Update: On Wednesday of last week, a Connecticut Superior Court judge ruled that Cassandra C., the teen who was forced by the state to undergo chemotherapy for Hodgkin lymphoma, would not be permitted to leave the hospital (where she has been confined since December) until her treatment is complete on April 27.
Cassandra is in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, which has forbidden her from speaking with her mother, Jackie Fortin, since New Year's Day. PEOPLE Magazine reports that in state court on March 16, Cassandra's legal team petitioned for her to return home and complete her chemotherapy over visits to Connecticut Children's Medical Center, where she has been receiving treatment. The judge refused, and now, Cassandra is unsure whether she'll see her mother before April 27. "I'm not surprised at the ruling. But, I'm really disappointed," she told PEOPLE. "I thought the judge would at least let me see my mom. After all this time, I am in remission. I have gone along with everything they have told me to do. But, nothing has changed."
Original post, published January 8, 2015:
How old is old enough to have the right to refuse life-saving medical treatment?
That's one of the questions at the heart of the case of Cassandra C., a 17-year-old Connecticut girl diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, a deadly cancer of the lymphatic system. Cassandra has declined chemotherapy treatment, and her mother, Jackie Fortin, supports her decision. But, the state of Connecticut has stripped Fortin of custody and confined Cassandra to Connecticut Children's Medical Center (CCMC) in Hartford, where she is receiving chemo against her will.
Doctors first grew concerned about the teen's case when her mother neglected to bring her to four medical appointments in the summer and fall of last year, NBC reports. The medical team contacted Connecticut's Department of Children and Families (DCF), which began monitoring Cassandra's case. After several more months of missed appointments (Fortin either failed to bring her daughter or outright refused treatments on her daughter's behalf), a court granted the state temporary custody of Cassandra.
"My daughter does not want poison in her body," Fortin told NBC News. "She is almost 18...she is very bright...she knows what the poison can do. She knows what the effects can be long term for her body." But, Cassandra's doctors — who testified in lower-court hearings on Fortin's fitness as a guardian — have said the teen will die from the disease without treatment. With chemo, Cassandra stands an 85% chance of surviving her cancer.
The standoff between the state and the Fortin family (Jackie is a single mother and Cassandra her only child) came to a head today, when the Connecticut Supreme Court handed down a decision on the state's right to administer chemotherapy to Cassandra without her consent. The court ruled unanimously in the state's favor, concluding that Cassandra is not yet mature enough to decide to refuse treatment and that the state has a responsibility to save her life. Cassandra, whom the state is not making available for comment, is nine months away from her 18th birthday, when she will by law have the right to refuse medical treatment.