Supreme Court Releases Written Decision In Cassandra C. CasePosted: April 15, 2015
On January 8, 2015, the Supreme Court heard expedited oral arguments in In re: Cassandra C, the case involving a 17-year-old adolescent who claimed the right to refuse life-saving chemotherapy for her Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Only minutes after the oral argument concluded, the court issued a brief oral ruling from the bench in which the justices unanimously rejected Cassandra C.’s argument that the court should adopt the so-called “mature minor” doctrine. The court said that a formal written opinion would follow. Today, the court issued its written opinion.
Writing for the court, Chief Justice Rogers summed up the court’s opinion as follows:
In sum, we conclude that the question of Cassandra’s competence to make medical decisions was squarely before Judge Quinn and that her finding that Cassandra was not a mature minor was not clearly erroneous. We further conclude that, because the evidence does not support a finding that Cassandra was a mature minor under any standard, this is not a proper case in which to decide whether to adopt the mature minor doctrine. Finally, because the respondents have not established the factual predicate for their due process claims—that they were deprived of a hearing at which to determine Cassandra’s competence to refuse medical treatment—we reject that claim.
I’ll have more later, after I’ve had the opportunity to read and fully digest the opinion.
Update: Footnote 15 of the opinion contains the following interesting statement:
We emphasize that we do not suggest that the refusal of lifesaving medical treatment is unreasonable, per se. Such a decision may well be justified by, for example, deeply held religious convictions, advanced age, a small chance of long-term survival or the significant likelihood of a poor quality of life. The respondents in the present case, however, have presented no plausible justification for Cassandra’s refusal to be treated. They have merely made the bare assertion that it is her ‘‘right’’ to refuse treatment, for any reason or for no reason.