WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — Justina Pelletier, wearing a bow in her hair and bright teal sunglasses, was carried by her father up the winding walk to her house today, ending a 16-month-long battle over her custody.
Her return to the custody of her parents marked the conclusion of a controversy that had raised issues of parental rights and the controversial new medical syndrome known as medical child abuse.
Earlier, the teenager, leaving a facility in Thompson, Conn., had told reporters it was “awesome” to see her parents.
She waved and smiled and, asked what food she’ll ask for tonight, said, “I don’t know, I didn’t get that far.”
The first thing she was going to focus on when she gets home, she said, was “my family.”
Pelletier’s father, Lou, said at the home after her return that he had been readying the place for her arrival. Upstairs in her bedroom, he said, Justina had more ice skating medals than he could count.
“She was a very active girl, and now as you saw me picking her up, she’s going to have a long say to go before she’s ice skating again,” he said. “But you know what? She will ice skate again.”
He called himself and his family “fighters” and said Justina was looking forward to visiting Fenway Park for a Red Sox game this summer.
The Pelletier family hopes to advocate against hospitals using medical child abuse accusations to seize custody of children. Lou Pelletier said he “will not stop until there is a Justina’s Law.”
“Ultimately, anybody who was involved in Justina’s deconditioning, torture, abuse, needs to be held accountable,” he said.
Lou Pelletier and his wife, Linda, had engaged in a protracted battle with Boston Children’s Hospital and the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families after doctors accused them of medical child abuse. Medical child abuse is a syndrome in which parents exaggerate or fake illnesses by their children, in order to get sympathy or attention.
The Pelletiers said — and other doctors agreed — that their daughter had a real but rare illness, mitochondrial disease.
Earlier this week, three months after a scathing judgment that gave permanent custody of Justina to the state, a judge ruled that she could go home.
“She wants a hamburger on the grill, and she wants to sit down and lie on the couch and watch a movie with the family,” Linda Pelletier said earlier today before Justina left the JRI Susan Wayne Center for Excellence in Thompson, where she had been sent so she could rehabilitate closer to home.
Linda Pelletier said Justina could not walk now, but the family planned to enroll her in pool therapy to help her regain strength.
The Rev. Patrick Mahoney, a spokesman for the Pelletiers, called today a day of vindication for the family.
“This has been the most examined family in the state of Massachusetts and Connecticut,” he said. “And Justina is being released.”