October 2013 Volume 10 Number 2

Breast Cancer Task Force Makes a Difference in the Lives of Cancer Patients

In 2000, the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession (the “Commission”) received a grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation to create a program to train attorneys to advocate for breast cancer patients who need assistance related to their diagnosis and/or treatment.

The Commission developed materials that include information on breast cancer and protecting the rights of diagnosed women. Thanks to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the Commission was able to continue this advocacy, and in 2008 the ABA Health Law Section joined the Commission in this work. Together they formed the Breast Cancer Advocacy Task Force (the “Task Force”). The Task Force is now an official part of the Health Law Section.

It is the Task Force’s hope that by training lawyers to advocate for breast cancer patients, we accomplish the dual goals of serving a population of women with special legal needs and providing opportunities for attorneys to do satisfying work. In 2010, the Task Force was recognized for its efforts when it received the Section Officers Conference (“SOC”) Meritorious Service Award. The SOC Meritorious Service Award seeks to highlight the diversity and breadth of the ABA’s Section, Division, and Forum programs and activities and celebrate the important contributions they make to the life and work of the profession.

Most of the women seeking legal assistance will have issues related to coverage for treatment, employment problems, or debt relief. The Breast Cancer Legal Advocacy Guide (“The Guide”), developed by the Task Force, is organized around these three subject areas. Each section is designed to be virtually stand-alone and user-friendly. Many footnotes refer the reader to source materials, web sites, and case law. The Guide is not intended to be an exhaustive treatment of either the science or medicine of cancer, or of the legal issues, statutes, regulations and cases discussed therein. The Guide is intended to provide an overview of the issues a breast cancer patient most likely will encounter and to enable you, as her advocate, to gain an understanding of how to offer assistance.

It is also important to note that many of the legal concepts described in The Guide may be applied to issues related to all types of cancers. Once trained, we encourage you to contact your various bar referral programs to alert those making referrals that you are available, ready, willing and able to provide assistance to breast cancer patients.

In addition, the Task Force has a relationship with the Cancer Legal Resource Center (“CLRC”). The CLRC provides information and education about cancer-related legal issues to the public through its national telephone assistance line. The CLRC also conducts national education and outreach programs for community groups, employers and healthcare professionals and is actively involved in community activities to raise public awareness of cancer-related legal and public policy issues. The CLRC has a professional panel which includes volunteer attorneys that provide free and confidential information. For more information about volunteering for the CLRC Professional Panel, please visit this link.

The Task Force believes that the good works of lawyers trained to provide legal services to women with breast cancer can only be realized by connecting those with needs to those with knowledge. Networking to promote the connection between patient/client and lawyer is part of and essential to the process.

An important component of the Task Force work is hearing the voice of breast cancer survivors -- having survivors share the stories of living through their diagnosis and treatment. Anyone interested in sharing his or her story should contact Jennifer Rangel at jlrang@lockelord.com.

Membership in the Breast Cancer Task Force is free to all ABA members. If you are interested in joining, please contact the Health Law Section Program Specialist, Naomi Shicly at naomi.shicly@americanbar.org.

The ABA Health eSource is distributed automatically to members of the ABA Health Law Section. Please feel free to forward it! Non-members may also sign up to receive the ABA Health eSource.