By Andrew Rock

The Connecticut Supreme Court recently ruled that 17-year-old Cassandra is not competent to make her own medical decisions and ordered her to continue receiving chemotherapy treatments. She will be required to receive treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma at a hospital in Hartford. Patients who undergo chemotherapy for Hodgkin lymphoma survive nearly 85% of the time; those who refrain nearly always perish.

Cassandra does not want to receive treatment because she views the treatment as “poison.” Her mother, Jackie Fortin, supports her daughter’s decision.

John E. Tucker, assistant Connecticut attorney general, believes that Jackie may have had undue influence on her daughter’s decision. “She didn’t bring her to the first medical appointment,” he observed, and when Cassandra was present, her mother did the majority of the talking. “[R]eally, the child stands in the shadow of her mother here. She’s not an independent decision maker.”

Fortin disagrees, claiming that her daughter is mature enough to make her own medical decisions: “She is almost 18. If she was 18, I don’t think this would be an issue.”

Cassandra was diagnosed with cancer in September 2014; her chemotherapy treatment began in December, after state child-welfare workers removed her from her mother’s home and placed her into the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. According to Tucker, she is “doing remarkably well.”

Arthur Caplan, Professor of Bioethics and Director of the NYU Langone Medical Center Division of Medical Ethics, agrees with the Court’s decision: “The primary goal in this case is to save a young life.”
“Respecting choice is important… Not burying a young teenage girl who would have lived is far more important,” he said.

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