The teenager refused chemotherapy. Her mother accepted the decision. But, the state of Connecticut was not happy. Child welfare services took the 17-year-old girl, placed her in the state’s custody, and began forcing her to get the chemotherapy. Now the young woman is fighting back, taking the state to the Connecticut supreme court to fight for her right to decide her medical choices.
According to CBS News, doctors diagnosed the young woman, being called Cassandra C. for her privacy, with Hodgkin lymphoma in September. State officials say that with treatment, the teen will have an 85 percent chance of recovery, but without, she has little chance at all.
Despite the odds, the teen refused the treatment with her mother’s consent.
That’s when Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) stepped in, taking the teen into custody and ordering the mother to cooperate with the DCF in medical matters. Court records describe the process.
“Following a hearing at which Cassandra’s doctors testified, the trial court ordered that she be removed from her home and that she remain in DCF’s care and custody. The court also authorized DCF to make all necessary medical decisions on Cassandra’s behalf.”
According to ABC News, Cassandra’s chemo treatments resumed against her will on December 17. The first procedure was a port installed in the teen’s chest to make delivery of chemo chemicals easier.
After two chemo treatments, the teen ran away. She eventually came back home, but completely refused to resume the medical treatments.
Now she’s confined to a room in Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, with a medical staffer guarding the door so she cannot leave again according to the Assistant Public Defender Joshua Michtom.
Michtom will defend the teen to Connecticut’s supreme court, a case which will decide not only Cassandra’s right to decide her treatment, but the state’s position on “mature minor doctrine.”
The idea of the doctrine, already accepted by several states, is that if a older teenager can prove they are mature enough to make their own medical decisions, they’re granted the right. Michtom is asking for Connecticut to use that doctrine.
“Give us the chance to prove that she has the maturity to do this. One has a right to bodily integrity. It doesn’t matter if it’s harmful. An adult’s right to refuse care is without limitation, provided they’re not incompetent.”
The case is unprecedented for Connecticut, and the state’s supreme court is now reviewing the decisions of other states on the matter to prepare.
Jackie Fortin, a lawyer representing Cassandra’s mother, is also working on the case. He said in an interview, “She has always, even years ago, said that if ever she had cancer… she would not put poison into her body.”
The DCF issued this statement in their defense.
“When experts, such as the several physicians involved in this case, tell us with certainty that a child will die as a result of leaving a decision up to a parent, then the department has a responsibility to take action.”
Until the state supreme court decides on the case, the teen will have to continue chemo, despite her refusal.