Teen forced into chemo treatments, mother supports decision to refuse

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WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. – The mother of the 17-year-old Connecticut teen with cancer who is rejecting chemotherapy is defending her daughter’s decision.

Fox CT first reported on the case Friday, citing court papers in which the teen is referred to as “Cassandra C.”

Her attorney told Fox CT the case was headed to the state Supreme Court on Thursday, Jan. 8.

On Tuesday, Cassandra’s mother, Jackie Fortin, talked to Fox CT inside her Windsor Locks home.

Fortin said her daughter has been locked inside a hospital room the past four weeks, with a guard outside the door.

She also said her daughter’s cell phone was confiscated.

Of course, Cassandra is no criminal. She’s a cancer patient who tried to refuse chemotherapy treatments that are now being forced into her system.

“My daughter doesn’t want to die and I don’t want her to die. So people out there think that I’m letting her do a death sentence and I’m not and neither is she. We are saying, these are her rights, these are her constitutional rights that have been taken away and not only that, the family has been separated at a time that it should not be,” Fortin told Fox CT.

Fortin said her daughter was perfectly healthy until May, when Cassandra noticed her neck was swollen. She spent the summer months having blood-work done to determine the problem. Despite test after test, Fortin said doctors could figure out what was wrong.

Fortin said it wasn’t until September that doctors at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center (CCMC) ran a biopsy and said Cassandra likely had Hodgkin lymphoma.

Fortin said Cassandra wanted to seek a second opinion, so she pulled her daughter’s records to bring to another hospital.

But Fortin said CCMC doctors understood that as “neglect” and reported her to the state’s Department of Children and Families. Fortin said that DCF filed a motion and was granted temporary custody of Cassandra.

“When they come and take a child from you, and I can’t even call her up at nightitme and say, I love you honey goodnight. It’s horrible.”

After a court order, Cassandra initially agreed to undergo chemotherapy, according to her mother.

But her mother said that after just two treatments, Cassandra ran away and went missing. Police issued a silver alert for Cassandra in November. Cassandra was found, but tensions only grew with DCF according to her mother.

The 17-year-old was ordered to remain at the hospital and was eventually strapped to a hospital bed while a port was surgically implanted into her heart.

Fortin said her daughter didn’t have the chance to make her own decision, that instead she was taken away and had the surgery and chemo forced on her.

Fortin admits that both she and her daughter are skeptical about the long-term implications of chemotherapy.

“It kills the cancer, hopefully, but it also kills everything in your body. And you for the rest of your life, you may have issues, you might not have issues. But there’s a good chance you’re gonna have issues.” said Fortin.

Of course, doctors argue Cassandra’s best and perhaps only chance at survival is chemo. But her mother isn’t worried about what would happen if she didn’t undergo chemo. “I’m not worried about if she doesn’t do the chemo–this whole thing is about the state coming in and forcing her out of the home and forcing her to do something with her body without her wanting to do that. So whatever her choice may be to treat this cancer should be her choice, even if it chemo down the road,” said Fortin.

Currently, Fortin said she’s only allowed two supervised visits with Cassandra each week.

It’s a tremendous departure from life just a few months ago at the family’s Windsor Locks home, where Fortin said she raised Cassandra her entire life and home-schooled her the past few years.

Fortin said she’s had sole custody of Cassandra since she was two years old when Fortin and her ex-husband divorced.

She said he’s been out of their lives for the past 10 years.

“I can’t even describe it because like I said this is the first time we’ve been separated. It was Christmas, first Christmas we’ve been apart. Thanksgiving, everything. First time, and it rips my heart apart because I know my daughter’s going through something horrible right now where she’s at,” said Fortin.

Cassandra is represented by a public defender, while her mother is represented by Michael S. Taylor of West Hartford, Conn.

“The state shouldn’t be able to substitute its judgment for her judgment as long as she’s mature enough to understand what’s going on and to make a reasonable decision, and we think she is,” said Taylor during an interview with Fox CT on Friday.

That’s the argument Cassandra’s attorney and Taylor will make on Thursday in Connecticut Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Fortin said she’s losing sleep while worrying about the outcome.

“The biggest thing people don’t understand is: this is not a death sentence. It’s not a suicide. It’s about rights,” said Fortin.

By: Beau Berman

41 comments

  • ANOTHERBOB

    In 1956 there were still 26 states that practiced compulsory sterilization programs. Thankfully our government knows what’s best for us whether we like it or not.

  • bob

    Do children have a right to commit suicide? Do parents have a right to “support” that decision?

    I’m a 30 year survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Without radiation or chemotherapy the disease is 100% uniformly fatal. It’s a more certain death than a shotgun to the head. With treatment my chance of a cure was about 70% back in the early 1980s, and is much better today. So tell me she’s not committing suicide.

    If she was making a principled choice, base on religious convictions, I’d hold my hose and support her……but she’d die. Guaranteed. But she’s not. She’s making a CHILDISH objection based on not wanting to “lose her hair”, and being afraid of “possible infertility.” That is irrational.

    The reason we don’t allow children to make decisions like this is that they don’t understand the implications. A girl who would choose certain death by slow torture over having wear a baseball cap for a few months is clearly a CHILD. Or insane. One or the other.

    If she felt bad because she was chubby, or was having a bad hair day, and requested a pistol to shoot herself would you folks be supporting her? Would you encourage her parents to give her one? Would you be upset if “the government” stepped in and said “no”? Because that’s exactly what’s happening here.

    Her only alternative, if she wants to live, is radiation. When I was treated, radiation was in vogue. It has fewer long term side effects. But the cure rate is a little lower. I WOULD support a choice to do radiation instead, based on a desire to preserve future fertility. Wanting to have a family is a powerful human drive, and a legitimate argument. So trade chemo for radiation. But to refuse treatment altogether for a future family you can’t have when you’re DEAD makes no sense at all. This girl is doomed to a horrific death. Give her a year and she’s going to be much less happy with her choice.

    • John

      Come back to planet earth your comment is not even close to reality. How is this suicide? She’s not taking her life. If she got this illness 100 years ago would you also classify it as suicide? Of course not it would have been a natural death! Time doesn’t change the definition of suicide? At best, everybody on planet earth is going to die a natural death someday they only other alternative to that is being murdered or actually committing suicide. All the medicine in the world is not going to stop you from dying. You survived Hodgkin’s Lymphoma congratualations you’re still going to die someday. I guess people who refuse the flu shot are commiting suicide if they die from the flu. Get real.

      • bob

        Therefore, lying on the tracks when you know a train is coming is not suicide. You aren’t killing yourself. You’re letting the train do it.

        Jumping off a talk building isn’t suicide. You’re not killing yourself. The sidewalk is.

      • bob

        Letting a disease progress that has a 0% survival rate, instead of choosing treatment that gives you an approximately 80% to 90% chance of survival, is suicide. Yes. That’s exactly what it is.

        Your comment about “100 years ago” is illogical and irrelevant. But my logic would have applied just as well a century ago, when there WERE a few diseases that were highly curable, yet usually fatal if untreated. Choosing to avoid treatment would have been suicidal.

        It’s obviously not suicide to accept the inevitable. Duh. Why would you even make such a comment?

      • Joe

        Bob obviously 1) has reading comprehension issues and 2) doesnt understand what rights are. They were going for a second opinion. The governement does not have the right to force anyone to do anything if they are not breaking the law. I hope every person involved in this is (CPS, the Drs, and idiots who think like Bob) are physically forced by others to do painful things they do not want to do. They need to suffer as this family has, to become educated.

      • Joel

        Strange to see that dieing of natural causes is now being considered suicide. Last I checked, being hit by a train is not a natural cause of death.

    • Sheriti Crowther

      Read the whole story. They DO NOT KNOW for a fact she has cancer. They did not let her get a second opinion. Just jumped in and made the decision for her just in case she does have it. If she DOES have it and refused something that would save her life then yeah a little crazy but still her choice. She is 17 not 12 able to decide some things on her own. The whole thing if she is refusing for religious reasons it is ok is absurd. You should be able to decide for what ever not just religious reasons. So if she does have cancer and she says sorry my beliefs do not allow chemo then that is fine? The story is not about letting your 14 year old daughter who is having a bad hair day blow her brains out. It is about taking someones rights away because they feel they know best,and not giving her the right to get a second opinion.

      • bob

        Apparently your tinfoil hat is getting in the way of facts. Diagnosing Hodgkin’s Disease is not difficult. Or inaccurate. They know she has cancer.

        There is no thing in the story to suggest otherwise. Quit making things up. You have no clue what you’re talking about. I do.

      • Tiffany

        @Bob this is copied from the story above, tenth paragraph down, Fortin said it wasn’t until September that doctors at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center (CCMC) ran a biopsy and said Cassandra likely had Hodgkin lymphoma.
        Fortin said Cassandra wanted to seek a second opinion, so she pulled her daughter’s records to bring to another hospital.
        They said it is likely, and we all have the right to seek a second opinion, that right was taken away because the hospital said it was neglect to seek a second opinion and be sure they were correctly treating what she has. Now, she is now forced to get chemo and be away from her mother. That is not right. What if the hospital is wrong with what they think may be the issue and now she received harmful chemo for no reason?
        Doctors cannot force treatment on you, whenever certain procedures are done you need to sign informed consent forms to be aware of the risks and it sounds like her mother never did that because they said it was neglect for her to seek other help so. The state took custody and allowed this to be done to a girl who clearly wants to seek help elsewhere.

    • rude mofos all over the place

      Maybe you shouldn’t assume Cassandra is extremely vain and doesn’t want to do it just because her hair will fall out? Maybe thats part of it, maybe there’s other reasons she wanted not to do chemo. That is extremely rude and distasteful to assume she’s vain solely on the fact that she’s a teenage girl.

      • bob

        I’m basing my comments on what the story says.

        Without treatment she will die. With it she will probably survive.

        Period.

    • Paul

      I get irate when I read this!!! I tell ya if it was my family member I would of leveled half of connecticut by now.
      As Americans we have rights don’t we? As a 17 year old she can kill a baby but not decide to take care of her cancer the natural way. Let’s call this what it really is. Uneducated worthless people throwing there uneducated worthless opinion on a 17 year old girl who is really much smarter than any of the doctors, lawyers or judges will ever be. Ill be praying for this family because that’s really all I can do but people have to understand at some point government has to STOP!!!

    • Pamben

      Who is saying anything about “suicide”……..we are talking about the right to examine our options. Are you really comfortable with losing those rights!!!!

  • Chris

    Reminds me of the Parker Jensen case here in Utah a few years back, from what I understand he did not do the treatment and in alive and well today. If people can refuse blood donations do to religious convictions, why can’t this 17 year old and mom decide what they want? I have had friends die not from the cancer but the Chemo. It should be a person’s choice. Depending on my outcome i would rather die from the cancer than suffer the effects of Chemo.

    • bob

      Parker DID undergo surgery, which they said would PROBABLY take care of it. They wanted to do further treatment to hedge their bets. His family chose to take their chances. They got lucky. Bu to suggest that he “didn’t get treatment” is a flagrant lie. He did. That’s why he’s alive.

      This girl’s cancer WILL kill her without treatment, just like Parker Jensen’s would have.

  • Paula Ferree

    this is pure Nazi esque medical terrorism!! an Orwellian nightmare. do NOT allow your children into the medical system. any “symptoms ” should be dealt with by a naturopathic physician.www.naturopathic.org/..

    • bob

      Point to ONE legitimately diagnosed case of Hodgkin’s Disease that was cured using the methods you suggest. Let us see the peer-reviewed literature.

      Until then you’re a liar and a quack.

  • stacy

    This is a prime example of states deciding how we as people are going to live.if she didn’t want treatment it should be the parents choice to decide to make her or not

      • Virgial Ginn

        @Bob, Isnt nice that the world has you to decide what they must do for their own good. I suppose there is not need for freedom and rights, we should all just do exactly what Bob tells us /sarcasm off

        whatever you think, a person does have the right to refuse medical treatment. Even if the all knowing Bob says it will cause them to die.

      • Trish Ramirez

        Everyone dies, Bob, everyone. Even you. Giving someone a gun to kill themselves is far different than allowing nature to take its course. We can’t cheat death, as much as many would like to, and some people are no comfortable with the side effects and repercussions of trying to do so.

        Who are you to dictate medical treatment or lack thereof to a stranger – let alone tell someone that there is some kind of shame in death?

  • bob

    “Fortin said her daughter was perfectly healthy until May, when Cassandra noticed her neck was swollen. She spent the summer months having blood-work done to determine the problem. Despite test after test, Fortin said doctors could figure out what was wrong.

    Fortin said it wasn’t until September that doctors at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center (CCMC) ran a biopsy and said Cassandra likely had Hodgkin lymphoma.”

    Yep. EXACTLY what I went through. it’s sad. Like I was, she’s at an early enough stage that blood tests show nothing wrong. It takes a biopsy. She has Hodgkin’s Disease…..and at that stage her prognosis is excellent, with treatment.

    She HAS CANCER, people. Just because it’s not bad enough to affect blood tests doesn’t change that fact. It will get that bad. It will kill her. Horribly.

    Children don’t get to make decisions like this. And parents don’t get to choose to kill their children. What is the matter with you people? She’s a PERSON, not a stuffed animal. She’s not a belonging. She’s not mere chattel. You don’t get to do as you please with your children. My God.

    • Shawna

      She is 17 almost 18 by 18 she will be in charge of herself. If she chooses not to go through with chemo who are we to judge we aren’t in her position that is her body not yours or theirs, hers. It’s her choice her life.

    • Trish Ramirez

      So you don’t get to choose for your children and they don’t get to choose for themselves – who gets to choose? You pretend to be a conservative for small government, but you have no problem with the government forcing potentially deadly medical treatment on a child who doesn’t want it, with no guarantee that it will save or even prolong her life.

      You also pretend to believe in a gawd, yet you believe parents should hand their children over to the government for the government’s sponsored scientific medical treatment.

      You’re a class A hypocrite, Bob. All you want to do is run other people’s lives. The government needs to back off and leave this girl and her family alone.

      Either we’re free or we’re not.

  • Shawna

    That poor girl she is almost 18 people the doctors/state CANNOT do that the girl gets to choose what happens to her body no one should be allowed to say what she will put in her body and what she won’t. They need to let her be! Grandma went through it and I understand why the girl doesn’t want to go through chemo, I wouldn’t. Sure everyone is entitled to their own opinion but no one should judge that girl on what she wants and make her do what she doesn’t want to do. Period.

  • Jen

    Anyone who is daft enough to believe that a) the government should have power to tell us what type of health care choices we should make, and b) that chemotherapy is the only option, needs to take their blinders off. A great start to learn about healthcare, the government, and the history of cancer treatment is “Politics in Healing” by Daniel Haley. We cannot just roll over and allow the government to make choices for us. We are free to make our own choices no matter what the consequences. The fact that this girl has been practically kidnapped and tied down to receive a treatment she does not want, is horrific. It could be any one of us next. I truly hope the courts decide quickly and fairly.

  • BeatrixKiddo

    Bob, my Dad was diagnosed with this same cancer and underwent grueling chemotherapy and passed away regardless of all the painfull and sickening treatments he received, I bet he wishes now that time was better spent with friends and family, that treatment worked for you but it’s not a custom made solution for all people

  • BeatrixKiddo

    Separating Mother & Daughter during a time like this is cruel to say the least, you may not agree with their choices but that’s just it, they should be allowed choices, you don’t have to like it, but rights are afforded to everyone. What you choose health wise may sound unappealing to others and vise versa but forcing anyone to do something against their own free will is maddening

  • Trish Ramirez

    Are we or are we not free, sovereign citizens of this nation?? If we are free, we are free to make our own medical decisions without the interference of the government. I have a daughter the same age, I would never force her to submit to chemo against her will. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and the damage it does to the rest of the cells in the body can cause innumerable problems down the road. This 17 year old is months away from adulthood, her mother is respecting her decision, as this is a treatment that will impact the rest of her life. All this demonstrates is that we are all the government’s property.

    Sickening state of affairs.

  • Nathan2B

    I have been following this story since I first read it. While I do agree that Chemo is the best course of action for her survival. I am whole heartedly against the state stepping in and taking their choice of getting a Second Opinion away from them. It was a Doctor that called the state on this Family, I am sure there was a lack of communication on both sides of the fence. My Mother had Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and it was hard to see her go through it, the sad thing that we weren’t told until after my mom had completed Chemo was if you have the Genetic disposition for Alzheimer’s or Dementia Chemo Drastically speeds up the development of the symptoms. Doctors are not all important and often can show a lack of judgment, I have met more than a few Doctors that don’t like it when people ask if they can get a Second Opinion. This girl has been put through enough, with Chemo and Cancer her mother is her soul source of support both Emotionally and Physically they should not be separated any longer

  • jen

    This is inexcusable on every level. This child is not neglected or abused. No one has the right to step in. When we allow government dictatorship to become normal than there is no free America left. This is nothing more than our basic rights being taken away.

  • Tiff

    Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is one of the most treatable cancers- it’s not late-term breast cancer or an inoperable brain tumor. It currently has an 85-95% survival rate with chemotherapy. Without it, this girl will die.

    Based off what I’ve read in other articles (and boy, was this article given a “spin”), the mother is a bit of a nut who doesn’t trust doctors and has had a problem with them even before her daughter’s diagnosis. The doctor(s) that called DCF were concerned that the mother’s anti- chemotherapy ideas were influencing her daughter who was afraid to defy her. Contrary to what is said in this article, the mother IS allowed to see her daughter during face to face visits.

    That being said, I don’t believe the state should be stepping in. The girl’s choice and her mother’s choice is a monumentally stupid one that will cost them her life. But there are so many people with this type of cancer that would LOVE a chance at treatment. This is a case of Darwinism at its best.

  • SCOTT

    If this girl doesn’t get her treatment she WILL die, but if she gets chemotherapy treatments there is a 80%-90% chance that she survives her cancer..I don’t think she should be forced into this but the stupidity of her and her mother is outrageous.

  • SP

    Parker Jensen never had cancer. His family just wanted a second opinion, just like this girl’s parents, and they threatened to take him away. It’s not neglect to get a second opinion, or to get alternative treatment. Not every one can take chemo. It’s neglect if you do nothing.

  • keith

    So now refusing chemo for cancer is suicide? Whats wrong with refusing treatment based soley on the right to choose
    The rate of sucess is at 80 to 90 percent leaving a 10 to 20 % chance that the chemo may not help unless you could give me a GURANTEE THAT THE CHEMO WILL WIPE AWAY ALL THE CANCER AND LEAVE ME AS AS NEW THEN WHY SHOULD I OR ANYONE TAKE THAT GAMBLE, BECAUSE A DOCTOR FEELS ITS BEST FOR ME? HELL NO!
    Do the people involved know that the emotional upset pulling this girl from her mother and taking over her life can contribute to her illness? everyone knows that cancer patients should live as stress free as possible and should have the love and support of their family apparently chaining this girl to a hospital forcing her to be without her family and telling her your going to have this poison pumped into you whether you want it or not is the more humane way to do things! my god i am disgusted by this story! The rights of the people no longer exist welcome to the new and improved america one where your rights as a human being are overshadowed by the rule of your government! AT ANY COST!

  • keith

    CAN IT BE PROVED WITHOUT A DOUBT A 100 % GURANTEE THAT CHEMO TREATMENT WILL SAVE THIS YOUNG PERSONS LIFE? NO! WE ONLY HAVE PERCENTAGES TO GUIDE US ON THE ABILITY OF THIS COURSE OF ACTION FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT. WE NEED TO REMEMBER THAT EVERY BODY RESPONDS DIFFERENTLY AND THAT IT IS OUR GOD GIVEN RIGHT TO DECIDE WHAT WE PUT INTO OUR BODIES NOBODY SHOULD BE ABLE TO TELL ANOTHER HUMAN BEING THAT THEY MUST INGEST POISON IN ORDER TO CURE THEM OF ANOTHER POISON
    CANCER IS A BIG MONEY GENERATOR IN THIS COUNTRY AND ALTHOUGH WE THINK WE HAVE MADE GREAT STRIDES IN ITS CURE WE HAVENT EVEN TOUCHED THE SURFACE, THE GOVERNMENT DOESNT WANT US TO SEEK ‘ALTERNATIVE ‘ MEDICATION /TREATMENTS FOR TO DO SO WOULD TAKE FAR TOO MUCH MONEY AWAY FROM THE US HEALTHCARE SYSTEM WHICH IS A HUGELY PROFITABLE BUSINESS!
    ANYONE WHO HAS EXPERIENCED THEMSELVES OR A LOVED ONES STRUGGLE WITH CANCER AND HAS WATCHED WHAT CHEMO DOES TO THE HUMAN BODY ONLY FOR THE PERSON TO LOOSE THE BATTLE CAN HONESTLY ARGUE THE VALIDITY OF MANDATORY CHEMO OR THE RIGHT TO SEEK AN ALTERNATIVE COURSE OF TREATMENT.
    I MYSELF EXPERIENCED A LOVED ONES STRUGGLE MY MOTHER NEVER CEASED TO SAY HOW POINTLESS GOING THROUGH CHEMO WAS FOR HER? OFTEN SHE STATED THAT HER QUALITY IF LIFE WAS HORRIBLE BUT SHE KEPT WITH IT BECAUSE SHE DIDNT WANT TO DIE AND HAD NO IDEA WHAT ELSE TO DO SO SHE JUST TRUSTED THE DOCTORS TRUSTED THAT THE CHEMO MIGHT JUST CURE HER BY SOME CHANCES REALLY ALL IT DID WAS SHRINK THE TUMOR A TINHBIT AT A TIME BUT EVENTUALLY THE TUMOR HAD ITS WAY AND STOPPED SHRINKING MEANWHILE SHE DESOERATELY HUNG ON HER HAIR FALLING OUT SKIN TURNING GREY SKIN PEELING AND FLAKING HER JAW GOING SLACKTO WHERE IT WOULD NOT STAY CLOSED SHE SHRANK FROM 155 POUNDS DOWN TO 75 POUNDS SHE LOOKED AT LEAST 20 YEARS OLDER THEN HER 63 YEARS A COMMENT MADE BY AN E.R DOCTOR HER VOICE CHANGED SHE CONFUSED HER WORDS GREW DIZZY THREW UP CONSTANTLY HAD a HEARTATTACK FORGOT HER PURPOSE IN THE WORLD AMONG OTHER THINGS. THE LOOK IN HER EYES STILL HAUNTS ME SHE WOULD LOOK!AT ME HELPLESSLY AS IF TO SAY WHY ME?
    I AM CRYING AS I WRITE THIS BECAUSE OF ALL THINGS IN MY LIFE THIS WAS AND STILL IS THE MOST HEART WRENCHING THINGS I HAVE EVER FELT OR SEEN.
    SO YES I SEE WITH THIS GIRL AND HER MOTHER ARE UP AGAINST I DONT BLAME THEM FOR WANTING TO TRY OTHER METHODS OF HEALING.
    IF HAD KNOWMN THEN WHAT I KNOW NOW I WOULD HAVE SOUGHT FOR HER A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO A CURE.

  • Pamben

    To me this is just plain wrong in every way, shape and form. There are other methods of treating cancer like for example high doses of vitamin C for one and it is scary when the right to make our own decisions has been taken away from us not to mention that they locked her in a room and her mother is not allowed to see her. If I was her mother, I would sue. This is just plain crazy and I hope that people will boycott ever going to the doctor who is seeing this as “neglect”. Funny that DCF won’t step in when a child is being bullied at school to the point where they kill themselves and they stand in the way of an investigation when the five year old boy was killed by his cousin. If I was in the position of this mother, I would have taken my daughter and left the country because when we lose the right to make our own decisions then we might as well stop saying “the pledge of allegiance” as there is no more “freedom” and call ourselves a communist country.

  • Cindy

    The court made a horrible devision. No one should be forced to have toxic chemicals pumped into their body. The multi million dollar cancer industry has far too much power.

  • Cindy

    What a horrible decision! The multi million dollar pharma/cancer industry wins again. They take away the rights of people that want to promote alternatives to their poison and burn approach to healing cancer, and now are tearing apart a family and forcing that poor young lady to have toxic chemicals pumped into her body against her wishes. Shame, shame, shame on them all!

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