Medical Choices: When the State Gets Involved

January 19, 2015 Abuse and Neglect Attorney

How Far is Too Far?

The United States Constitution protects a parent’s right to parent their own children, making the decisions they feel are best and raising their children with whatever beliefs and practices they consider to be the best for their family. But there are an increasing number of instances where these rights are no longer honored, and local governments are stepping in to decide for parents what is best for their children including making medical choices.

While this most recent example actually takes place in Connecticut, it displays an alarming reality that is becoming more and more common across the country.

Jackie Fortin, the mother of 17-year-old Cassandra Fortin, has recently come face-to-face with this tragic reality, and is now caught up in a terrible battle to defend her right to parent her own child.

Cassandra has cancer. As a mature young woman, just a few months away from her eighteenth birthday, she and her mother discussed the options available to them, and considered all of the information provided by the doctors. But Jackie believed that the choice ultimately lay with her daughter, whom she says is old enough and mature enough to make this choice regarding her own body by herself.

Cassandra decided to forgo chemotherapy, and her mother respected her choice. However, the doctors at the hospital where she was diagnosed, felt that this was neglectful of Jackie. They reported the family’s decision to the Connecticut equivalent of CPS.

In a unanimous ruling, the Connecticut Supreme Court decided that the state was entirely within its rights to take the young woman out of her mother’s custody, assign her to the care of the state, and force her to undergo continued chemotherapy.

Cassandra, who has Hodgkin lymphoma, is now living permanently at a local hospital, where the state has determined that she will receive her chemotherapy against her and her mother’s wishes. Cassandra’s attorney has stated that he intends to argue that the state invoke the “mature minor doctrine”, which would allow Cassandra to prove that, despite her age, she is mature enough to decide for herself.

But until a ruling is made, which could take months, this mother and daughter have been torn apart during a critically difficult time in their family’s life. And they are struggling to accept the fact that they are not allowed to make medical choices for themselves.

Just like the ongoing persecution of Maryanne Godboldo here in Michigan, the Detroit mother who refused to allow CPS to medicate her child with a highly dangerous and potentially deadly pharmaceutical, parents are being denied the rights to make medical decisions for their children across the country.

When the choices they make don’t line up with what the state decides is right, then the state gets involved, removing the parent’s rights and enforcing their own decisions. Sometimes, this may be warranted, but more often it is not. How far is too far? And when is enough, enough?