This 17-Year-Old Has Every Right To Fight Court Ordered Chemotherapy

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medical justice

A 17-year-old girl identified in court documents as Cassandra C and her mother are fighting the state of Connecticut over the right to refuse chemotherapy. It’s a story filled with courtroom drama right out of a Thursday night television show, only sadly and horribly true. She may not legally be an adult yet, but I think Cassandra has the right to refuse treatment, even if that treatment would save her life.

According to, Cassandra was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in September of 2014. Her doctors recommended chemotherapy. With her mother’s support, Cassandra refused treatment. The state Department of Children and Families (DCF) was alerted by the hospital.

In November, DCF took temporary custody of the girl and obtained a court order for Cassandra’s mother to comply with the doctor’s recommendations for chemotherapy. Cassandra received two treatments before running away from home. When she returned home, she refused to have any more chemotherapy. Cassandra was ordered to be removed from her home and placed in DCF custody. The court decided Cassandra’s mother was not acting in her best interest and DCF was authorized to make her medical decisions for her by the court.

Cassandra and her mother appealed this ruling. The landmark case will be heard this week by the Connecticut Supreme Court. At issue is whether a 17-year old can and should be permitted to refuse potentially life saving medical treatments.

The attorney representing Cassandra’s mother has acknowledged that doctors have said Cassandra has an 80-85 percent chance of survival if she undergoes treatment. Cassandra’s reasons for not wanting treatment are not based on her religious beliefs. She simply does not want to receive the medications. Her mother, Jackie Fortin, has spoken out as to why her daughter doesn’t want to undergo chemotherapy:

She knows the long-term effects of having chemo, what it does to your organs, what it does to your body. She may not be able to have children after this because it affects everything in your body. It not only kills cancer, it kills everything in your body.

Jackie, Imma let you finish, but i need to jump in and say that I think being alive with possible fertility issues beats being dead any day. And hearing  the prognosis for her illness with treatment is very good is just another reason why I would personally be all about chemotherapy. However, even though I don’t agree with Cassandra’s reasoning, I still support her decision to refuse treatment as a minor. Because this isn’t about what most people would do in her situation, or what most parents would do for their own child, it’s about one person’s fundamental right to have control over her body.

Teenagers are allowed to make life altering decisions regarding their bodies already. Transgender teens take hormone treatments. Teenagers can obtain abortions without parental consent or notice. Teens are even allowed to undergo potentially fatal cosmetic procedures, like rhinoplasty or breast augmentation. We deem them mature enough to make decisions about these medical procedures, and the right to refuse chemotherapy is no different.

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