New grant will allow Elder Law Clinic to help promote LGBT health care rights

The Elder Law Clinic has been selected to receive a grant from the Raleigh-based North Carolina Society of Health Care Attorneys (NCSHCA).  The grant will fund community outreach regarding the health care rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people.   

The managing attorney of the Wake Forest Law clinic, Professor Kate Mewhinney, explains:  “In recent years, the LGBT community has gained greater rights and visibility.  The U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld same-sex marriage.  Less attention has been paid to the many legal issues related to health care.  This project will teach providers and the public about health care rights of LGBT people, particularly those who are aging.

“The status of the LGBT community has been steadily improving, but they are still a marginalized and vulnerable population.  When they encounter the health care world, their needs and rights are likely to be overlooked.  It is sad that 40 percent of LGBT older people, ages 60-75, say their healthcare providers don’t know their sexual orientation, according to a 2014 Harris poll.”

The North Carolina Society of Health Care Attorneys (“the Society”) is a non-profit corporation with the mission to provide professional education and other services to North Carolina attorneys who are interested in health care law.  The Society serves as a resource to its members with a wide variety of programs and activities that reflect the diversity of health care clients, and follows issues such as federal and state legislative and regulatory developments.

In its continued efforts to expand opportunities for community outreach and practical experience in the area of health care law, the Society annually awards up to $2,500 in grant funds to law school programs or groups that allow students to provide assistance to clients in the area of health care law.  A premium is placed on proposals that provide practical, “hands-on” experience for students. The Society hopes, over time, that this grant program may open the door to mentorship by practicing health care attorneys around the State as part of such law school clinics and programs.

Under the grant, the Elder Law Clinic will collaborate with other community groups to:

  • Present educational events for health care providers on ethical and legal issues related to care of the LGBT patient.   Government regulations and accreditation rules now require hospitals to give equal treatment to LGBT patients and to allow patients to have non-relatives, including domestic partners, as visitors.
  • Assist people with advance directives at venues such as Pride Winston-Salem (a parade and festival which takes place in October) and other community events that focus on the LGBT community.
  • Prepare community education materials on the older LGBT person, with a focus on health-care issues.

The Elder Law Clinic has always had a focus on health-related legal issues.  The clinic has been a part of the J. Paul Sticht Center on Aging of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center (WFBMC) for more than 20 years and was located in the medical center for most of that time. The program is also a long time member of the National Center for Medical Legal Partnership (MLP). 

Mewhinney, who is managing attorney of the Elder Law Clinic, is an associate in the School of Medicine’s Department of Internal Medicine (Section of Geriatrics and Gerontology) and a member of the medical center’s ethics committee.  She is Certified as an Elder Law Specialist by the N.C. State Bar and the National Elder Law Foundation.

More information can be found on the website of the Elder Law Clinic or by contacting the Elder Law Clinic at 758-5061 or eclinic@wfu.edu. Internet resources and a list of coming events can be found here.

This story ran in Camel City Dispatch.