Teens shouldn’t decide alone

by Keelia Moeller

A 17-year-old girl from Connecticut was recently forced into chemotherapy against her will. The girl, identified only as Cassandra, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Doctors caught the disease in its early stages, and with chemotherapy, they believe that Cassandra will have an 85 percent chance of survival. Without it, she will only have two years to live.

Upon her diagnosis, Cassandra immediately made the decision to avoid chemotherapy at all costs. Her main reason for wanting to avoid chemotherapy was her belief that the chemicals and toxins involved would harm her body just as much, if not more than, her cancer.

Against her wishes, Cassandra is currently in Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford and is still receiving unwanted treatment.

Cassandra’s reaction is understandable — she is a 17-year-old girl who has just been faced with a life-or-death decision. It’s only natural for her to shy away from immediate pain.

Whether her reaction is mature and logical, however, is questionable.

The question is: Can a 17-year-old maturely make a life-altering medical decision about their body?

To me, the simple answer is no. Cassandra may believe her decision to be rational, but it is undeniably a decision made out of pure fear. She fears the side effects of chemotherapy — hair loss, nausea, pain and fertility changes — but there is one main side effect of skipping treatment, and that is death.

Allowing teenagers to make life-or-death decisions — where high-strung emotions can result in unpredictable actions — is unwise. The fact is that this decision needs to be made by an objective adult who understands the situation. Cassandra does not meet that criterion, and thus, the decision cannot be left only to her.