State steps in after 17-year old West Hartford girl refuses cancer treatment


Hartford, Conn. (WTNH) — A local teenager diagnosed with cancer is refusing treatment but the state is forcing her to get chemotherapy. The battle is making its way through the court system.

It is a legal gray area, and the first time it is being addressed in Connecticut. It involves a number of constitutional issues but it comes down to this, does a 17-year-old girl have the right to determine what happens to her body, does she have the right to decline medical care which includes life-saving treatment.

Chemotherapy, a life saving care for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. is what 17 year old Cassandra is receiving at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center but under court order.

The Department of Children and Families got temporary custody and forced Cassandra to undergo cancer treatment after her mother stood by the teenager’s decision to reject the chemo.

Assistant State  Public Defender Joshua Michtom represents Cassandra.

“This is not a negligent refusal to provide care. This is a choice. Cassandra and her mother asking that that choice be respected.”

He added, “If she were 18, I think everyone would agree she could refuse treatment whether it was life saving or not.”

This Thursday, The State Supreme Court will hear from both sides on the so called mature minor doctrine.

Michtom explained, “Some states have said that if a particular child, usually a 17 year old is mature enough, is found to understand their situation, know what the stakes are, then that child can make decisions for him or herself.”

James Sexton with Taylor & Sexton, the firm representing Jackie Fortin, Cassandra’s mothe. says he “would not be surprised with an abbreviated court decision very quickly after the oral arguments, followed by a full decision in the coming months.”

“The best case scenario,” said Michtom, “would be that the court simply says Cassandra has the right to refuse treatment and then ends it there but realistically what I’m asking for the court to do is to send it back, to get a hearing where we could prove and I think we can prove that Cassandra has the maturity and understands her situation and that she can exercise this right.”

The oral arguments are set for noon this Thursday before the seven justices of the State Supreme Court.

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