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4 Examples When Mature Minor Doctrine Was Denied

By    |   Friday, 10 July 2015 09:37 AM

While some courts and states have agreed that a "mature minor doctrine" exists within the law, none has said that a minor has an absolute, universal right to refuse medical care based on religious or other grounds.

Here are four cases in which courts sided with authorities and denied a young person's claim to a mature-minor right to withhold medical consent and decide for themselves on a course of treatment.

1. Cassandra Callender
In 2015, the Connecticut Supreme Court ordered Cassandra Callender, a 17-year-old cancer patient, to undergo chemotherapy treatment sought by the state's Department of Children and Families.

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Callender's lawyers, as well as her mother, had argued to no avail that the teen was entitled to refuse intravenous drugs she considered toxic under a mature-minor exception, the Hartford Courant reported.

The ruling against Callender drew criticism in part because the child welfare agency had also gotten the teen's mother declared unfit. The Economist editorialized that the state had "kidnapped" Callender and placed her in an impossible position by forcibly separating her from her mother.

2. Daniel Hauser
A Minnesota 13-year-old, Daniel Hauser, who shunned chemotherapy with his parents' approval was court ordered in 2009 to submit to the intravenous drugs to treat a potentially fatal blood cancer. The Hausers wanted to use only natural remedies, consistent with their membership in an American Indian religious group, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

3. Shannon Nixon
The churchgoing parents of a Pennsylvania teen who died of a diabetic condition were convicted of manslaughter in 1997 after they opted not to seek standard medical care.

The parents of 16-year-old Shannon Nixon argued that their daughter, once she fell ill, had made a considered decision to refuse treatment on religious grounds. But the state's Supreme Court rejected the mature-minor argument made posthumously on the girl's behalf and upheld the parents' conviction in 2000, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

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4. Phillip Malcolm
In 1990, a judge in Queens, New York decided that a local hospital could force 17-year-old Phillip Malcolm to undergo blood transfusions for anemia despite the teen's religious objection as a Jehovah's Witness.

Writing that he was "damned" no matter which way he ruled, Judge Herbert A. Posner rejected Malcolm's mature-minor claim — though not on principle. "While this court believes there is much merit to the 'mature minor' doctrine," Posner wrote, "I find that Phillip Malcolm is not a mature minor."

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While some courts and states have agreed that a mature minor doctrine exists within the law, none has said that a minor has an absolute, universal right to refuse medical care based on religious or other grounds.
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Friday, 10 July 2015 09:37 AM
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