Pro Bono Project collaborates with Novant Health and Womble Carlyle to help cancer patients with legal needs
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Office of Communications and Public Relations
September 20, 2013
Wake Forest Law students will help cancer patients understand the importance of completing advance directive forms, which are legal documents that allow patients to spell out decisions about end-of-life care ahead of time, according to Melissa Phipps, assistant general counsel for Novant Health. Advance directives provide patients with a way to express their wishes to family, friends and healthcare professionals early on in their illness.
“Talking with individuals about their end-of-life wishes can be incredibly challenging,” she said.
As such, the law students participated in a thorough training program to familiarize them with the law, as well as share communication skills for this sensitive subject. Two mandatory training sessions were held at the law school.
“To create an experience that allows law students to have real, meaningful, hands-on client work that touches people’s lives at a point when they are in the midst of horribly difficult circumstances is just a great gift that we can give to the law students,” added Phipps, who helped train the law students. “This experience will enrich them and help them be better prepared as they go out into practice.”
The clinic will help start “the conversation” with patients before it’s too late, according to Dr. Charles Stinson, clinical director of Pallative Care Services at Forsyth Medical Center, who also provided training for the law students.
Providers at Novant Health want patients to be able to express their wishes to people they trust. Completing a legal document ensures that the patient’s wishes will be honored. Dr. Stinson emphasized that it is extremely important to decide who a patient trusts to speak for him if the patient ever loses the ability to make or communicate his own decisions.
The Wake Forest Law Pro Bono Project partnership with Novant Health is very exciting, says Gelila Selassie (JD ’15), health law coordinator for the Pro Bono Project.
“Novant is well known for providing exceptional health service to North Carolina residents,” she said. “This partnership with the law school exemplifies both Wake Forest Law’s and Novant’s awareness of the changing conditions of health care. We are truly grateful to Novant and area attorneys for giving law students the opportunity to assist oncology patients while honing their lawyering skills.”