Why A 17-Year-Old With Curable Cancer Is Fighting For The Right To Refuse Chemo

A 17-year-old from Connecticut is locked in a battle with the state for her personal right to refuse chemotherapy treatment.

Diagnosed in September with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Cassandra C. has been forced by the state to undergo chemotherapy, the New York Times reported Friday. With treatment, patients are expected to have an 85% chance of curing the disease. Without the treatment, doctors said Cassandra will not survive.

But Cassandra believes that choice should be made by her alone. On Thursday, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the teen did not prove she was mature enough to make this decision. Cassandra was hospitalized in December and remains there today, with limited access to outside communication and visitors.

The day of the ruling, Cassandra published a personal essay in the Hartford Courant about her experience. In the article, she describes crying and hiding from the police in her closet, running away from home after two days of chemotherapy, and being strapped to a hospital bed to undergo treatment against her will.

She also refutes any claims that her mother was neglectful during her illness.

“This experience has been a continuous nightmare,” Cassandra wrote in her essay. “I want the right to make my medical decisions. It’s disgusting that I’m fighting for a right that I and anyone in my situation should already have. This is my life and my body, not [the Department of Children and Families]’s and not the state’s. I am a human — I should be able to decide if I do or don’t want chemotherapy. Whether I live 17 years or 100 years should not be anyone’s choice but mine.”

Cassandra’s mother, Jackie Fortin, also supports her daughter’s desire for the right to choose. According to the New York Times, Cassandra and her mother plan to continue fighting the court’s decision. 

In an interview with CBS News, Fortin said that Cassandra’s refusal to undergo chemotherapy wasn’t about living or dying, but about the detrimental effects chemotherapy would have on her body.

“It’s not even a matter of dying. She’s not gonna die. She doesn’t want to die,” Fortin said. 

You can read Cassandra’s full op-ed in here in the Hartford Courant.

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