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Conn. High Court Rules Against Teen Refusing Cancer Treatment

AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb

The Connecticut Supreme Court has rejected what’s called the mature minor doctrine. The doctrine holds that some minors are mature enough to make their own health care decisions. The ruling came on Thursday in the case of a 17-year-old girl, known in court documents as Cassandra C.

The high court ruled that the state of Connecticut is not violating Cassandra C’s rights by forcing her to undergo cancer chemotherapy that she does not want.

The ruling means that Connecticut is not joining six other states that have allowed minors the right to consent or refuse medical treatment, said John Thomas, a health law professor at Quinnipiac University.

This can only be changed by Connecticut lawmakers, he said.

“The General Assembly could revisit this doctrine and legislate a mature minor doctrine that could then govern the courts,” said Thomas.

“So it’s not done forever. But as far as the courts are concerned, this is a precedent. And from now on, people under the age of 18 will not have the ability to make their own decisions with respect to medical care,” he said.

In the court ruling, the justices did say Cassandra C will be free to make her own medical decisions when she turns 18 in September.

Cassandra C and her mother had argued that the mature minor doctrine gave her the right to make her own decisions about how to treat her Hodgkin's lymphoma, which she was diagnosed with in the fall.

Doctors said chemotherapy would give her an 85 percent chance of survival, but without it she could die.

Cassandra C is under state supervision and is receiving treatment at a hospital.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.
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