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Teen Forced to Undergo Chemo Dies at 22

Cassandra Callender fought cancer for 5 years
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 15, 2020 2:02 AM CDT

(Newser) – Cassandra Callender, who was forced by Connecticut courts as a teenager to undergo chemotherapy for cancer, has died after a five-year battle with the disease, her mother said Thursday. She was 22, the AP reports. Callender, of Windsor Locks, died Tuesday at home, where she had been in hospice care for four months, Jackie Fortin said. “The cancer never went away,” Fortin said. “They said they saved her life. They lied. She suffered for five years. It was horrific. If you did that to your dog, you’d get arrested.” A judge in 2015 ordered Callender, known as “Cassandra C.” during her legal fight, to undergo chemotherapy for Hodgkin's lymphoma. She had refused treatment, saying she didn’t want to poison her body. She and her mother had missed several appointments, and doctors notified the state Department of Children and Families, which stepped in, according to court documents.

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A juvenile court judge removed Callender, who was 17 at the time, from her home and placed her under guard in the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Her case went to the state Supreme Court, which ruled in January 2015 that the department wasn’t violating her rights. Doctors eventually implanted a port in Callender against her will to administer treatment, Fortin said. She lived at the hospital for six months. In 2016, Callender disclosed that a mass had been found on her lungs and that she would undergo alternative treatments. At that point an adult and able to make her own decisions, Callender eventually agreed to more chemo, immunotherapy, and other treatments, but the cancer spread, Fortin said. “Some things work, some things don't. Nothing always works. Neither is a guarantee," she said. “That was the point we were trying to make all along. It should have been her choice.” Callender leaves behind 19-month-old twin sons.

(Read more obituary stories.)

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