The Ethical Dilemma of Forced Chemotherapy on a Teen

Academic Scholarship

This writing is about an incident that happen in Connecticut in January 2015, about a 17 year old girl named Cassandra who refused to continue taking chemotherapy to treat her Hodgkin’s lymphoma, poses a genuine ethical dilemma. This incident is actually a huge conflict between two major ethical principles. Both of them are equally important and have to keep a tab on. First principle is respect for autonomy, and that is the calls for respecting individuals’ right to self-determination. In this case, this ethical principle means that Cassandra’s right to refuse medical treatment and that is her choice to decide whether to receive it or not even if it is a lifesaving therapy. The second ethical principle that contradict with the first one is beneficence, and that is the principle which directs physicians and hospitals to maximize benefits and minimize harms in caring for patients.

In this case this principle means that the doctors and the hospital has a right to introduce treatments and medicine and there by save Cassandra. When you compare between these to situations and the ethical principles that involved in it, you find that both parties has their own right. On one side, as a human and choice to make the decisions the 17-year old should get what she wants and it should be 100% of her choice but on the other side the doctors has better knowledge and they took an oath to save life’s under any circumstances. They have a duty and commitment towards the 17 year old. Another major issue in this case that the 17-year old is a minor and her parents are responsible for her till she is an adult. So if they wanted to perform the therapy treatment on her daughter even though she refuses it, then doctors have to do it against her will. The parents has legal obligations and care that will allow them to make medical decisions on her behalf. In this case despite the usualness where the parents try to convince their children about the importance of the medical treatment and thereby saving their life, Cassandra’s mother decided to upheld her daughter’s refusal of treatment.

When the incident went out of hand there by court got involved. Courts have an authority to overrule parents decisions especially regarding medical conditions that threaten the life of the child. In such cases, the court temporarily removes the custody or guardianship from the parents and give it to someone how rather makes right decisions for the child’s health and benefits. This case shows lack of clarity where they are not being specific about why the teen refused to take the treatment. Chemotherapy is not treatment that you just take and get it over with. It is continues process which is both hard and painful that can go on for months or maybe years. If the teen is refusing it because she can’t handle the suffering then it is different. There is no way for the doctors or court to decide whether the girl is going to be 100% cured and perfect at the end of the her treatment circle. If that is the case then the teen might have decided to skip the constant suffering from the treatment and go and enjoy what little time she have got. If that is the case then the teen should have the right to decide what is good for her because only she knows the suffering. This case includes so may dilemmas because too many people are involved in it and it is hard to decide who is right since everyone is right in their own ethical perspectives. According to Kant he wrote that “whoever wills the end, will the means” (Macklin, Ruth. 2015). This means that whatever the courts or parents decides for the teen, they are morally breaking the teens right to decide.

In my dilemma, it is about a father how has been involved in an accident that crushed his legs with an heavy metal object. The worker’s (father) family has 3 kids and a wife. He is been working for long hours every week and everyday so that he can earn extra money to support his family’s needs. Before this accident happen and for the past some time since he is working longer hours he takes something (energy pills) to keep him up. When this incident happen he did not report the “something” that keeps him up to the management and medical examiner. This is dilemma where it is possible that it could have weakened the worker.

Kant would have looked at this incident where the worker had a duty to be honest and thereby report the misuse of the pills that has been keeping him up. In this case the worker should have done the right thing and that is being honest. Although, is he were to honest and reported what he have done then that might have caused him his career and thereby he may be eliminating his chance of supporting his family. This should consider as a situation where a morally good person doing the good thing.

This dilemma also can be defined with the care-based theory too. This is an ethical theory where the health care based on the two sides of the dependence of two or more people on each other and emotional response. In this case the ethical thinking of the worker is to support his family and that is his priority. Since our moral responses are guided by the need of taking care of family and their needs you can’t really blame the worker for not reporting the aid.

For me it is also the thinking of the need to fulfill the family’s need is what driving me. Taking care of my family and making sure about their well being is my first priority and therefore my morality always ties up with that.


Macklin, R. (2015, January 13). The Ethical Dilemma of Forced Chemotherapy on a Teen. Retrieved November 19, 2017, from