Hartford, Conn. (CBS CONNECTICUT) — A 17-year-old girl with cancer is in an unprecedented legal battle with the state of Connecticut as the Department of Children and Families removed her from her home and forced the teen to receive chemotherapy.
The girl being identified as “Cassandra C.” in court papers was diagnosed with cancer in September, with doctors recommending she receive chemotherapy for the rare condition of Hodgkins Lymphoma. However, the teen refused treatment and her mother supported her daughter’s decision, causing Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families to step in and force the teen to receive treatment, WTIC-TV reports.
In November, the DCF successfully petitioned for an order of temporary custody of the girl and ordered her mother to cooperate with medical care administered to her daughter under DCF supervision. After two chemo treatments, Cassandra ran away from home before subsequently returning to refuse treatment altogether.
“Following a hearing at which Cassandra’s doctors testified, the trial court ordered that she be removed from her home and that she remain in DCF’s care and custody,” read court documents. “The court also authorized DCF to make all necessary medical decisions on Cassandra’s behalf.”
According to the National Cancer Institute, side effects of chemotherapy can include nausea, hair loss, vomiting, fatigue and diarrhea.
Cassandra and her mother appealed the trial court ruling, claiming that forced treatment violates their constitutional rights by allowing the DCF to use their judgment over their own without any finding of incompetence on their behalf. They also claim that Connecticut should recognize the “mature minor doctrine” that requires a court to first determine if a minor is not sufficiently mature to be legally allowed to make medical decisions on her own.
“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,’” Cassandra’s mother’s attorney, Michael S. Taylor, told WTIC.
Taylor represents Cassandra’s mother, while a state public defender represents Cassandra.
Cassandra and her mother claim that Connecticut’s common law and public policy dictate that DCF cannot force Cassandra to receive medical treatment over her knowing and informed objection and over the knowing and informed objection of her mother, according to the court documents.
Cassandra’s case will be heard Thursday at the Connecticut Supreme Court in Hartford. She must remain at the local hospital to continue her treatment against her wishes until the unprecedented case is heard.
“The Supreme Court of the state has never ruled on this issue, the Supreme Court of the United States has not ruled on this issue. So it’s very significant not just for our client, and for the minor child, but for the law in general,” said Taylor.