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Teen Forced to Undergo Chemotherapy Against Her Will

NBC Connecticut

The Short of It

Cassandra is a 17-year-old Connecticut teen who refused to undergo chemotherapy for her treatable cancer, saying she didn't want "toxic poisons" in her body. The state claims she will die without the treatment, and last month, it forcibly removed her from her home to administer the chemo. Today, Cassandra's case is going before the state Supreme Court.

The Lowdown

Presently, Cassandra is being held against her will at a local hospital in the custody of the Department of Children and Families. Her mom, Jackie Fortin, is accused of neglecting Cassandra's health and putting her life at risk after skipping doctors' appointments and influencing her daughter to distrust physicians.

But Fortin tells a different story.

"This is about, 'This is my body, my choice, and let me decide,'" the mom argues. But she admits both she and her daughter understand Cassandra could die without the chemo.

Doctors have testified that the teen will die from her Hodgkin lymphoma without undergoing treatment. With the treatment, the young woman has an 85 percent chance of survival.

Cassandra's lawyers are going to argue in court that although she is not yet 18, she has the maturity to make the decision to refuse treatment. It's called the mature minor doctrine, and it allows courts to rule on whether an underage teen is competent enough to do things, like say no to lifesaving measures.

"There's recognition overall that maturity doesn't happen overnight. You don't go to sleep a 17-year-old knucklehead and wake up an 18-year-old sage. The law has recognized that in a lot of ways. We're just asking that it recognize it in this other way," says Cassandra's lawyer, Joshua Michtom.

Her mom goes on to say, "If she was 18, I don't think this would be an issue. She is not 10. She is over 17. She is very bright, very smart. She knows what the poison can do. She knows what the effects can be long term for her body."

The Upshot

Cassandra turns 18 in September. At that time, she will be released from state custody and can decide to end her chemo regimen. Or, if the court rules in her favor, she could go home sooner.

What do you think is fair in this case?

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