‘A matter of life and death:’ Avika Shana Dhillon and Advocating for Others

Over the 2022 holiday break, the BC Law Impact blog is running a series of some of the most powerful and fascinating admissions essays from first-year students. These personal statements, submitted as part of their admissions applications, tell a variety of compelling stories, but the thread connecting them all is an example of the kind of person who is attracted to a BC Law education: one who is driven to work collaboratively with others, achieve great things and make a real difference in the world.

We want to thank the Office of Admissions, and all of the student essay writers, for agreeing to share their stories with us. For more Admissions tips and other content, check out BC Law’s new TikTok channel.

Music on hold is torture. Dial-up internet mixed with semi-smooth jazz and alien static, continuing in tightening circles that constrict the listener as a boa constrictor annihilates a deer. As a chronically ill person, hours on hold with my future in peril has made me maintain perspective on what I need to accomplish before time runs out. I need to ensure quality of care from my provider, while not burning out before my cell phone battery does. Am I going to law school because waiting for a medical insurance representative to speak with me enrages me? Not exactly. I am going because the fear that accompanies the entire process of receiving healthcare represents a problem I want to alleviate, and that will best be accomplished by attending law school.

My father had his first heart attack on my tenth birthday. Three years later, my mother was stricken with diabetes and a slew of autoimmune diseases. I witnessed her improve with medication only to have it removed by insurance providers when her numbers got better, causing them to once again plummet. Her doctor followed the duty of care, but the plan they both developed never came to fruition, creating cycles of health and illness, circling a metaphorical drain. Months into high school I, too, received my own diagnosis. I have Crohn’s Disease, an incurable autoimmune disease characterized by agonizing, intense symptoms and I will partake in examinations and regular hospital procedures for the rest of my life. I am invested in understanding the medical system and regularly advocate with doctors, insurance providers, and in the classroom to ensure quality of care for myself and my family.

In college I found myself drawn instead to a traditional understanding of history as my own medical history continued to grow. I studied abroad at the University of Cambridge through the Pembroke-King’s College Programme in 2018, keen to learn about the history and imperialist influence of the United Kingdom. My first course was an Introduction to English Common Law and I was hooked, excited to explore the intricacies of a paper trail and how different laws connected to one another. The issues of healthcare and patients rights in relation to the duty of medical professionals were eye-opening. Cases discussed damages incurred when a dentist extracted sets of teeth without consent, or the legal implications of a doctor saving the life of a child even if the parents were against the procedure. I loved how precedence intersected with the present, lives lived and lost in a tangled web. Law echoes historical study, and I was inspired to reach across a specified historical time period and work with presently marginalized communities. Although academic research was rewarding, often academia proclaims “Look at our research on these groups of people! Isn’t it exciting!” while that knowledge lingers primarily in academic circles, inaccessible and unknown to the community itself. I love history, but I want to utilize it differently. I was intrigued by the relationship between the duty of care and the needs of patients.

Medical ethics continued to fascinate me during my course of study at the University of California, San Diego. One text that struck a chord was Health Care for Some: Rights and Rationing in the US since 1930 by Beatrix Hoffman, published in 2013. Hoffman argues that healthcare ought to be a natural right regulated as a state and federal responsibility— until this moment I hadn’t fully recognized that it wasn’t. The ethics of healthcare directly affects the role of future advocates. The inability of American hospitals to guarantee care is troubling, but law provides an opportunity to create a historical record that will create an ethically promising future. Minority communities lack access to information regarding healthcare, and factors such as generational trauma and language barriers prevent them from receiving care. As a result, people suffer and cannot advocate for themselves or family members. Having experienced these difficulties personally, I empathize with these scenarios and will implement that compassion throughout my career.

Access to legal representation is a matter of life and death. With a legal education, I will help others pursue health, liberty, and happiness without living in jeopardy. The next time you’re waiting on hold, listening to the death rattle of a trombone partially digested by a cell-phone tower, remember what thousands of other Americans endure during the process of receiving care.

Avika Shana Dhillon is a first-year student at BC Law.

One thought on “‘A matter of life and death:’ Avika Shana Dhillon and Advocating for Others

  1. Yes, a very powerful essay. I think social justice is a huge aspect that is often missed when it comes to real world applications of higher education, and this essay does a great job of bringing it to the forefront.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s