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Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Doctor's New Prescription: A Lawyer (Hastings MLPS in the NYTimes)

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Maureen Lao, a student at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, assisting a patient at the Lakeside Senior Medical Center outpatient clinic. Courtesy of Yvonne Troya.

This is an excerpt of an article by Paula Span that appeared in The New York Times blog "The New Old Age" on March 21, 2013.

Consider the geriatricians working at the Lakeside Senior Medical Center, an outpatient clinic at the University of California, San Francisco. Many of their patients, despite multiple chronic diseases and advanced age, have never filled out power-of-attorney documents or appointed someone to make health care decisions if they are unable to.

Sometimes, the doctors suspect their patients might qualify for public benefits they are not getting, like food stamps or MediCal, the state’s version of Medicaid. Perhaps they face problems with landlords or appear to be victims of financial abuse, or they ought to have a simple will.

In other words, they need lawyers. But trying to get frail, low-income seniors to consult an elder attorney can seem an insurmountable problem. How will they travel to a law office? Or pay a fee that can reach $300 an hour? Even if the doctors can refer them to a legal aid office, will their elderly patients actually make an appointment? Then remember to go?

At Lakeside there is a simpler solution, said Sarah Hooper, who teaches at the University of California Hastings College of the Law. “The physicians do the initial screenings, hear what their patients’ problems are, take the history — and they essentially write a prescription: ‘Go down the hall and see my friends at UC Hastings for help with this housing issue,’ ” she said.

Each semester, eight UC Hastings law students spend 12 to 15 hours a week at the clinic, the Medical-Legal Partnership for Seniors. Supervised by both the law school and the U.C.S.F. faculty, the clinic “reduces so many barriers to getting legal help,” said the legal director, Yvonne Troya.

Read the full article: The Doctor’s New Prescription: A Lawyer 

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