Medical-Legal Partnership in the News

Medical-Legal Partnership in the News

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pprsa0221a Medical Legal Partnership in the News

Pediatrician JoseAlberto Betances, MD, and lawyer and housing expert Edward Rice teamed up to help a family in Boston. “Sometimes, medically you can only do so much,” Dr. Betances says. The teamwork “made all the difference in the world,” Rice says. [Photo by CJ Gunther / www.cjgunther.com]

Doctor-lawyer advocacy: When medicine isn’t enough

Medical-legal partnerships team up physicians and lawyers to help remove legal and social barriers that prevent vulnerable populations from getting needed care.

By AMY LYNN SORREL, amednews correspondent. Posted Feb. 21, 2011

A 2-year-old boy had all the symptoms of severe eczema when his mother brought him to JoseAlberto Betances, MD. Before seeing the pediatrician at Boston Medical Center, the single mother of four had taken her son to another facility, where higher doses of medication did not appear to resolve his condition.

After a few questions, Dr. Betances discovered that more than allergies were ailing the child. The family had been battling their landlord over a roach infestation in their public housing apartment. The boy was known to be allergic to the bugs, which lurked in the floors, refrigerator and sinks.

That’s when Dr. Betances picked up the phone and called a specialist. Only this time, it was not another doctor. It was a lawyer.

“Sometimes, medically you can only do so much,” Dr. Betances said. “You realize that, as specialized as your training has been, you still can’t help the health of this family. But it’s not because medicine is failing.”

Through that call, Dr. Betances was connected with Edward Rice, a housing expert and a staff attorney at the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Assn., which provides free legal assistance to low-income residents primarily through pro bono services of private lawyers. Rice began building a case to convince housing authorities that the roach problem was harming the boy’s health and to compel the landlord to

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Medical-legal partnership promotes health and well-being by drawing on the strengths of two powerful professions to ensure families' basic needs--for food, housing, and safety and stability--are met.