A Connecticut teen's fight to refuse chemotherapy for Hodgkin's lymphoma — and a court's decision to force it on her anyway — has not raised much concern among medical ethicists.
Some, in fact, support the court ruling, according to MedPage Today
. They give two primary reasons: the patient is a child and the treatment is effective.
"Part of my reason [for supporting the court's decision] is that the intervention is so successful — specifically for early intervention with a young person, it really works very, very well," said Art Caplan, director of the medical ethics division at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. "And the alternative of nontreatment is certain death. If it was more experimental, I might give her a little more leeway."
Rosamond Rhodes, director of bioethics education at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, agreed.
"When a treatment offers an 80 percent to 85 percent chance of a cure, while the consequence of refusing treatment is certain death from a terrible disease, the great chance of a very significant benefit from treatment far outweighs any other consideration," she said.
"A few weeks of imprisonment in a hospital with forced treatment is a small price to pay for a life with a long future. Cassandra's mother's belief in alternative medicine is irrational and does not deserve any respect in such circumstances."
The teenager, a 17-year-old identified only as "Cassandra C.," was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma last September. Cassandra missed several appointments over the next few months. Cassandra's mother also refused to let her daughter get a PET scan and interrupted a needle biopsy.
Eventually Cassandra was placed in a foster home and agreed to undergo chemotherapy, but ran away after two appointments. She later ended up back in the hospital, and has been strapped to her bed and sedated for her chemotherapy sessions.
On January 8, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the state had a right to make the teen undergo the therapy. Some states have a "mature minor exception" that gives some minors the ability to make their own medical decisions. Connecticut does not have such a provision.
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