Teen Fights State Over Chemo Treatments

Supreme Court will decide if 17-year-old daughter can make medical decisions

Nothing means more to Jackie Fortin than the wellbeing of her 17-year-old daughter Cassandra who was recently diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma but, according to her mother, Cassandra doesn’t want treatment.

“She has always—even years ago—said that if she was diagnosed with cancer, she would not put poison into her body,” Fortin explained.

She adds that doctors at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center pushed Cassandra to undergo chemotherapy against her will. Cassandra pushed back by running away from home, which ultimately led to DCF taking custody. She was then returned to CCMC to start chemo.

“CCMC reported to DCF that I was not giving medical attention to my daughter,” said Fortin.

Right now, the battle is making its way through the court system.

NBC Connecticut reached out to CCMC and Corporate Communications Director Bob Fraleigh released the following statement:

"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. Due to HIPAA regulations, we cannot provide any additional information at this time."

Cassandra will turn 18 in September, when she’s free to make the decision on her own.

According to Fortin’s lawyer, Michael Taylor, that detail is too important to miss.

“When you think about what freedom means,” said Taylor, “a big part of it means being able to say to the government, ‘You can’t tell me what to do with my own body.’”

He says her right to bodily integrity shouldn’t be any different here than if she were getting an abortion or her driver’s license.

“There are a lot of ways the state recognizes that people who are under 18 can be mature enough to make very important decisions,” said Taylor.

And that’s exactly what Fortin wants the courts to hear. She knows she faces a tough decision, one she feels a parent should never have to make.

“I tell her a mother should never have to bury a child. You should bury me," Fortin said. "But my daughter and I have a close connection, and I have always said—since she was a baby—no matter what you do in life, I will be here for you and I will be by your side.”

The State Supreme Court will hear both sides of the argument on Thursday, Jan. 8.

NBC Connecticut also reached out to DCF, but officials said out of respect for those involved, they do not have a comment at the time.

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