Cancer in remission for Connecticut teen forced to undergo chemo

Monday, March 9, 2015

HARTFORD -- A 17-year-old girl's cancer appears to be in remission after she was forced to undergo chemotherapy by the state because she refused treatment, her lawyer said Monday.

A recent medical scan of the girl, identified in court documents only as Cassandra C., showed no signs of the Hodgkin lymphoma that was diagnosed in September, said assistant public defender Joshua Michtom. Cassandra's treatment is set to end next month after two more rounds of chemo, he said.

"As best they can tell, the cancer is gone," Michtom said.

Cassandra remains confined to a room at Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford under the temporary custody of the state Department of Children and Families, Michtom said. A Juvenile Court hearing is scheduled for next week on a request by Cassandra and her mother to end the DCF custody.

Cassandra told The Associated Press in January that she didn't want to poison her body with chemotherapy and wanted to explore alternative treatments - a course of action her mother supported. Doctors had said that chemo would give her an 85 percent chance of survival, but without it there was a near certainty of death within two years.

After Cassandra was diagnosed with high-risk Hodgkin lymphoma, she and her mother missed several appointments, prompting doctors to notify the DCF, court documents say. A trial court in November granted DCF temporary custody of Cassandra. Lawyers for Cassandra and her mother then sought an injunction prohibiting medical treatment but failed.

The case went to the state Supreme Court, which ruled in January that the state wasn't violating Cassandra's rights by forcing her to undergo chemotherapy. The case centered on the "mature minor doctrine" recognized by several other states - whether 16- and 17-year-olds are mature enough to make their own medical decisions.

Cassandra will be free to make her own medical decisions when she turns 18 in September.

DCF Commissioner Joette Katz said in a statement that agency officials are pleased with "Cassandra's progress toward a complete recovery."

"We understand how difficult this has been for Cassandra and her family, but we have had full confidence throughout that the medical professionals involved in her treatment would be successful in saving her life," Katz said.