A Personal Perspective: Being 'essential' during COVID-19

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Attorney Clarence Dass with (l-r) his wife Dr. Renee Dass and his sisters Dr. Clarissa Dass and Dr. Kathleen Dass.

By Clarence M. Dass
The Dass Law Firm

I am often asked why I became a lawyer. For many attorneys, that usually means, “Did you always like to argue?” For me, it actually meant, “Why didn’t you become a doctor?” While at first glance many would view that question as a jab, it makes perfect sense to me: I am the only lawyer in a family of doctors—my wife, father, two sisters, mother-in-law, and father-in-law are all physicians. And while as an attorney I am much more comfortable with the public stage, they by contrast are not. They wake up every day, help patients they can never discuss, and are exposed to illnesses we hopefully will never encounter. At a time when the coronavirus pandemic has dominated virtually every aspect of our lives, I think it is time we thank them on the public stage.

When the federal government announced “social distancing” guidelines in March and state governments followed with “shelter in place” orders, many of us were quickly able to transition to working from home. As attorneys in 2020, much of our work is digital, anyway — e-filing, e-mailing, and e-discovery.

Physicians, on the other hand, do not have that same luxury. Their jobs often cannot be substituted with electronics. They do not get to shelter in place. They do not get to debate whether they are “essential.”

They all are.

At a time when masks and other protective gear is in shortage across the nation and world, many physicians, nurses, and health care providers are having to examine COVID-19 patients without any barrier. Like law enforcement and military, they are literally putting their lives on the line for us every day.

If they are like law enforcement and military, then that makes us like family of law enforcement and military. We worry whether they have a mask at work, whether they will come home at night healthy, and whether they can spend time with their children or elderly parents after leaving the hospital.

As I am sure you do, I follow news of the pandemic daily. I hear the unfortunate cases of COVID-positive patients, and even more sadly, some deaths. By now, many of us know someone who has tested positive for the virus.

What we often do not hear about are the people fighting to keep them alive — the “front lines” of the war against the virus. When we talk about the front lines, we are talking about my family. The front lines are also the people we see quietly working in grocery stores, the trucking industry, and even the attorneys who still must report to work to protect the constitutional rights of litigants.
(Maybe they’re not so quiet.)

If you asked them, they would not complain. This is what they signed up for. They have been doing it. We just have not appreciated them the same way we do now. But they are the ones who go to work today so the rest of us can leave our homes tomorrow.

I love being a lawyer and cannot think of doing anything else. But like all of us, I am also a family member — in this case, a family member to doctors. For me, they are more than “essential”—
They are heroes.

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Clarence Dass is an attorney and the founder of The Dass Law Firm in Bloomfield Hills. He specializes in criminal, family, and juvenile law. Dass served as assistant prosecuting attorney in the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office from 2012-2016, where he handled some of the county’s most violent crimes, including domestic violence, sexual assault, and child and elder abuse. He frequently speaks on issues related to crime prevention and has served as a legal expert for WXYZ-TV.



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