Connecticut court rules against teen who doesn't want chemotherapy

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Associated Press

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

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

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

"Being forced into the surgery and chemo has traumatized me," Cassandra said. "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 the support of 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 instead ran away for a week, according to court documents.

"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 is 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 that she believes there is "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 are considering their next step after losing the case 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 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 it temporary custody of Cassandra. Lawyers for Cassandra and her mother then sought an injunction prohibiting medical treatment but were unsuccessful.

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