Medical overreach: Are doctors forcing medical treatments against the will of patients?

Can a state force you to receive medical treatment?
Can a state force you to receive medical treatment?

Too often, we hear stories about medical neglect cases where patients do not receive enough care or there is an alleged failure of doctors and hospitals to meet their duty to treat patients to the best of their ability. Now consider the other side of the coin where doctors could be liable for over-treating patients and forcing them to undergo unwanted procedures and treatments. In recent news a 17-year-old teenager from Connecticut has been, “forcibly implanted with a port in her chest and has been ordered to accept chemotherapy against her will.[i]” As awareness increases, there may be more allegations of medical overreach with possible medical malpractice claims.

Can a state force you to receive medical treatment?

Cassandra Fortin is seventeen-years-old and she has Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer in the lymphatic system, part of her immune system. “In Hodgkin’s lymphoma, cells in the lymphatic system grow abnormally and may spread beyond the lymphatic system. As Hodgkin’s lymphoma progresses, it compromises your body’s ability to fight infection.[ii]

A combination of chemotherapy drugs are commonly used to treat Hodgkin’s lymphoma, they call the combinations regimens. The side effects of chemotherapy drugs[iii] are variable and many doctors prescribe medicines to control or reduce side effects like sickness and diarrhea. In addition to being sick the side effects of the regimens can also be a low blood cell count, sore mouth and ulcers, hair loss and thinning and feeling tired and run down. Cancer treatment is not a pleasant process.

Despite her refusal to participate in chemotherapy, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that, “The state did not violate Cassandra’s rights when it forced her to take chemotherapy treatments for her Hodgkin’s lymphoma.[iv]” Cassandra decided to refuse chemo because she “did not want to put poison[v]” in her body.

The decision for the court was whether under the Mature Minor Doctrine, Cassandra could “understand and appreciate” consequences of refusing treatment. The court found that she was not mature enough at age seventeen, and was not a mature minor for the purposes of refusing care in her case.[vi]

The State of Illinois recognizes the Mature Minor Exception.

“The Illinois Supreme Court has recognized a common law “mature minor doctrine,” pursuant to which a trial judge can adjudicate a minor mature enough to consent to or refuse medical treatment where the evidence is clear and convincing that the minor is mature enough to appreciate the consequences of her actions and to exercise the judgment of an adult.[vii]

If you or a family member have questions about treatments and the refusal thereof, or an issue regarding medical treatments arises, our attorneys can answer your questions about healthcare and the law.

Michael V. Favia & Associates are available to help and meet for client consultations with offices conveniently located in the Chicago Loop, Northwest side and suburbs so you can schedule a discrete meeting with an attorney at your convenience and discretion. For more about Michael V. Favia & Associates’ professional licensing work, please visit and feel free to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” the firm on Twitter.

[i] Inquisitr: Medical Overreach, Forcing Unwanted Treatments On Unwilling Patients, Jan 10, 2015.

[ii] May Clinic Diseases and Conditions: Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

[iii] Cancer Research UK: Chemotherapy drugs for Hodgkin lymphoma.

[iv] Inquisitr: Cassandra Fortin Can’t Say ‘No,’ Connecticut Supreme Court Allows State To Force Teen To Undergo Chemo, Jan 8, 2015.

[v] See HN iv.

[vi] See HN iv.

[vii] In re E.G., 133 Ill.2d 98 (Ill.1990).