A teen from Connecticut is invoking ‘mature minor doctrine' to be allowed to refuse chemotherapy treatment after being diagnosed with cancer. The state isn't budging, however, prioritizing concern for the minor's welfare.
‘Cassandra' was diagnosed in September 2014 with Hodgkin's lymphoma. The 17-year-old had initially opted not to receive chemotherapy for her condition, with her mother's permission, but was forced to undergo treatment by Connecticut's Department of Children and Families. The agency's petition seeking temporary custody of the teen was approved, compelling Cassandra's mother to cooperate with the DCF in getting medical care for the teen.
Two chemotherapy treatments were accomplished in November 2014 but Cassandra ran away to avoid the next scheduled ones. When she returned, she refused treatment, prompting a trial where her doctors testified. The court had the teen taken away from her mother and placed in the custody of the DCF, which is now in charge of making all medical decisions in behalf of Cassandra. Both Cassandra and her mother are appealing this decision.
According to a court summary, Cassandra and her mother claim that they have not been deemed incompetent. As such, the trial court was in violation of their constitutional rights when it allowed the DCF control over the teen. Before the court can force Cassandra to get treated against her will, she must first be determined insufficiently mature, making her incapable of making her own decisions at this point.
"When experts -- such as the several physicians involved in this case -- tell us with certainty that a child will die as a result of leaving a decision up to a parent, then the Department has a responsibility to take action. Even if the decision might result in criticism, we have an obligation to protect the life of the child when there is consensus among the medical experts that action is required," countered the DCF.
Michael Taylor, the lawyer representing Cassandra's mother, said they are not disputing whether or not the teen's condition requires treatment. Their side is well aware that if Cassandra doesn't receive treatment, she could very well die. What they want is the state to recognize that the teen is competent enough to make decisions for herself, including whether or not to undergo chemotherapy.
The mature minor doctrine has been adopted in several states and holds that some children have reached maturity levels enough to equip them for making important life decisions for themselves.