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If you participated in any of the End-of-Life Care Series events held at Albany Law School during February of this year, then you witnessed a labor of love orchestrated by Cassandra Rivais ’16.
“Putting together the End-of-Life Care Series has been one of the greatest experiences that I have had so far at Albany Law School,” said Rivais, who had initially begun planning for the event on her own but after realizing the scope of the project, sought out help among others who were passionate about health law. “I reached out to Dean Ouellette who put me in contact with Professor Bailly at the Government Law Center, where I found dedicated volunteers within the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys’ Student Chapter.”
The extensive planning for the event began in September of last year and continued until the last speaker had finished presenting on the evening of February 23. The first event of the three-part series was co-hosted with the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of NYS and focused on the role of hospice and palliative care during the last days of an individual’s life. The second event addressed the role of medical professionals in end-of-life care from both legal and medical perspectives. The third and final event of the series focused on ethical issues that often arise during end-of-life treatment and care.
“Putting together the End-of-Life Care Series has been
one of the greatest experiences that I have had so far at Albany Law
“The whole series was highly interactive and informative,” said Rivais. One of the presenters was Dr. Timothy E. Quill, a high-profile professor of medicine, psychiatry, and medical humanities at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. He is also the director of the Center for Ethics, Humanities and Palliative Care in Rochester, N.Y., as well as a board certified palliative care consultant.
“It was really exciting to collaborate with Dr. Quill because he was the lead physician plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court Case Vacco v. Quill, which was heard in 1997 and challenged the law that prohibits physician-assisted death,” said Rivais, who would like to become a bioethics consultant herself one day.
Rivais grew up in a small town outside of Rochester, N.Y. and attended the University at Buffalo where she majored in English and minored in Political Science and Biology.
“I had my own case load and one of the things that I got to do was help a child get a new back brace
after his insurance company had denied him coverage. ... It was rewarding for me because
I was finally helping people when they
needed it most.”
“Originally I had planned on pursuing medical school after graduation, then I attended a law school fair and realized that there was this thing called health law. After considering my options I decided that this would be a better application of my strengths. I chose Albany Law School because of its joint degree programs. I am in the J.D./M.S. program at the Alden March Bioethics Institute at Albany Medical College. The joint program has enabled me to achieve my end goal of helping people in a medical setting while simultaneously stimulating my inner-academic,” Rivais said. “I am an academic at heart. I love to read and write so I am genuinely interested in my studies and the ‘lawyer logic’ seems to come naturally to me.”
Rivais has participated in many internships and activities over the past three years that have given her the opportunity to work closely with individuals in need of help and support.
“One of my most memorable experiences happened this past summer while I was interning with the New York State Attorney General’s Health Care Bureau,” she said. “There is a health hotline set up for the public that is staffed with attorneys and paralegals — they help individuals navigate the health care system and sometimes even mediate between insurance companies and health care professionals on the individual’s behalf. I had my own case load and one of the things that I got to do was help a child get a new back brace after his insurance company had denied him coverage of this necessity. It was rewarding for me because I was finally helping people when they needed it most.”
This semester Rivais is acting president of the Health Law Society and the executive editor for the Albany Government Law Review. She will graduate from Albany Law this spring and recently accepted the Clinical Bioethics Fellowship at Albany Medical College’s Alden March Bioethics Institute. In the long-term, Rivais has her sights set on a career in a health care setting within the public sector.