17-Year-Old Forced Into Chemotherapy Fights State Over Right To Decide

Forced chemotherapy wouldn't be an issue for a 17-year-old cancer patient known as Cassandra C. - except for the fact that she doesn't want the treatment, and the state of Connecticut is making her get it anyway.

If she was one year older, she would have the right to decide for herself but, at 17, the state says she cannot make that decision, in spite of the fact that her family supports her.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that the teen and her mother are battling Connecticut over an order that she accept forced chemotherapy treatments, and the state's Supreme Court has agreed to an expedited ruling in a rare case involving the "mature minor doctrine."

Attorneys for Cassandra C., who suffers from Hodgkin's lymphoma, argue that she is old enough to make the decision for herself in spite of the fact that she's not technically "of age."

"Everyone agrees it's a serious illness, but you're talking about a fundamental question: Does she have a say in what happens to her body?" said attorney Michael Taylor of West Hartford.

According to the Judicial Branch summary, the teen was diagnosed in September and had decided at that time she did not want to undergo the treatments, a decision supported by her mother. As a result, in November a Superior Court judge granted a request from the Division of Children and Families (DCF) to take temporary custody of Cassandra "and ordered her mother to provide and cooperate with medical care under DCF's supervision and as recommended by her doctors."

After complying with the order and receiving two chemotherapy treatments, Cassandra then ran away from home and once returned, refused to continue with the treatments.

Pediatrics notes that 17 states allow for a "mature minor doctrine," where kids in Cassandra's case could be considered mature enough to make the decision for themselves. However, Connecticut is not one of those 17 states.

Cassandra's attorneys believe that Connecticut is overstepping its boundaries and that "family integrity" is a major element of the case -- in other words, the family should have the ability to make educational, moral, and other major decisions without being interfered with by the state.

But what do you think about it, readers? Is this forced chemotherapy case one where the family integrity argument should apply, or is 17 too young to be making a decision like this one? Sound off in our comments section below.

[Image via ShutterStock]