Following up on Department of Justice Access to Justice Director Lisa Foster’s recent speech, and my video on “The Litigant Voice,” I had an idea about how we can all start to think about, in Lisa Foster’s words:
What if we pressed the button on our cell phones and focused not on the [legal] profession and the courts, but on the people who need us – the people who need access to justice. We might view the work that needs to be done differently.
Specifically, at least 20% of hospitals in the US now have some form of patient and family caregiver council (I am on the Johns Hopkins Oncology one — vision: “To integrate the patient and their caregiver’s perspective into all aspects of cancer treatment from diagnosis thru survivorship. Our goal is to instill hope and humanity in the evolving world of cancer care..”) (By the way, the general link is a comprehensive survey of modes of patient engagement in hospitals, and includes many others, probably of which we might find suggestive in the legal context.) In other words, these councils are trying to do just what Lisa suggests, and, based at least on my very limited experience, making real progress.
While they surely vary, the councils present an opportunity for communication between consumers and managers/providers, with ATJ folks having an opportunity to reflect on the experience of being an outsider in a powerful system. (Indeed, at a recent National Academy of Medicine meeting on the general subject, I got some mileage by telling folks that the way we got judges to think about feeling powerlessness was to reflect on their encounters with the medical system. The point was well taken.) I would think that self-help center staff and leaders, as well as court leaders generally, would particularly enjoy the crossover experience between our two systems.
And if there is no Council in place where you get health care, suggest it. (By the way, if you get the feeling that having a law person around makes them uncomfortable, change hospitals ASAP.)
Lots more to come in future blogs about cross cutting ideas.