Chemotherapy

Court rules on case of teen refusing cancer treatment

Last Updated Jan 8, 2015 2:50 PM EST 

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/court-hears-case-of-teen-refusing-cancer-treatment/

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a 17-year-old girl with cancer must continue to get chemotherapy against her will.

The girl, identified in court documents as Cassandra C., had asked the court to allow her to make her own medical decisions, even though she won't turn 18 until September. But CBS Connecticut reports the justices unanimously upheld a lower court ruling ordering her to continue treatment.

The Associated Press reports Cassandra currently is confined in a room at Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford, where she is being forced to undergo chemotherapy. Doctors said the treatment would give her an 85 percent chance of survival, but without it she would likely die within two years.

Cassandra was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma four months ago. Doctors recommended she receive chemo, a common treatment for that type of cancer, but the girl refused and her mother supported her decision.

Play VIDEO

Mother and teen fight Connecticut over forced chemotherapy

 

The family searched for alternative treatments, but a judge ordered Cassandra to undergo chemotherapy. After two just treatments, she ran away from home. The Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) intervened and placed Cassandra into protective custody.

Cassandra's mother, Jackie Fortin, told "CBS This Morning" earlier this week that it should be Cassandra's choice to refuse to treat her cancer with chemotherapy.

"She does not want the toxins. She does not want people telling her what to do with her body and how to treat it," Fortin said -- even if the purpose of those toxins is to kill the cancer.

"They are also killing her body. They are killing her organs. They're killing her insides. It's not even a matter of dying. She's not going to die," Fortin said.

But the state argued that Fortin was putting her daughter at risk in a life-or-death situation. "We really do have the expert testimony, the expert advice of physicians who are saying unequivocally if she does not get the treatment that she needs she will die," DCF's Kristina Stevens said.

Fortin's attorney asked the court to recognize what's known as the "mature minor doctrine," which allows 16- and 17-year-olds in some states to get a judge's permission to make medical decisions for themselves.

But the justices said Cassandra had not proven mature enough or competent to make those decisions, citing the fact that she had run away from home.

The type of cancer Cassandra has, Hodgkin's (or Hodgkin) lymphoma, is a cancer of the lymphatic system that strikes about 9,000 Americans each year. According to the National Cancer Institute, about 1,100 patients a year die from it.

2015 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.