Teen's forced chemo may continue, Connecticut court rules

Willie Grace | 1/8/2015, 6:22 p.m. | Updated on 1/8/2015, 6:22 p.m.
The teen, identified in court documents as "Cassandra C," was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in September. Medical experts have testified ...
The teen, identified in court documents as "Cassandra C," was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in September. Medical experts have testified that Cassandra has an 85% chance of survival if treated with chemotherapy. Without it, doctors say, she likely will die within two years.

(CNN) -- The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the state may continue to force a teenager to undergo chemotherapy treatments that could save her life.

The court said that attorneys for the girl -- who is more than nine months shy of 18 and therefore still a minor -- failed to prove that she is mature enough to make her own medical decisions.

The teen, identified in court documents as "Cassandra C," was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in September. Medical experts have testified that Cassandra has an 85% chance of survival if treated with chemotherapy. Without it, doctors say, she likely will die within two years.

In November, the teen had said under oath that she would get treatment, but she ran away and failed to appear at chemotherapy appointments. This, the court ruled, was an indication of Cassandra's lack of maturity.

She has been undergoing chemotherapy against her wishes for three weeks. After she missed follow-up appointments, the hospital to contacted the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) out of concern that this was a situation of medical neglect.

After an investigation, DCF requested temporary custody of Cassandra. She was removed from her mother's home and placed with a relative.

At that November hearing, she was described as "very bright" and having a clear understanding of her medical situation.

Cassandra was allowed to return to her mother's home, under the supervision of DCF and on the condition that she agree to complete the recommended treatment. She underwent two days of chemo beginning November 17 but then ran away for a week, according to court documents, and after returning home said she wanted to discontinue the treatment.

Citing client confidentiality, assistant public defender Josh Michtom, who represents Cassandra, would not elaborate on why his client is refusing treatment. In a video posted on the website for the Hartford Courant newspaper, her mother, Jackie Fortin, says her daughter does not want to put the "poison" of chemotherapy in her body.

On December 9, after hearing testimony from Cassandra's oncologist, a judge decided to return her to custody of DCF. The following day she was admitted to Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford.

A week later, doctors surgically implanted a port in Cassandra's chest to administer chemotherapy medications. The next day, December 18, doctors started her daily chemo treatments, which are still ongoing in spite of legal maneuvers to end them.

Fortin, who was in court today alongside her attorney, Michael Taylor, says she fully supports her daughter's decision and that Cassandra is intelligent enough to decide on her own. She says the forced treatment takes away her daughter's rights.

The hospital confirmed in a written statement Wednesday that they are working with the Department of Children and Families and awaited guidance from the state Supreme Court. They would not comment further, citing patient privacy.

DCF has a legal and moral responsibility in this case, the agency told CNN in a statement Tuesday.