Connecticut Teenager Forced to Have Chemotherapy
Last week 17 year old Cassandra C, as she is named in legal documents, was forced to have chemotherapy to help treat Hodgkin’s Lymphoma after she, and her mother, had refused treatment. Naturally, she wanted a second opinion, she wanted to be 100% sure that she had cancer before she was treated, but her doctors told her this was a “waste of time” and unnecessary.
This even led to her mum being reported to Department of Children and Families for medical neglect. But is this really neglect? Is it so wrong to want a second opinion and to take your time before making a serious decision? It’s not for me to say that the doctors were wrong, they were only doing what they thought was in the best interests of their patient, but a part of me feels that they crossed a line when they ignored the express wishes of their patient and her mother. Cassandra says that she cares about the quality of her life far more than she cares about the quantity, and who should be able to stand in the way of that?
Worse than that, they dragged a cancer-struck girl from her house, whilst the police surrounded it, and put her into a foster home away from her mother. It was at this point that a court date was set to determine whether she could decide how the rest of her life was to play out. She’s now “trapped” in a hospital room with a security guard on her door 24/7 and is only allowed to see her mum for limited periods of time. She can’t leave the hospital, never mind celebrating Christmas with her family.
It’s a tough ethical line to draw: on the one hand the doctors feel like they’re helping her by giving her the chemo, but on the other, is it really helping her to force her through all this; to strap her to a hospital bed and put her to sleep before giving her chemo?
The family promise to keep fighting the case in court, and I’ll be watching with interest to see what happens, and also to see what happens when Cassandra turns 18 in a few months and has the right to determine her own medical treatment.
Clearly the line has to be drawn somewhere in terms of age, maturity, seriousness of condition et cetera, but in a case where she is so close to 18 and has so clearly demonstrated her desire not to have chemotherapy, who is anyone to say that she must have it? In my mind, as long as she is mentally sound, hasn’t been unduly influenced and has had all the relevant facts presented to her, whether she has chemotherapy or not should be up to her.
It’s one of the most unclear situations I’ve heard about and read about recently, which is why I felt so strongly that I had to write this op-ed. I’m not entirely sure where I stand on this, because I do see the doctors’ point of view, but I do feel strongly that her opinions should count for more than they have so far.
Read Cassandra’s op-ed here.
Lauren is a soon-to-be London lawyer and a current Masters student studying in Rennes, France for a Masters in French law (specializing in European Union Law). She’s a blogger (www.thelifestylediaries.com) and has worked for Her Campus Media as President of the University of Exeter chapter and the Manager of UK Expansion in the past. When she’s not working she loves reading, watching old films, walking with her dog in the English countryside and enjoying all that London has to offer. An avid traveler, and someone who wants to experience as many cultures as she can, Lauren visited Sri Lanka last year and is looking to visit Bali, Italy and Canada this year.
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