The state Supreme Court will soon decide whether or not a 17-year-old has the right to deny chemotherapy.
Cassandra was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma last September and believes she’s mature enough to make her own medical decisions. But as appellate attorney Dan Klau puts it, although Cassandra raises valid points, she also faces an uphill battle.
“The legal issue is a fascinating one,” said Klau.
Klau isn’t personally involved in Cassandra's case, but he knows how critical this decision is.
“She wants to refuse what everybody agrees—including her attorneys—is life-saving medical treatment,” said Klau.
Cassandra's mother, Jackie Fortin, wants to prove what’s called a “mature minor doctrine,” which basically means that although her daughter isn’t 18, she’s competent enough to make life-changing decisions.
“She’s very independent,” said Fortin. “She works a job, pays her own bills [and has] her own responsibilities.”
And since Cassandra is turning 18 in September, Klau believes she raises a good point.
“I think the most compelling argument in her favor is that there is no perfectly bright line that distinguishes when you’re an adult and deemed competent by the law, and when you’re not,” said Klau.
Still, the Department of Children and Families has the law on its side. According to court papers, DCF took custody of Cassandra after Connecticut Children’s Medical Center said the mother and daughter were neglecting the teen’s medical needs.
“She was skipping medical appointments and fighting with the doctors over the diagnosis and treatment,” said Klau.
But Fortin plans on fighting those claims. She explained that she feels like too much of the process has been far out of her family’s control.
“I’ve raised her for this long and had no problems with her,” said Fortin. “And all of a sudden she’s been diagnosed with cancer and we’re both being punished.”
The DCF has declined to comment on the case, citing respect for those involved.
Connecticut Children's told the Troubleshooters:
"Connecticut Children's is working closely with the Department of Children and Families. We are grateful that the Supreme Court has agreed to take on this very important case and we look forward to their guidance."