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Supreme Court Forces Teen to Take Chemo?

Updated on January 8, 2015

Should a Minor Make Life and Death Decisions?

Today, the Connecticut Supreme Court upheld a previous ruling that a 17-year-old cancer patient must undergo chemotherapy treatments against her will. The cancer patient who has been identified as Cassandra Callender was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma last September. Cassandra ran away from her Connecticut home in November after having undergone two treatments of chemotherapy. When she was found and brought back to her home, her mother agreed to support her decision to refuse anymore treatments; as the child believed that the chemotherapy was doing more harm than good. However, Connecticut Children's Medical Center reported the mother to the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) on the grounds that the mother was placing her child at risk. Cassandra was taken into custody by DCF and the mother was forced to adhere to the medical care administered by the agency, since the child was no longer under her supervision.

After a trial court hearing in which the teen's doctors testified that without treatment the girl would surely die a verdict was rendered in favor of DCF. At this point, DCF could now legally authorize treatments as Cassandra's temporary legal guardians. However, the mother filed an appeal with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union stating that this violated their constitutional rights and that the state should recognize the mature minor doctrine which permits minors who have the mental maturity of an adult, to make decisions as an adult.

Peter Johnson Jr. a legal analyst for Fox News believes that the family of the teen is misinterpreting what the law is supposed to represent. “Wrong on the law, first of all, the state of Connecticut has an obligation to preserve life of an infant. The state of Connecticut has an obligation to prevent suicide. If she does not get this treatment, this is a form of suicide, and frankly the American Civil Liberties Union is complicit in her death if she dies,” Johnson told Fox and Friends' Peter Doocy.

However her mother, Jackie Fortin disagrees with Johnson's assessment of the case.“This is her decision, and she’s very intelligent enough to make this decision on her own,” Fortin told the Hartford Courant, while further reiterating her belief that the state is overreaching its boundaries.“She does not want poisons in her body, and she does not want to be forced through the state or the government to force her to do such a thing. And right now, at this moment, she is being forced chemo upon her against her wish.”

Whether wrong or right it is the Department of Children and Families obligation as an agency to prevent any minor from being put in harms way. Kristina Stevens an administrator for the Connecticut Department of Children and Families went on record as to the reasons of why they intervened."We had the benefit of experts who could tell us with great clarity if in fact we don't do something, if the system doesn't react and respond, this child will die," Stevens says.

Cassandra's attorney, Joshua Michtom will argue on Cassandra's behalf that maturity does not come about at a certain age and that the state of Connecticut should rethink their current position on the issue and, instead, adopt a policy that judges each situation pertaining to this issue on a case by case structure.

Does the government have a right to force someone to undergo life-saving treatments?

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Should the Government intervene?

This case has become a legal conundrum of which there isn't a clear and concise answer. For years abortion advocates have been proclaiming my body, my choice and some states have allowed minors to have abortions without parental consent. Even though this case is not related to abortion it does fall under the same category and the same arguments for and against the procedure. This case has once again brought about the question of what right does the government have in making personal decisions for anyone, including minors. Sure the government should have some rights when it pertains to minors but should those rights override the wishes of their own parents? After all wouldn't that interfere with certain individual's religious beliefs that strictly prohibit medical intervention? While this case has furthered the conversation, it hasn't solved the problem entirely. This will be an ongoing dilemma for the court system for years to come.


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    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      3 years ago from USA

      I completely and utterly support the girl and her family. Together they need to make this medical end-of-life choice for themselves, and the government needs to get out of the business of shoving morality on dying individuals. As a college student I took a public health course in the Right To Die and learned all about Terry Shiavo and others like her. At the time, I had no idea how important the issue was and how it impacts every single one of us.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      What a dilemma! Having lived with an adult who had chemo treatment to 'improve the quality of life,' and have seen first hand how unpleasant the treatment can be, I quite understand why the girl chose to run away. It must be so difficult for her mother.

    • Brett Hoover profile imageAUTHOR

      Brett Hoover 

      3 years ago from Livingston

      This is one story that I'm not quite sure what side I am on. I don't want the girl to die but I don't want the government telling her she has to take treatment either. From everything I read the doctors at the trial said she would have an 85 to 95% chance of living with treatment but if that was the case then why wouldn't the mother make the girl take the treatments. I mean if that was my daughter and I knew there was a chance for a cure I wouldn't let her die even if she wanted to. The only explanation that could or could not be right is that this girl has some psychological problems that causes her to behave in such a way but that still doesn't explain why her mother is on her side. There has to be more than they just are not telling us about the story.

    • RoadMonkey profile image


      3 years ago

      I understand, I may be wrong, that this girl will die anyway and that this treatment is just prolonging her agony? If it is just a short prolongation, why should this girl be put through such agony that she ran away from home to escape it?

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      3 years ago from The Caribbean

      This is complicated. The doctors think that it is their right to save the child's life; the child and her mother think that it is their right to decide for or against the doctor's treatment. Perhaps onlookers need more information, and perhaps the law does not fit every case in the same way.


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