17-year-old girl forced to undergo chemotherapy

Teen Cancer Treatment
his January 2015 photo provided by Cassandra C., shows Cassandra, a teen who does not give her last name, confined in a room at Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford, Conn., where she is being forced to undergo chemotherapy. (AP Photo/Cassandra C.)
Teen Cancer Treatment
This summer 2014 photo provided by Cassandra C., shows Cassandra, a teen who does not give her last name, who is confined in a room at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford where she is being forced to undergo chemotherapy. (AP Photo/Cassandra C.)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A 17-year-old girl being forced by state officials to undergo chemotherapy for her cancer said Thursday she understands she’ll die if she stops treatment but it should be her decision.

The state Supreme Court ruled earlier in the day state officials aren’t violating the rights of the girl, Cassandra C., who has Hodgkin lymphoma.

Cassandra told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview from her hospital it disgusts her to have “such toxic harmful drugs” in her body and she’d like to explore alternative treatments. She said by text she understands “death is the outcome of refusing chemo” but believes in “the quality of my life, not the quantity.”

“Being forced into the surgery and chemo has traumatized me,” Cassandra wrote in her text. “I do believe I am mature enough to make the decision to refuse the chemo, but it shouldn’t be about maturity, it should be a given human right to decide what you want and don’t want for your own body.”

The court ruled Cassandra’s lawyers had the opportunity to prove she’s mature enough to make that decision during a Juvenile Court hearing in December and failed to do so.

Cassandra will be free to make her own medical decisions when she turns 18 in September. She, with 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, with which she was diagnosed in September. Several other states recognize the mature minor doctrine.

Cassandra was allowed to go home to undergo treatment in November but ran away for a week, court documents say.

“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.

Cassandra is confined in a room at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, where she’s 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 as a single mom for the last 15 years she wouldn’t allow her daughter to die. She said they just want to seek alternative treatments that don’t include putting the “poison” of chemotherapy into her body.

Cassandra said in her text to the AP she believes there’s “a natural way or at least an alternative to chemo out there that I am willing to look for and explore. Not that it would cure the cancer but it may help it.”

Fortin and her lawyer said they’re considering their next step 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 to notify the state Department of Children and Families, court documents say.

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

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

Child welfare agency officials defended their treatment of Cassandra, saying they have a responsibility to protect her.

“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,” they said.

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