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State Forces Chemo On 17-Year-Old Against Her Wishes

A picture of Cassandra from last summer. Image source: NPR

A picture of Cassandra from last summer. Image source: NPR

The Connecticut Supreme Court has forced a 17-year old girl to receive chemotherapy she did not want. A lower court already had stripped the girl’s mother of custody and ordered the young woman taken out of her home.

The girl, who is only identified as “Cassandra” in legal papers, is at the center of a court case that could affect families across the state – and perhaps the nation. The state’s highest court ruled Thursday that the 17-year-old girl is not mentally competent enough to make her own health decisions. She has Hodgkin lymphoma, and doctors say there’s an 80 percent chance she can be cured with chemo. The teen views the chemo as “poison.”

The Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) is now in charge of the teen.

“It’s a question of fundamental constitutional rights – the right to have a say over what happens to your body – and the right to say to the government ‘you can’t control what happens to my body,’” attorney Michael S. Taylor, who is representing Cassandra’s mother, told Fox Connecticut.

“The Supreme Court of the United States has not ruled on this issue so it’s very significant not just for our client and the minor child but for the law in general,” Taylor added.

Controversy Began In September

Doctors had prescribed the chemotherapy for Cassandra after she was diagnosed with the disease in September. Cassandra declined the chemotherapy, and her mother supported the decision.

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That decision prompted DCF to get a court order stripping Cassandra’s mother of custody. DCF employees then took Cassandra from her mother’s home and placed her in a hospital, where she was forced to undergo the treatment against her will, court documents indicate.

“That really ought to be up to Cassandra,” Taylor said of the chemotherapy. “It ought not to be for the state to jump in and say, ‘Well, regardless of your decision, we think we know better.”

Taylor contends that Cassandra is almost legally an adult and therefore old enough to make decisions about medical treatment for herself. He noted that Connecticut lets children drive at age 16 and that the state routinely prosecutes suspects under 18 as adults.

The treatment has some potential side effects, including nausea, pain, fatigue, vomiting and hair loss.

“We’re not going to comment; it’s in the hands of the judicial system at this point,” DCF spokesman Josh Howroyd told Fox Connecticut.

Not the First Time

It’s not the first time parents tried to keep state authorities from forcing a daughter into chemotherapy. Andy and Ana Hershberger, an Amish couple from Ohio, took their daughter, Sarah, all the way to Mexico to avoid a court order forcing the girl into chemotherapy last year,” as Off The Grid News reported.

The Hershbergers fled the country after Ohio’s district court of appeals upheld Akron Children’s Hospital’s request to have the daughter taken from her parents and forced into chemotherapy.

Any ruling in favor of DCF could only be temporary because Cassandra will turn 18 in eight months. At that point, Cassandra could simply get up and walk out of the hospital, and there would be nothing DCF could do.

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