Connecticut court rules against teen who didn’t want chemo

Author: Associated Press
Published: Updated:

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Thursday that state officials aren’t violating the rights of a 17-year-old girl by forcing her to undergo cancer chemotherapy she doesn’t want.

The decision came in the case of the girl known in court documents only as Cassandra C., who will be free to make her own medical decisions when she turns 18 in September. She, with the support of her mother, had fought against the six-month course of chemotherapy.

The case centered on whether the girl is mature enough to determine how to treat her Hodgkin lymphoma, which she was diagnosed with in September. Several other states recognize the “mature minor doctrine.”

The court ruled that her lawyers had the opportunity to prove her maturity during a Juvenile Court hearing in December and failed to do so “under any standard.”

The teen, for example, was allowed to go home to undergo treatment in November but instead ran away for a week, according to court documents.

“Cassandra either intentionally misrepresented her intentions to the trial court or she changed her mind on this issue of life and death,” Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers said.

A more lengthy written decision will come at a later date, she said.

Cassandra currently is confined in a room at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, where she is being forced to undergo chemotherapy, which doctors said would give her an 85 percent chance of survival. Without it, they said there was a near-certainty of death within two years.

The teen’s mother, Jackie Fortin of Windsor Locks, said after the arguments Thursday that she wouldn’t allow her daughter to die. The single mother said she and her daughter just want to seek alternative treatments that don’t include putting the “poison” of chemotherapy into her daughter’s body.

“This is her decision and her rights, which is what we are here fighting about,” Fortin said. “We should have choices about what to do with our bodies.”

Fortin and her lawyer said they are considering their next step after losing the case, but expect to go back to the trial court in an attempt to more fully explore the mature minor argument.

After Cassandra was diagnosed with high-risk Hodgkin lymphoma, she and her mother missed several appointments, prompting doctors at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center to notify the state Department of Children and Families, court documents say.

The child welfare agency investigated and a trial court granted the agency temporary custody of Cassandra. Lawyers for Cassandra and her mother then sought an injunction prohibiting medical treatment but were unsuccessful.

Cassandra’s treatment resumed Dec. 17, with surgery to install a port in her chest that would be used to administer the drugs. Chemotherapy began the next day and continues.

Assistant Attorney General said Cassandra exhibited the “magical thinking” of an immature child, believing that if she ignored the cancer it would go away and using the slang of the day was “blowing off the severity of her condition.”

Child welfare agency officials defended their treatment of Cassandra, saying they have a responsibility to protect the girl’s life.

“This is a curable illness, and we will continue to ensure that Cassandra receives the treatment she needs to become a healthy and happy adult,” the agency said in a statement.

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