on the complicated case, other than insisting it has the patient's best interests at heart. The Pelletier family says Linda's fainting spell was likely a product of stress and diabetes after a year of fighting the state in a futile effort to get their daughter back.


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