Teen Has Right to Refuse Treatment

The story of “Cassandra C.” hit the national spotlight in January, occupying mainstream news and blowing up social media.

Cassandra, a 17-year-old girl with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, was being forced to undergo chemotherapy by the State of Connecticut.

Chemo and radiation can give patients like her up to an 85 percent chance of survival. Sounds like good odds to most people. To Cassandra, the idea is dreadful.

She underwent two chemo treatments and wanted to stop. The pain, discomfort and other side effects were enough to make her want no more.

Cassandra failed to return to the hospital, which called Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families.

The state stripped her mother, Jackie Fortin, who has supported her wishes, of custodial rights due to “medical neglect.” Then it ordered Cassandra to resume chemo.

What? How can the government make such a decision for a human being?

Fortin and Cassandra’s lawyer, Josh Michtom, asked the courts to designate Cassandra as a “mature minor,” giving her control over her own medical decisions.

Here’s how the mature minor doctrine is presented by the informational website uslegal.com:

“(It is) a relatively new legal concept, and as of 2002, only a few states, such as Arkansas and Nevada, have enacted the doctrine into statute. In several other states, including Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Illinois, Maine and Massachusetts, state high courts have adopted the doctrine as law.”

In a Jan. 8 hearing, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled against Cassandra and upheld the state’s order that she must submit to chemo.

According to the American Medical Association website, this is AMA Policy on Provision of Life-Sustaining Medical Treatment:

“Patients have a right to participate in decisions about their medical care. This fundamental principle of medical ethics holds true for all types of medical treatments.  Patients can refuse treatments, even when such refusal is likely to result in death.”

The hospital, courts and Connecticut Department of Children and Families shouldn’t ignore this policy or the ethical reasoning behind it.  The AMA doesn’t like the idea of physician-assisted suicide, but it supports a person’s ability to refuse treatment and choose natural death.

Opinions on Cassandra’s situation range from empathetic to patronizing. One in particular was expressed by a nurse, Joann Carlson, in a Letter to the editor section of the Hartford Courant:

“At her tender age, Cassandra has not the knowledge nor the emotional maturity to realize what a gift life is,” Carlson wrote.

Cassandra is only eight months shy of 18. Carlson would never have said anything like this had an “adult” made the same decision.

Much of the media coverage on Cassandra’s case has implied that the teenager wanted to die rather than undergo chemo. That isn’t true. She and her mother were pursuing alternative treatments when the state intervened.

“What is the difference between the ages of 17 and 18?” has been a common question asked on social media.

The answer? Twelve months. That’s it. At 17, you can graduate from high school, enroll in college, live on your own and get married.

Cassandra really isn’t that different from Brittany Maynard, a 30-year-old California woman with terminal brain cancer.

Maynard chose to die before her disease killed her and moved to Washington, one of five states where physician-assisted suicide is legal.

Her case also was controversial. Some people celebrated her bravery while others called her a “coward.” All she sought was an end to the pain and death with dignity.

Cassandra wants nothing more than to make the same choice for herself. She has at least two years to change her mind before the Hodgkin’s would kill her.

She just wants to determine her own quality of life. One of the few quotes we have seen in the media from Cassandra expresses just that:

“Whether I live 17 years or 100 years should not be anyone’s choice but mine. How long is a person actually supposed to live, and why? Who determines that? I care about the quality of my life, not just the quantity.”

Cassandra will turn 18 in September.  What will stop her from ceasing chemo then if she hasn’t already finished her treatment?

Her feelings are not going to change overnight. If anything, they’re going to be strengthened, as her wishes are not being respected.

This column was a winner at the Missouri College Media Association in 2016 in the Columns category.


““Fifty Shades” Makes Abuse Seem OK”

The book “50 Shades of Grey” by E.L. James has too many fans, and it doesn’t make sense.

It romanticizes rape like it’s an OK part of a relationship. It makes emotional, physical and sexual abuse look attractive. It’s a horrible depiction of BDSM, which many people don’t understand.

The acronym is composed of three parts: Bondage and discipline (BD), dominance and submission (Ds) and sadism and masochism (SM).

Someone who identifies as BDSM is at least into one of these things, but not necessarily all.

There are many rules with BDSM. One is that sex is always consensual. In “50 Shades of Grey,” this is not the case.

In one scene, Ana is passed out drunk and Grey has sex with her. He turns up at her apartment uninvited later and makes a sexual advance. She tells him “No,” but he forces himself on her and even makes threats while raping her.

There is a secret in BDSM culture that many outsiders do not know. The “dominate” is not the one with all the power and control; it is actually the “submissive.” Turns out the Ds relationship is a fickle thing. It also takes years of building trust to work.

James slapped together something that sounded good in her head and called it what it what she wanted.

Then there were the few BD scenes in “50 Shade of Grey,” which weren’t too bad, until you got to the abuse. In theory, BD isn’t even about sex, though it does often lead to it with couples who are practicing.


Toward the end of the book, Grey beats Ana with a belt because she’s not really into being “punished.” He hits her six times, and he keeps going as she cries.

Never does Grey stop to ask if Ana is OK, like a dominate would upon hearing his partner cry. Especially if it was the first time he enforced pain in a session.

BD really is about the sensuality of restraint and trusting your partner to stop when a safe word is used. Grey fails at this.

Grey gives Ana a safe word, but she becomes so conditioned to accept abuse that she doesn’t use it. He punishes her for that, too.

It’s also bothersome that Ana starts the relationship as a virgin, so her first sexual encounters are abusive. She tries to escape, only to be roughed up some more.

Yeah, that’s really hot, ladies.

Grey takes full advantage of the fact that Ana is unaware of what she’s getting herself into, and that is unacceptable as well. It was manipulation on his part.

James openly admitted that “50 Shades of Grey” is a piece of fan fiction based on the “Twilight” characters Edward and Bella. It’s strange and twisted that it became a book.

James’ writing is so extreme and fanciful that it shows she did zero research. For example, it is unrealistic that Ana and Kate can afford living the way they do as college students.

The whole book was just a bad idea. On “The Today Show,” Dr. Drew Pinsky, a celebrity sex therapist, said the book was “horribly written” and “disturbing.”

Not only is the concept disturbing, the fact that James, and many other women, find it “hot” and want this kind of “relationship” is insane.

There weren’t “50 Shades of Grey,” there was one: An abusive man who had no idea what he wanted. This book has no depth. It’s just a rape fantasy that sold millions of copies.

Then came the movie, released on Valentine’s Day. The only way it was going to get an R-rating was if producers took out all the rape and abuse, which they did.

If the movie truly correlated with the book, it would have gotten the killer NC-17 rating and never survived the box office. It differs from the book so much that it is unrecognizable.

Conclusion: The movie “50 Shades of Grey” is probably worth more because it took out everything that was wrong with the book.

This column was a winner of the Missouri College Media Association Awards in 2016 in the Entertainment Reviews category.