“No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body.”
There is a young woman in Connecticut who is being literally detained and forced to undergo chemotherapy treatments against her wishes and without the consent of her mother. 17-year old Cassandra C. is being held at a Connecticut hospital with a guard at her door to ensure that she does not run away. She was strapped down and sedated so doctors could install a port into her body to administer the chemotherapy she has eloquently and repeatedly stated she does not want. She has no rights to determine what happens to her body, and seemingly no recourse to challenge the Connecticut Supreme Court ruling that has essentially turned her into a medical prisoner of the state.
There is nothing about this that I find even a little acceptable.
To begin, this is the logical end-result of our society’s hubris in thinking that we have the right to tell people – particularly women – what they can and cannot do with their bodies. If we do not have ownership over our own bodies, if someone else gets to decide what happens to our physical being without our consent, we are literally slaves; we do not belong to ourselves, but to someone who has the power to control us.
Yes, Cassandra is 17 and, as such, is technically a minor. Minors do not have legal autonomy over their bodies per se; parents or legal guardians are expected to be stewards of young people and to ensure that they are safe, well cared-for, and adequately nourished. In this particular case, Cassandra and her mother are in agreement. This case didn’t come about as the result of a scared, ignorant, or belligerent teenager refusing treatment out of spite or fear or, seemingly, out of a religious or anti-science fundamentalism; Cassandra has very clearly stated that it is the quality, not the quantity of her life that matters to her, and she has decided – with a clear head, if the news reports about the case are accurate – that she would rather enjoy the life she has left without the side-effects and possible complications of chemotherapy.
This young woman reaches the age of majority in 9 months. Her forced chemotherapy is expected to end in 5. The moment she reaches 18, she will be allowed to deny any and all medical treatment and to disentangle herself from the interference, however well-intentioned it may be, of the Division of Child and Family Services. What I want to know is this; what magically changes on her 18th birthday that would render her any more capable of making this important decision than she is right now, and who’s going to compensate her for the five months or more that she has spent as a literal prisoner in the hospital (being tortured, it could be argued; I’ve seen firsthand what chemotherapy can do to a person, and it can qualify as torture)?
I HATE that this is happening. I understand that the State has an interest in protecting young peoples’ interests and ensuring their safety, but literally imprisoning a lucid, articulate young person and forcing them into treatment she does not wish is a precedent that we cannot allow.