Cassandra Callender has died. The Connecticut woman who, as a teenager, was forced to undergo chemotherapy treatments against her wishes, died at the age of 22, New Haven’s WTNH-TV reported.
Back in 2015, Callender was 17-years-old and, thus, considered by the courts to be a juvenile. She had been diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma and, after a surgery to remove a tumor failed to stop the spread of the cancer, was prescribed chemotherapy treatments.
According to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, children and teenagers diagnosed with this particular form of cancer generally have a fighting chance, if it’s caught early enough and treated aggressively. Survival rates for teens diagnosed with the illness range from 70 to 90 percent depending on how early the cancer is diagnosed.
However, as The Hartford Courant reported at the time, Cassandra rejected the idea of chemotherapy treatments, in favor of exploring other options, such as alternative medicine. She also said at the time that she didn’t want to “poison” her body.
That set up a fight between her and Connecticut authorities. After missing several appointments, doctors notified the state Department of Children and Families, and eventually, she was forced into Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, where she was placed under guard.
Cassandra appealed all the way to the Connecticut Supreme Court, which had to consider whether or not the teen was a “mature minor” — that is, legally under the age of majority but capable of making competent decisions as an adult would.
The court ruled that she was not a “mature minor” and thus could not make her own decisions, and in January 2015, she was forced to undergo chemotherapy treatments.
Months later, she returned home cancer-free.
— Stephen Dunn (@sddunn) April 27, 2015
The cancer returned after Cassandra had legally become an adult. This time, she did undergo the more traditional chemotherapy treatments, but ultimately succumbed to the illness.
“Some things work, some things don’t. Nothing always works. Neither is a guarantee. That was the point we were trying to make all along. It should have been her choice,” Jackie Fortin, her mother, said.
In fact, Fortin believes that her daughter’s cancer never actually went away, and that the teenager endured months of painful chemotherapy, on state orders, for no reason.
“They said they saved her life. They lied. She suffered for five years. It was horrific. If you did that to your dog, you’d get arrested,” she said.
She also says that she holds Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families, the courts, and every doctor who treated her daughter responsible for the young woman’s death.