by Vanessa Tang
Cassandra C., a 17 year-old girl from Connecticut, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in September. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a type of cancer in the immune system. She wanted to avoid treatment even if it meant an 85% chance of being cancer free in five years. Cassandra also said that she understands that, “death will be the outcome without the chemo.” Nonetheless, Cassandra was forced to undergo chemotherapy treatment by the state of Connecticut.
In most cases, the court would allow the guardian of the minor to make the medical decisions. However, in Cassandra’s case, her mother was deemed unfit to make decisions for her child. When her mother was not meeting the doctors’ time standards, Fortin was reported to the Department of Children and Families and lost custody over Cassandra. This cost her the ability to stop the treatment forced upon her daughter.
The Supreme Court of Connecticut allowed Cassandra to prove herself as a mature minor and capable of making her own medical decisions, but they found her to be immature. They ruled her incapable because she ran away after being subjected to the treatment for two days. Peter Johnson Jr., the family’s attorney, discussed the issue. If Cassandra doesn’t have chemotherapy, the court would rule it as, “a form of suicide.” The girl’s mother, Jackie Fortin said,“rights have been taken away,” from her daughter when they continued with treatment.
Effects of chemotherapy aren’t desirable either. The side-effects of chemotherapy include pain, fatigue, nausea, and several other effects. Fortin said of chemotherapy: “I guess they say it does kill the cancer. But it also kills everything else in your body.” Cassandra and her mother realize this, and would rather enjoy a quality life than endure five years of therapy to live a prolonged life. According to Atul Gawande, a surgeon and celebrated author, “ The job of any doctor … is to support the quality of life…and the retention of enough function for active engagement…” With the court’s orders of chemotherapy, they are almost denying her a right to quality of life and living life the way she chooses, contrasting from their original ruling.