Sunday, January 4, 2015

Connecticut teen fighting state over forced chemotherapy treatments

HARTFORD, Conn. — A 17-year-old girl with cancer and her mother are battling Connecticut over an order that she accept chemotherapy treatments — and the state's Supreme Court has agreed to an expedited ruling in a rare case involving the "mature minor doctrine."

Lawyers for Cassandra C. argue that she is mature enough to make the decision to reject the treatments, but the state Department of Children and Families is saying the treatments are in her best interest.

The Supreme Court said it would rule whether "DCF (is) properly authorized to make medical decisions on (the) child's behalf, and whether (a) 17-year-old must receive medical treatment against her wishes."

"Everyone agrees it's a serious illness, but you're talking about a fundamental question: Does she have a say in what happens to her body?" said attorney Michael Taylor of West Hartford, who represents Cassandra's mother.

Cassandra was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in September, according to a state Judicial Branch summary of the case.

The summary notes that "while the recommended treatment for the disease includes chemotherapy, Cassandra decided that she did not want to undergo treatment, and Cassandra's mother supports her in that decision."

The full names of Cassandra and her mother are not included in the summary. Cassandra is represented by assistant state public defender Joshua Michtom.

At a hearing in November, a Superior Court judge granted a request from DCF to take temporary custody of Cassandra "and ordered her mother to provide and cooperate with medical care under DCF's supervision and as recommended by her doctors," the case summary states.

"Her mother felt their world had been turned upside down," said Taylor.

The DCF had no previous involvement with the family, but moved for custody of Cassandra when the possibility of parental medical neglect was raised. A DCF spokesman, Josh Howroyd, said Friday that the department had no comment on the case.

Cassandra and her mother initially complied with the court order and the teenager received her first two chemotherapy treatments in November. But Cassandra "subsequently ran away from home to avoid further treatment," the summary states.

When she returned, she continued to refuse the treatment, the summary says.

After a hearing in the Child Protection Session of Superior Court, 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."

The court also authorized DCF "to make all necessary medical decisions on Cassandra's behalf," the case summary states.

The family hired Taylor to file an emergency appeal. Cassandra is now in an unidentified local hospital receiving treatment under the court order. Details about her prognosis were not available.
Arguments before the state Supreme Court are set for Thursday.

In appealing the decision, Cassandra and her mother said that "absent any finding that they are incompetent, the trial court violated their constitutional rights in allowing DCF to substitute its judgment for theirs and in permitting DCF to force Cassandra to receive medical treatment against her will."

Lawyers for the mother and teen also argue that the state should recognize the "mature minor doctrine" — which would require a finding that a 17-year-old isn't sufficiently mature to make such a decision, before ordering the teen to receive medical treatment.

Taylor said "family integrity" — the right for a family to make educational, moral and other major decisions without state interference — is also a major element in this case.  (Read more)

Full Article & Source:
Connecticut teen fighting state over forced chemotherapy treatments


Scott said...

DCF should get their noses out of this family's business.

Anonymous said...

Save the body but destroy the person.