Making the law work better for people affected by cancer: a McCabe Centre issues paper

Tuesday 2 April, 2013
by Sondra Davoren and Deborah Lawson

Whether we're consciously aware of it or not, the law influences how people make decisions about health care, treatment and support. This is no different for people affected by cancer.

Take Joe (59) for example, who's just been diagnosed with bowel cancer. His oncologist has advised him that he'll probably need to take 2-3 months off work for treatment, which may include surgery. Joe is considering whether to take early retirement and access his superannuation, or whether he should use his sick leave and annual leave, so that he has a job to come back to after treatment. He only has four weeks leave currently owing between the two, and he's unsure whether he has any entitlement to more leave.

Joe lives in Swan Hill (with his wife Barbara) and may have to spend a couple of months in Melbourne while he's undergoing treatment. If he's not working, he doesn't know if he'll be able to pay for this and keep up with his mortgage repayments. He thinks that he has income protection insurance through his super provider but he's heard it's really hard to access. He wonders if he'll be better off travelling back and forth for treatment, although this will be costly in terms of petrol, time and energy.

Joe has a son in Geelong with whom he could stay during the week so that he wouldn't have to travel so far, but his doctor has warned him that this might affect his eligibility for transport and accommodation support from the Victorian Patient Travel Assistance Service.

Cancer Council Victoria's McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer, and Strategy and Support Division are examining the multiple ways in which the law impacts on the experience and outcomes for people affected by cancer, their carers, and healthcare professionals, with the aim of making the law work better.

We've recently released an issues paper which outlines some key themes and legal issues-these were identified for us by people affected by cancer, and by professionals working in cancer treatment and supportive care. The purpose of this issues paper is to promote discussion on how to make the law work better for people affected by cancer; so, over the next few weeks, we'll be blogging about a different issue each week, and inviting feedback from readers and subscribers.

To start with, we're focussing on the following four areas:

  • Financial support for transport and accommodation for cancer patients and carers in regional areas
  • Employment, including discrimination, access to workplace rights and returning to work
  • Discrimination in insurance
  • Decision making at the end-of-life

We'll be consulting with Victorians across regional and metropolitan areas in the coming months, before releasing a final discussion paper towards the end of the year including recommendations on law reform, advocacy and education on legal rights in the four key areas identified.

To join our mailing list and receive regular updates about this project, please email

For more information, please check out our issues paper.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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