“Take Your Medicine” Taken To An Extreme, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 12 2015 @ 7:29am

That 17-year-old in Connecticut trying to refuse chemo lost her court battle on Thursday:

The state argued that the teen lacked competency extended to maturity and that they did not believe she understood the severity of her prognosis. Her mother and her mother’s lawyer said they expect to go back to trial court to more fully explore the mature minor argument.

Her words are pretty heartbreaking:

The day of the ruling, Cassandra published a personal essay in the Hartford Courant about her experience. In the article, she describes crying and hiding from the police in her closet, running away from home after two days of chemotherapy, and being strapped to a hospital bed to undergo treatment against her will. She also refutes any claims that her mother was neglectful during her illness. “This experience has been a continuous nightmare,” Cassandra wrote in her essay.

“I want the right to make my medical decisions. It’s disgusting that I’m fighting for a right that I and anyone in my situation should already have. This is my life and my body, not [the Department of Children and Families]’s and not the state’s. I am a human — I should be able to decide if I do or don’t want chemotherapy. Whether I live 17 years or 100 years should not be anyone’s choice but mine.”

The Courant also published an unpersuasive counterpoint from a local man who got the same kind of cancer at 19 and chose to undergo chemotherapy. Key word: chose. But as Brandy Zadrozny notes:

A guard is manning the door [of Cassandra’s hospital room], which is always kept ajar so she can be monitored. Contact with her mother and the outside world—beyond nurses and her temporary guardian appointed by the state’s Department of Children and Families—is limited.

In the words of her public defender, Joshua Michtom:

[17-year-olds] can consent to sex with someone who’s near an age to them. They can get contraception. They can get addiction treatment. They can donate blood. They can be tried as adults for certain crimes. So 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.

A cancer doctor who goes by the blog name of Orac has “written time and time again about children with cancer who refuse chemotherapy in favor of quackery”:

The difference between Cassandra’s case and these other cases, interestingly, is that, from what I can tell, she refused chemotherapy before having received a single dose. Even odder, her mother backed up her decision. This is very unusual, in my experience, which, fortunately, is limited to small numbers.

But the doctor doesn’t quite know where to come down on this one:

Regular readers should also know that I’ve always said that competent adults should be able to choose whatever treatment they want or no treatment at all, even if it will result in their death. That’s why I’m very much torn about this case. The reason is simple. Cassandra is 17 and will be 18 in September. She is very close to being an adult legally. I have no problem—and never have had a problem—accepting that children are too immature to make such momentous decisions and that parents who refuse to treat children with cancer with appropriate therapy are guilty of medical neglect. Such certainty is easy for 10, 11, 12, 13, and even 14 year olds. Heck it’s easy for 15 and even 16 year olds. But as a child hits 17 and gets closer to being a legal adult, it becomes harder for me to be quite so certain.