Should patients be forced to undergo necessary treatments they do not want to receive?

by John Snow on February 2, 2015 - 5:57pm

Chemotherapy may probably be one of the most unpleasant treatments to undergo in order to heal from a disease, and it is unfortunately often the only way to go through various forms of cancer alive. However, in a ''The New York Times'' article published on January 9th, a Connecticut 17 years old girl named Cassandra C. refused to receive anymore chemotherapy treatments to treat her Hodgkin's lymphoma because she could not endure it no more, emotionally and physically. The chemotherapy treatment guarantees a 85% chance of survival if done correctly, but both Cassandra and her mother were fighting for her right to choose to take the treatment. The whole situation went to court over whether or not the child was mature enough to make such an important choice, but unfortunately for Cassandra, Connecticut's supreme court decided that she was not. The adolescent was then forced to receive chemo treatments against her will, sedated and strapped to her bed to avoid any clearance attempts. This debate brings up dilemmas such as the ethical morality of forcing a child to receive treatments with harsh secondary effects against her will. Also, we may ask if it is right to let an under aged make such a big choice without being fully aware of its fatal consequences in the future.


This is a very controversial topic in today's society. Good for you for wanting to write about this topic, as it is not an easy one to approach. However, you might want to re-read your summary before submitting next time. Certain sentences could be rearranged in order to make a little more sense.

This article might be of interest for you: as it refers to the right to refuse treatment. It was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Good summary that goes to the point in a clear writing. The first sentence that presents the subject is interesting and the conflicting principles involved are well explained. This issue illustrates an ethical dilemma considering that the life of a teenager is at stake. I agree that this is a delicate situation that requires a serious debate.

This article could be interesting for you:

What initially led me to read your post was the subject matter that I find particularly interesting and touching since I know people that are experiencing similar problems. However, now that I read it, I think that your post explains a very complex subject in a simple and clear way. The reader may not know all the details of the story, but you did a good job at summarizing it while keeping it interesting. What you described is an ethical dilemma because it opposes two options that are morally acceptable. It is hard to determine which option is the best because conflicting principles apply : having the freedom of choice versus the necessity of doing all that is in our power to save one's life.

In the same vein, this post that I wrote also illustrates an ethical dilemma where principles of freedom and civil rights are conflicting with health matters. Feel free to read it and comment it.

Before reading this post, I had never put much thought to those who do not wish to undergoe treatments, I find this subject fascinating! I believe that this post approaches an important moral dilemma: self-ownership, in other words, the right to control one’s own body.

In the example brought up, Cassandra’s case, the dilemma stems from her young age. It is not clear whether it would be ethical to allow Cassandra to give up her battle against cancer, while avoiding the emotional and physical harm or whether to force her to endure the temporary pain in the hopes of saving her life.

Firstly, I believe there are two objective ways to analyse this situation. Evidently, one way to approach this difficult dilemma is how the Supreme Court of Conneticut did. They decided that Cassandra should give up her battle and forced her to continue chemotherapy in the hopes of saving her life. Secondly, on the other extreme end, the other way to approach this situation was to see it through the eyes of Cassandra. She was suffering, thus the Court could have granted her wish and allowed her to enjoy the rest of her life, no matter how long that would be.

Secondly, I believe that there is an extremely subjective way to analyse this situation. When dealing with a life or death dilemma, it is important to look at all influencing factors, such as age, diagnosis, severity, stage of the sickness, pain and many more. For example, a young girl fighting cancer at stage 4 who wishes to stop treatment should be granted her wish in my opinion. Stage 4 cancer is almost incurable. Therefore, instead of remembering her last days in a hospital undergoing treatment, she would be able to enjoy whatever time she has left.
In conclusion, I believe that all cases should be analysed using a subjective method. However, Cassandra’s case is difficult to comment on seeing as important influencing factors are missing (severity, stage of the cancer). Solely using the information provided, I agree with the decision that the Supreme Court made, because she is a young girl with her whole life ahead of her.

This is a very interesting post, as it sheds light on a moral dilemma that many people are faced with. Indeed, deciding whether someone should keep being treated or should stop treatments is not an easy choice. In order to consent to treatment, patients have to be mentally able to make a decision for themselves. According to the law, children of the age of 16 and older have the competency to consent to treatment. If the child is not considered legally capable of making his or her own decision, then it is the parents’ responsibility to do so. Therefore, making the decision to stop treatment should also follow the same principle. In this specific case, the girl in question and her mother wanted to end her chemotherapy treatments. The only way their wishes should have been ignored is if they were both deemed incompetent to make that choice. From a utilitarianism perspective, if the end goal of the girl was to stop suffering from her treatments, she should have been allowed to end that. However, using the utilitarianism principle from the Supreme Court’s point of view, their goal was to try to save her life. Considering that the girl’s chance of survival was pretty high was probably the factor that influenced the Court’s decision. It is nonetheless crucial not to consider the situation in a statistical manner only, as the girl was clearly suffering to the point that she did not believe that the treatments were worth it.

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