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Connecticut Supreme Court: Teen Can't Refuse Chemotherapy

Lucy Nalpathanchil
Jackie Fortin, at center, is Cassandra C's mother, pictured with attorneys James Sexton, Mike Taylor and Cassandra's attorney, Joshua Michtom
For the past month, Cassandra C has been held at a local hospital, undergoing chemotherapy treatment against her wishes.

In a swift ruling on Thursday, the Connecticut Supreme Court decided that a teen recently diagnosed with cancer can't refuse life-saving chemotherapy.

According to the ruling, state officials are not violating the teen's rights by forcing her to undergo chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma. The teen, known as Cassandra C, will be free to make her own medical decisions when she turns 18 in September.

For the past month, Cassandra has been held at a local hospital, undergoing chemotherapy treatment against her wishes. Doctors said chemotherapy would give her an 85 percent chance of survival and without the treatment, she could die.

Her mother, Jackie Fortin, said the court decision is disappointing. Fortin said, " "She knows I love her and I'm going to keep fighting for her because this is her decision. I know more than anyone, more than DCF that my daughter is old enough, mature enough to make a decision. If she wasn't I'd be making that decision."

Fortin says Cassandra doesn't want chemotherapy because it poisons the body. They had wanted to pursue alternative treatments.

A court gave the state Department of Children and Families temporary custody of Cassandra, as well as the authority to make medical decisions for her, after doctors reported her mother Jackie Fortin for neglect.

Listen below to WNPR's Lucy Nalpathanchil talking with Ray Hardman right after the justices made their decision on Thursday:

Court papers documented missed appointments and arguments with doctors over her daughter's diagnosis, but Fortin said it's her daughter's right to refuse chemotherapy, saying she doesn't want to poison her body.

"This is not about death," Fortin said earlier. "My daughter is not going to die. This is about, 'This is my body, my choice, and let me decide.'"

In an emailed statement, DCF said the following:

We thank the Connecticut Supreme Court for its extremely prompt decision, which will allow us to continue to provide the medical treatment that will save Cassandra's life. This is a curable illness, and we will continue to ensure that Cassandra receives the treatment she needs to become a healthy and happy adult.

Lucy leads Connecticut Public's strategies to deeply connect and build collaborations with community-focused organizations across the state.

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