Why a teenager's battle with cancer has sparked a national debate
There is a battle going on in Connecticut right now that’s raising some incredibly hard-to-answer questions about how much control the government has over our bodies. This battle isn’t about reproductive rights, but rather chemotherapy.
A 17-year-old in Connecticut, being identified as “Cassandra C,” is currently faced with a situation that no teenager should ever have to deal with. In September, she was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, a rare form of cancer. Cassandra opted to forego chemotherapy treatments (a decision that her mother supports) but the state of Connecticut is forcing her to receive chemo against her will. Essentially, after she refused treatment the Department of Children and Families stepped in, gained custody of Cassandra, and demanded she receive chemo.
“Following a hearing at which Cassandra’s doctors testified, the trial court ordered that she be removed from her home and that she remain in DCF’s care and custody,” read court documents, according to local station WTIC. “The court also authorized DCF to make all necessary medical decisions on Cassandra’s behalf.”
Cassandra ran away from home after her first two chemo treatments, and upon returning refused additional treatment. Cassandra and her mother appealed the ruling, claiming that it violates their constitutional rights and that, despite being a minor, Cassandra is mature enough to make her own decisions.
They’re also arguing that the state can’t force Cassandra to receive medical treatment that she doesn’t want. As we speak, she is undergoing chemo but the case will be heard on Thursday by the Connecticut Supreme Court to determine whether she has to continue with treatment against her wishes.
“It’s a question of fundamental constitutional rights — 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,’” Cassandra’s mother’s attorney, Michael S. Taylor, told WTIC. “The Supreme Court of the state has never ruled on this issue, the Supreme Court of the United States has not ruled on this issue. So it’s very significant not just for our client, and for the minor child, but for the law in general.”
We will definitely be following Cassandra’s story, as it raises some really important questions about our bodies, the government, and at what point the government can step in to make decisions about our bodies . . . even if we really don’t want them to.