Should This Teenage Girl Refusing Chemotherapy Have A Choice?

by Ada Guzman

In Connecticut, 17 year-old Cassandra is refusing a potentially life-saving chemotherapy treatment for a recent diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma. Her mother, Jackie Fortin, sides with her decision; stating, “My daughter is old enough, mature enough to make a decision… This is not about death. This is about ‘This is my body, my choice, and let me decide.’”

But the state of Connecticut has made a unanimous ruling that Cassandra is required to continue treatment. This means that she will will have to undergo the chemotherapy until September, when she turns 18 and can legally refuse. 

Cassandra’s attorney Joshua Michtom looked to other cases where a minor was allowed to decide whether or not they would accept treatment based on their maturity. This is called the mature minor statute, and a small handful of state high courts (such as Maine, Illinois, and Pennsylvania) have adopted it into law. But Cassandra’s case is more complex than refusing just any kind of treatment—her doctors have stated that she has an 85% chance of survival with the treatment, and that without it, she will die.

Clearly, this is about death; if Cassandra had been allowed to refuse treatment, it’s highly probable that she would have died. However, this is also about the right to choose what to do with your own body. Should we have the right as a state to rule over anyone’s decision to refuse medical treatment, no matter what the consequences of that decision may be? 

Cassandra would have been allowed to refuse treatment with no issue from the law had this happened some months into the future. Whatever wisdom one gains between the ages of 17 and 18 is probably not a whole lot, and it says something about our strict age policy that it was the only thing coming between Cassandra making her own decision—however self-endangering it may have been—about her body

Image via The Atlantic

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