Medicine & The Law

God forbid, your 17-year old child is diagnosed with cancer. The teenager knows that she does not want to undergo chemotherapy treatments; she is very vocal about this, and gives good reasons why.  As her parent, after much thought and consideration, you agree with your daughter.

The next thing you know – Department of Children and Families (DCF) has taken temporary custody of your child. They have admitted her to a hospital where she receives two rounds of chemotherapy, against her will, and against yours.

This is what has happened to 17-year old Cassandra Fortin, from Connecticut. She was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in September, but did not want to undergo the suggested treatment. Her mother, Jackie Fortin says that her daughter has always been very opinionated about putting any kind of ‘poison’ into her body.

According to Mrs. Fortin, the doctors at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center pushed Cassandra to undergo chemotherapy against her will. She says her daughter was so distressed she ran away from home and was picked up by DCF. Children’s Hospital reported to DCF that Fortin was not giving medical attention to her daughter.

In a court hearing, doctors testified that Cassandra could not be cured without the chemotherapy treatments. The court then gave DCF the authority to make all necessary medical decisions on Cassandra’s behalf.

Cassandra and her mother have appealed the ruling, and the case will now be heard by the Connecticut Supreme Court.

An attorney representing Mrs. Fortin makes a good point, “It’s a question of fundamental constitutional rights,” says Michael S. Taylor, “the right to have a say over what happens to your body, and the right to say to the government – ‘you can’t control what happens to my body.’”

Should the government be able to order you to have medical treatment of any kind for you or your child? It would seem to be a slippery slope. What do you think?

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