Court Rules Teen Can Be Forced Into Chemotherapy

AP Photo
AP Photo

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a 17 year-old girl with Hodgkin lymphoma can be forced by the state to receive chemotherapy treatments.

According to the Associated Press, the state’s justices decided against the wishes of Cassandra C., who will turn 18 years old in September when she will be allowed to make her own medical decisions, and her mother, who agrees with her daughter’s right to make the decision to refuse medical treatment.

Cassandra has been in state custody at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center (CCMC) and doctors have given her an 85 percent chance of survival if she undergoes chemotherapy.

Jackie Fortin, Cassandra’s mother, however, said that she and her daughter are not aiming for Cassandra’s suicide. Instead, they are seeking alternative treatment for the lymphoma which will not involve the “poison” of chemotherapy entering her daughter’s body.

The AP reports that staff of CCMC notified the state’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) after Cassandra and her mother did not arrive for appointments once the teen was diagnosed. A trial court subsequently granted DCF temporary custody of Cassandra, and she received two days of treatment, but then ran away for a week.

Attorneys for Cassandra and Fortin were unsuccessful in obtaining an injunction blocking the chemotherapy. On December 17, the teen resumed treatments, which also included surgical installation of a port in her chest to administer the drugs.

In defense of the state, DCF reportedly said they have a responsibility to protect Cassandra’s life.

“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,’” said attorney Michael S. Taylor, who represents Cassandra’s mother, in a report at

Taylor argued that, in Connecticut, a person can drive at the age of 16, have an abortion without parental consent before age 18, and be charged as “an adult,” if he or she commits a crime under 18 years of age. He reasons, therefore, that a 17-year-old should have control over her own body.