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Connecticut Teen Will Be Forced To Continue Chemo

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Thursday 17-year-old “Cassandra C" is not competent enough to be granted rights over her medical treatment.

By Jasmine Bailey | January 9, 2015

The Connecticut Supreme Court has issued a ruling on the controversial case of the 17-year-old known as “Cassandra C.” who was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in September. 

The ruling — Cassandra will continue to be forced to undergo chemotherapy as the state did not find her competent enough to honor her request to refuse the treatment. 

After her diagnosis, Cassandra and her mother, Jackie Fortin, failed to show up to several oncology appointments and exams. At one point Cassandra ran away after two chemo treatments. The teen was then taken to a local hospital to continue treatment where she is currently being held under the care of child services. 

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Cassandra C wrote an op-ed for the Hartford Courant Thursday, in it she describes the ordeal from her point-of-view, writing, "I was strapped to a bed by my wrists and ankles and sedated. ... Words cannot describe what my life has become over the last few months. ... Horrifying seems like an understatement. What I have been going through is traumatizing. ... I care about the quality of my life, not just the quantity."

"These are her human rights, her human constitutional rights to not put poison in her body. Her rights have been taken away," said Jackie Fortin

On that note, lets talk a little bit about what kinds of rights Cassandra, as a minor, has over the decisions of her medical treatment. One big issue that was challenged by Cassandra's lawyer before the court was the argument on whether to grant the teen rights under the "mature minor doctrine."

"That's a common law principle that allows courts to consider evidence on whether a minor is mature enough to make health care decisions," NPR reports

"When you think about what freedom means, a big part of it is being able to say to the government 'you can't tell me what to do with my body,'" defense attorney Michael Taylor told WVIT

The mature minor doctrine has been followed in other states like Illinois and Maine, but the minor must first demonstrate that they are mature enough to make such decisions. 

However, in the case of Cassandra C., she was not granted the power to make her own medical decision. State lawyers pointed to the missed appointments and the week that Cassandra ran away as proof that she is not mature enough to make such a life altering decision. 

One argument from John E. Tucker, assistant Connecticut attorney general, was that Cassandra's beliefs are not those of her own, but heavily swayed by her mother. "The child was very quiet, did not engage in conversations during the medical appointments. ... Really, the mother did all of the talking and sort of the fighting with the medical personnel. And so, really, the child stands in the shadow of her mother here. She's not an independent decision maker."

With the chemo doctors say Cassandra has an 80% to 85% chance of beating the cancer. They say without chemo she will certainly die, likely within two years.  

Cassandra's case has also sparked a discussion about whether or not Cassandra should have the right to die.

Fox News talked to Peter Johnson Jr. who battled the same disease when he was 18. Although he admits, "I started to go through radiation and chemotherapy. ... It's vile, it's disgusting, it's hard." Johnson also strongly opposes Cassandra be allowed to make her own medical decisions, saying letting the teen die would amount to assisted suicide.

But talking with CBS, Jackie Fortin said it's more of an issue of finding an alternative way to beat the disease, not about giving up. 

Fortin claims they were seeking alternative methods of treatment when Cassandra was forced to being chemo. "What other forms does she want in terms of treatment?"

"We haven't even gotten that far. ... It's not even a matter of dying. She's not going to die, she doesn't want to die," Fortin said. 

 

While chemotherapy kills off cancer cells, it can be extremely rough on your body causing long-term effects on the heart, brain, muscles, bones and more. 

But regardless, the decision has been made by the highest court in Connecticut that Cassandra C. must complete her six month treatment. She will complete chemo about three months before her eighteenth birthday. 

This video includes images from Getty Images. 

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