IN RE CASSANDRA C., SC 19426
Child Protection Session at Middletown
Juveniles; Child Protection; Whether DCF Properly Authorized to Make Medical Decisions on Child’s Behalf; Whether Seventeen Year Old must Receive Medical Treatment Against her Wishes. Seventeen year old Cassandra was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma in September, 2014. While the recommended treatment for the disease includes chemotherapy, Cassandra decided that she did not want to undergo treatment, and Cassandra’s mother supports her in that decision. In November, 2014, the trial court granted the petition of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) for an order of temporary custody of Cassandra and directed her mother to provide and cooperate with medical care under DCF’s supervision and as recommended by her doctors. While Cassandra and her mother initially complied with that order, with Cassandra receiving her first two chemotherapy treatments in November, Cassandra subsequently ran away from home to avoid further treatment. When Cassandra returned, she refused treatment for her disease. Following a hearing at which Cassandra’s doctors testified, the trial court ordered that she be removed from her home and that she remain in DCF’s care and custody. The court also authorized DCF to make all necessary medical decisions on Cassandra’s behalf. Cassandra and her mother appeal. They claim that, absent any finding that they are incompetent, the trial court violated their constitutional rights in allowing DCF to substitute its judgment for theirs and in permitting DCF to force Cassandra to receive medical treatment against her will. They also claim that Connecticut should recognize the “mature minor doctrine” and require that, before a court can force a seventeen year old to receive medical treatment against her will, it must first determine that the minor is not sufficiently mature to be legally allowed to make medical decisions for herself. Finally, Cassandra and her mother claim that Connecticut’s common law and public policy dictate that DCF cannot force Cassandra to receive medical treatment over her knowing and informed objection and over the knowing and informed objection of her mother.