Outrage is mounting in response to the recent news stories, such as the Inquisitr‘s, regarding the court supported medical overreach that is misconstruing Cassandra Fortin’s unwillingness to accept recommended medical treatments as medical neglect. Fortin is a seventeen year old Connecticut girl that was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma this past September. Despite her repeated protests, a literal running away to escape the medical treatment, and court appeals, Fortin has been forcibly implanted with a port in her chest and has been ordered to accept chemotherapy against her will.
Opinions on chemotherapy, long considered the standard of medical care in cancer diagnoses, varies widely even among physicians. Regardless of the lack of consensus among the medical community, or the high treatment success statistics, there is no guarantee that an individual will be successfully treated. With an 80-85 percent success rate, there is a 15-20 percent failure rate. Those 15-20 people out of 100 die even after undergoing the conventional medical treatments, the sometimes agonizing chemotherapy, radiation, and disfiguring painful surgeries. It is the right of every competent person in America to decide which odds speak to them, and not the place of medical professionals to force their own opinions and ideals onto patients with different values.
This is not an isolated case of intrusive medical overreach. A brief search yields a long list of names, mostly teenagers, that have been legally compelled to undergo harsh chemotherapy, radiation, or surgical treatment for cancer. Cassandra Fortin, Billy Best, Starchild Cherrix, Sarah Hershberger, and Daniel Hause are just a few who had personal, religious, or philosophical objections to the treatments first recommended and then forced upon them. In the majority of these cases, the teen’s doctors went to the courts to remove these children from the custody of their parents, claiming medical neglect. What amounts to a difference in opinion is being termed neglect in order to force a prescribed treatment.
Patients have the right to informed consent. Informed consent means that a patient should be given all available information — unbiased pros and cons — before being asked to give their consent to a procedure. If they find that the risks outweigh the benefits for their situation or comfort level, they are allowed to withhold or withdraw their consent. This is an issue not only argued and decided by tort law, but also stridently protected by medical ethics. The criteria used in the risk versus benefit analysis is as varied as the people called upon to make the decisions. No two people have the same values, hopes, dreams, fears, beliefs, or biology. What matters the most to some, matters the least to others. Just as no one can instruct another in how to feel, one opinion should never trump another’s beliefs, especially when it comes to that person’s body. Parents that support the choices of their children should not be losing custody of them to overzealous medical professionals intent on forcing unwanted treatments that aren’t guaranteed to work.