A Connecticut teenager removed from her family for her own safety after refusing to undergo cancer treatment last year is now in remission, according to her doctors.
The 17-year-old, known as Cassandra C, was taken into state custody in January and forced to undergo chemotherapy for Hodgkin's lymphoma after refusing treatment in favor of unproven alternative medicines. According to an NBC News story, "Court documents show DCF [Connecticut's Department of Children and Families] took custody of her when she ran away from home after two days of chemotherapy and missed medical appointments."
Her family fought to retain custody of her, and the case went to the Connecticut's Supreme Court which ruled that Cassandra and her parents could not refuse medical treatments.
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At the time of the Supreme Court decision, NBC News noted that "Doctors at the Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford say the treatment would give Cassandra an 85 percent chance of survival. Without treatment, the doctors said there was a near certainty of death within two years."
The fact that Cassandra was a minor when diagnosed likely saved her life; had she been 18 and legally an adult the courts could not have compelled her to seek medical treatment.
Cassandra's case was watched closely by medical ethicists and civil liberties organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed an amicus brief on behalf of Cassandra's family. As NBC News noted, "Assistant Public Defender Joshua Michtom, who is representing Cassandra, said the case marks the first time the state Supreme Court has considered the ‘mature minor doctrine' recognized by several other states. The doctrine generally allows court hearings for minors 16 and 17 years old to prove that they are mature enough to make medical decisions for themselves."
Though there are cases of parents who refuse to take their minor children to doctors because of religious reasons or health beliefs, this case was different. Cassandra and her family apparently did not object to all medical treatment, nor on religious grounds, but because she he did not want to "put poison into her body." Instead Cassandra sought alternative, unproven treatments with fewer side effects - and no scientific evidence of effectiveness.
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Chemotherapy involves the use of potent drugs to kill cancer cells or at least slow their rate of reproduction, but it can also kill off healthy cells. Though the treatment is often effective, it can have painful and significant side effects including fatigue, hair loss, and constipation. It is not an easy regimen to adhere to, but a full course is essential for success, and that's one reason why Cassandra's missed appointments concerned her doctors and led to actions by Connecticut authorities.
Cassandra recently posted on Facebook: "It's true, I am in remission; and it would mean the world to me, to be able to come home to get the remainder of this nightmare over with."