Pro Bono Legal Service for Cancer Patients
5 June 2006 at 1:06 pm
Australia’s first pro bono legal service for cancer patients has been established in a unique corporate community partnership.
Specialist cancer centre, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, in Melbourne has established a partnership with law firm Baker & McKenzie, to provide a specialist pro bono legal service for its cancer patients.
In a tribute to Law Week, the program was formally launched by Jenny Mikakos MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Justice, at a ceremony on Thursday 25 May.
Baker & McKenzie has served as pro bono lawyers to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation since 2002. As the relationship between Peter Mac and Baker & McKenzie developed, the lawyers learned more and more about the issues faced by people whose lives have been touched by cancer.
According to Director of Pro Bono & Community Service at Baker & McKenzie, Jennifer McVicar, sourcing the knowledge and networks to support ill and vulnerable people through their legal issues has been a time-consuming process for the dedicated Peter Mac Social Work staff.
McVicar says for this reason Baker & McKenzie committed to further supporting Peter Mac’s outstanding work in the community through the development of a targeted patient assistance service to provide advice and representation to patients of Peter Mac who would otherwise be unable to afford legal assistance.
She says the aim of the Cancer Patients Legal Service is to augment the multi-disciplinary, holistic model of care that Peter Mac fosters, in alleviating the stressful burden of issues such as obtaining access to superannuation, establishing powers of attorney and other issues that often critically ill patients have to address.
The Chairman of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Dr Heather Wellington, says Baker & McKenzie’s support for patients is a fine example of modern corporate social responsibility in practice.
Baker & McKenzie’s Pro Bono Partner, Ken Gray says the firm is delighted to partner one of Australia’s most respected medical organisations in such an important venture to improve the care and support available for people with cancer.
He says Baker & McKenzie feels very passionate about supporting this initiative because of its potential to alleviate the burden of legal practicalities for patients already dealing with a major health issue.
A pilot program, started in October 2005, has already benefited for more than 20 patients to date.
The partnership has been a triple win situation – Peter Mac’s social work staff are relieved of trying to stopgap legal needs they are not qualified to deal with, and receive knowledge and skills from the legal team; the legal team in turn gain some invaluable insights and experience into a major health issue in our society, and of course the assistance provided optimises the quality of care for patients.