I recently had the pleasure of attending the 2012 conference of the National Cancer Legal Services Network, held just a few weeks after Storm Sandy hit New York. This terrific event was organized by Randye Retkin, director of NYLAG’s LegalHealth Unit and attended – despite the storm – by professionals from over 50 organizations from around the country working to alleviate the legal and economic consequences of cancer.
The keynote speaker was Eric Manheimer, a physician, writer and social commentator who is the former Medical Director at Bellevue Hospital, the oldest public hospital in the nation. Dr. Manheimer has had years of front-line experience caring for cancer patients and dealing with the economic, policy and ethical issues that surround patient care. He is also the author of Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital, a memoir in which he shares his views as a doctor, and as a newly diagnosed cancer patient himself. He spoke movingly about the unique circumstances and challenges faced by his patients and about his struggles dealing with his own cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment. He also addressed how a natural disaster such as Sandy affects people with serious illnesses and how the “darkness makes visible” the health care needs and health care inequities they face.
Dr. Manheimer recently authored an article in The New England Journal of Medicine that expands on the theme of “seeing in the dark,” revealing the fragility of patients in New York City’s public hospitals, and the “interconnectedness of everything” they face – poverty, marginal to no housing, lack of insurance, education debt, language and legal status issues, unemployment, bankruptcy, and untreated mental and physical conditions. At NYLAG we know only too well how these risk factors play out in the lives of our clients. If Storm Sandy helps to put the spotlight on the enormity of the problems they face every day – problems that were there before the lights went out, then some measure of good will have come from this devastating disaster.
Blog Post by Yisroel Schulman
President & Attorney-in-Charge