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Court Denies Teen’s Wish to Refuse Cancer Treatment

2 minute read

A 17-year-old cancer patient does not have the right to refuse treatment for her disease, the state of Connecticut’s highest court has ruled.

In a significant decision Thursday, the State Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling allowing the girl, identified as Cassandra C. in court papers, to be forced to undergo treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma, according to the Hartford Courant. Her doctors say that she will die unless she undergoes chemotherapy.

Cassandra’s mother, Jackie Fortin, says her daughter believes the chemical treatment will do more damage to her than the cancer. Fortin said she respect’s Cassandra’s decision.

Cassandra was removed from Fortin’s care after the mother and daughter missed follow-up appointments and placed into the custody of child welfare officials, who forced her to undergo the cancer treatment. The teenager ran away from hospital after just two days of chemotherapy.

The court made its expedited decision Thursday following a 45-minute hearing, during which lawyers for Cassandra and her mother argued that even though Cassandra is a minor, she can make her own health decisions. Cassandra is months away from turning 18.

“The general rule for adults is that you can say no to treatment no matter how life-saving it may be,” said one of Cassandra’s attorneys, Joshua Michtom. “You can say no even to helpful treatment. If she were 18, no matter what anyone said, it would be her choice to make.”

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Write to Noah Rayman at noah.rayman@time.com