May 15, 2020

My Client Has Cancer. Now What?

By Eunice Aikins-Afful, Esq., Boston, MA, Vice Chair, Cancer Legal Advocacy Interest Group

Cancer does not discriminate.  It can happen to anyone at any time.  The diagnosis of cancer is shocking, frightening, and fraught with worry.  Worry about the future, worry whether one will be part of the future, and wonder about the toll patients’ survival will take on their minds and bodies, their caregivers, and their families.  

The ABA Health Law Section’s Cancer Legal Advocacy Interest Group (CLAIG) began in 1993 as the Breast Cancer Task Force.  The group’s focus was to create training programs for attorneys to counsel breast cancer patients and their families on the legal issues associated with a cancer diagnosis and treatment.  The group has since evolved to encompass all cancers with the goal of helping as wide an audience as possible.

In the 27 years since the group’s inception, the CLAIG has hosted numerous workshops to train attorneys on how to provide legal expertise to cancer patients.  Prior workshop topics included labor, employment, end of life planning, family law and estate planning.  The workshops have also included presentations from oncologists who discussed treatments, legal issues experienced in their clinics, and clinical research trials in progress.  The CLAIG will host its next workshop at the Health Law Section’s annual Emerging Issues in Healthcare Law Conference (EMI) in Los Angeles March 10-13, 2021.  Please feel free to join us!

Triage Cancer is a group that has recently partnered with the CLAIG to educate patients and caregivers on practical and legal issues.  The group typically presents three in-person conferences annually in addition to hosting webinars on finances, insurance, clinical trials, etc. Many of its free resources are available on its website (www.triagecancer.org).

Another member organization is the 501(c)(3) non-profit, Cancer Legal Resource Center (CLRC), which has partnered with the CLAIC for many years.  The mission of the CLRC is to provide resources on cancer-related legal issues to cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, healthcare professionals, employers and others coping with cancer.  The CLRC is seeking attorneys with experience in a wide range of legal areas, including (but not limited to) employment, insurance, estate planning, government benefits, medical malpractice, consumer rights or family law to join its Professional Panel and to help people navigate their cancer-related legal concerns.  Speaking to an attorney who is an expert in a person’s legal issue can make a major difference to that person. Attorneys licensed in any state are welcome to apply. Please use the following link to access the application: https://thedrlc.org/cancer/professional-panel-application/.

How can you help?

  1. Download the CLAIG Legal Advocacy Toolkit - https://americanbar.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_0wDIGvzTN4ldd5z
  2. Join our Interest Group.  The group meets monthly as a collective for one hour and offline ad hoc for projects.
  3. The current Advocacy Guide is being revised.  Donate your time to help.  Contact Marlene Garvis at marlene@marlenegarvis.com if you are interested.
  4. Contribute  news to HL Bytes, the Health Law Section’s weekly news bulletin, by contacting Eunice Aikins-Afful at eaikins2@gmail.com.
  5. Connect with the CLRC - https://thedrlc.org/cancer/professional-panel-application/.
  6. Learn more about Triage Cancer and refer clients to its website (www.triagecancer.org).
  7. The CLAIG will begin planning for the 2020-2021 ABA year soon. Let us know what programs would be of interest to you or what legal questions you would like us to answer by emailing Eunice Aikins-Afful at eaikins2@gmail.com.

We look forward to collaborating so you can best aid your clients!