HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/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. Her mother agreed with her decision against chemotherapy.
“If we were here 9 months from now there would be no case. Cassandra would be 18,” the teen’s attorney Josh Michtom said.
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.”
Cassandra currently is confined in a room at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, where she is being forced to undergo chemotherapy. Doctors said the chemotherapy would give her an 85 percent chance of survival, but without it 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. She said they just want to seek alternative treatment that doesn’t include putting the “poison” of chemotherapy into her daughter’s body.
“She doesn’t want toxins in her body,” Fortin told CBS2’s Don Dahler earlier this week. “She does not want people telling her what to do with her body and how to treat it.”
The toxins are “killing her body. They’re killing her organs. They’re killing her insides,” Fortin added.
Fortin and her lawyer said they are considering their next step after losing the case.
“The basis for the state interest is not that someone is 17 or 18. That’s arbitrary,” Fortin’s lawyer Michael Taylor said.
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.
As CBS2’s Marlie Hall reported, lawyers for the state said the fact that she ran away last month after agreeing to undergo treatment proves she is not mature.
“The child is impetuous and is not capable of making medical decisions on her own behalf,” Connecticut Assistant Attorney General John Tucker said.
The teen underwent two days of treatment in November but ran away for a week, court documents say.
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, court documents say.
Child welfare agency officials defended their treatment of Cassandra, saying they have a responsibility to protect the girl’s life.
Connecticut’s supreme court agreed with the state and ruled that Cassandra has to continue with chemo.
“We really do have the expert testimony, the expert advice of physicians who are saying unequivocally if she does not get the treatment that she needs, she will die,” Kristina Stevens with the state Department of Children and Families told CBS2 earlier this week.
Cassandra remains in the hospital with a staff member posted outside her door. Her mother is allowed two weekly visits. Her treatment is expected to last 6 months.
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