Playing God in Connecticut
Swarms of government agents descended on the house, quickly identifying the target. Physically removing her from the premises, they placed her in custody, warning her accomplice, at the risk of harsh consequences, not to interfere. And in an instant, they were gone, whisking the "perp" to a location where she was placed under 24/7 guard. The authorities then strapped down her wrists and ankles, sedated her, surgically implanted a port in her chest, and began forcibly injecting her with potent chemicals. Her cooperation was now guaranteed — whether she liked it or not.
Was this the work of heroic CIA operatives apprehending a terrorist, into whom they injected truth serum to gain valuable intelligence?
Not even close.
Appallingly, it was the work of government officials in The People’s Republic of Connecticut. And the target? Not a foreign operative, but a 17½-year-old girl with cancer, who, in agreement with her single-parent mother, had opted for alternative remedies to chemotherapy.
In one of the most egregious acts of Big Brother strong-arming citizens under the warped rationale that it knows best, the rights of the individual were eviscerated in favor of a nanny-state government and arrogant doctors. Cassandra C., as the patient is known, had her input and that of her mother summarily dismissed, and was forced to undergo chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Virtually cut off from the outside world (her cellphone and hospital phone were removed), and with her mother being given limited visitation access (the state placed Cassandra under the legal control of the Department of Children and Families), Cassandra has been undergoing her ordeal alone. Chemotherapy and cancer are hellacious enough, but to make someone endure it by themselves, against their will? Is this America? Where is the justice?
There apparently isn’t any, as Connecticut’s Supreme Court ruled that Cassandra’s rights were not violated.
The real sickness is heavy-handed governmental intrusion — a cancer eating away at the very fabric of American rights. Where will the overreach end? Sadly, it won’t, as the Connecticut case is simply the latest example of what is becoming government’s standard operating procedure: "It’s our way, or our way; take your pick."
1.) First and foremost, this case isn’t about cancer or chemotherapy. Infinitely more important, it’s about the individual, not the government, being the best entity to determine what is best for him or her, especially when that decision affects that individual only. Naturally, this type of case invokes powerful emotions, but it is critical that we don’t allow the government to run roughshod over our rights, no matter how noble or well-intentioned the authorities may be.
Now to the specifics:
2.) Doctors claim the chemo offers a high rate of success. No argument there. But since nothing is guaranteed, what happens if Cassandra happens to be the one out of five who don’t respond to the chemo? By then, will it be too late to try alternative, homeopathic remedies?
Whether or not the chemo works, what happens if she incurs permanent side effects, since it’s well-documented that chemo can have wicked consequences? (Chemo, is, by definition, toxic). Many of chemo’s side effects are mitigated or nonexistent when using alternative therapies.
And what happens if, God forbid, Cassandra dies of infection or the chemo itself? Who will take "responsibility?" The doctors who reported her and her mother to authorities? The government bureaucrats who took her away? The Supreme Court justices? And what does "responsibility" even mean? "Sorry, Mom. We rolled the dice. You lost. And so did Cassandra. It happens." No amount of compensation, if that would even be a consideration, can bring back a child. And Cassandra’s mother would forever wonder if an alternative therapy would’ve saved her only child’s life.
3.) Who are doctors and government officials to tell us "with certainty" what works, and what doesn’t? Many people swear by homeopathic remedies using herbs and botanicals; since virtually all medications are derived from natural substances, who is to say they aren’t effective?
4.) Caution: let’s not allow the following point to become a lightning rod that pulls us off-topic:
How can the state of Connecticut possibly reconcile the fact that it won’t allow a girl seven months removed from her 18th birthday (at which point she will be able to leave the hospital as a legal adult) to choose her own medicinal path, yet it remains one of the only states that still allow a minor, at virtually any age, to march into an abortion clinic and get an often dangerous procedure without any parental notification, and without any judge’s consent?
It makes absolutely no difference where you stand on the abortion issue; the point is consistency. Or, more aptly, the appalling lack of it. The height of Connecticut’s hypocrisy is unprecedented and everybody, on all sides, should be outraged.
5.) This situation would be different if Cassandra was considerably younger, for obvious reasons. But since she is as capable of understanding her situation now as she will be in seven months, she should have been given the choice.
Additionally, if she and her mother disagreed on the chemo (or, in other cases, if two parents disagreed), that would justifiably change the entire dynamic. Lastly, if the mother had been shown to have financial motive for foregoing her daughter’s chemo (huge life insurance policy) or had a history of abuse, this would also factor into backing the government’s decision. But none are applicable, making the state’s actions all the more deplorable.
Bottom line: Without proof of negative intent from Cassandra’s mother, the government should not have intervened.
6.) Stupidity abounds, but you can’t legislate intelligence, nor should the government mandate actions to make someone a "healthy and happy adult," as is the stated government objective for Cassandra. No matter how crazy or irresponsible we think an action to be (and that in no way implies Cassandra and her mother were irresponsible or made the wrong decision), it’s no one’s business what another rational adult does, so long as that action doesn’t adversely affect anyone else.
"I didn’t want my body to be opened. I didn’t want to be violated in that way." So said Apple mastermind Steve Jobs in explaining his decision to avoid chemo. To many, he made the wrong choice, but that was his, and only his, to make. We can regret it, and lament what might have been, but we must accept that the responsibility for his decision rested with Steve Jobs alone.
Pity we won’t afford that same right to Cassandra. And God help us for playing God.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. His print column appears every Wednesday. He can be reached at [email protected]