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Judge: Cassandra C. Can't Go Home Amid Cancer Treatments

A Connecticut judge ruled Wednesday that a 17-year-old girl who initially refused chemo for a curable cancer must remain confined to a hospital.
/ Source: NBC News

A juvenile court judge in Connecticut has ruled that a 17-year-old girl who initially refused chemotherapy for a highly curable cancer must remain confined to a Hartford hospital, her lawyer said Wednesday.

Cassandra C., as she's listed in court documents, now says she's in "remission" and promises to complete her treatments. Last month, she asked a judge to let her go home and commute from her mother's residence for her final chemo rounds, set to finish in late April.

She's been in state custody since Dec. 9, barred from setting foot outside Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford. She was diagnosed in September with Hodgkin lymphoma, which her doctors say is 80-85 percent curable with chemo, but fatal without treatment.

"I'm not surprised by this ruling but I'm highly disappointed."

Wednesday's ruling also maintains a ban on any hospital visits by Cassandra's mother, Jackie Fortin.

'The judge issued a decision today denying our motion to let Cassandra go home and denied our motion for visitation without explanation," Cassandra's lawyer, Joshua Michtom, said in a statement.

"I'm disappointed in this ruling, not least of all because it draws a factual conclusion that is directly contradicted by the weight of the evidence. Cassandra's mother's lawyers and I are conferring with our clients now and about next steps, including whether to take another appeal."

The teen recently described to NBC News how she spends many days roaming hospital halls, playing bingo with other patients or doing online schoolwork. She said Wednesday she is deeply unhappy — particularly about the blockade on her mother and the fact that her release date remains uncertain.

"I'm not surprised by this ruling but I'm highly disappointed," Cassandra said in an email sent via Facebook messages. Physically, she added, she is "feeling fine."

Connecticut child-welfare authorities had been "working on" allowing Fortin to see Cassandra on Easter Sunday, then start weekly visits, the teen said.

"But after the ruling they are now unsure of how that will work," she wrote. "They are unsure about my release date. It's assumed that I can come home April 27th but we might have to receive an answer from a judge to do so. I'm not 100 percent sure."

Jackie Fortin has said she supports her daughter's decision. Cassandra initially refused chemo because she said she didn't want to endure the possible, long-term toxic effects of treatment, including, she said, any potential that the drugs could leave her prone to developing cancer later in her life. She had wanted to try "alternative" treatments first.

"We want her to complete her treatment so that she can return home knowing she has put this completely behind her."

Legally, Cassandra remains in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF).

A spokesman for the agency said he could not comment directly on the ruling.

But DCF Commissioner Joette Katz released a statement Wednesday saying her department "is looking forward to the day later this month when Cassandra can happily return home after her treatment is completed and the doctors are confident that she has beaten the cancer."

"We know how difficult this has been for Cassandra and her family, and while we are very pleased with her response to the treatment, we also know this has been a traumatic and scary thing through which she has suffered," Katz said.

"We want her to complete her treatment so that she can return home knowing she has put this completely behind her."