Living with Cancer: Jury Duty

Jury duty is an obligation of all American citizens.  Most people dread receiving a jury summons in the mail because it interferes with working.  The government will pay you to serve on a jury (in Ohio, it is $20 a day) to help you financially defer any costs for the day.  But, what happens when you receive your jury duty notice in the middle of lung cancer treatments?

Receiving a summons

In Ohio, I received my summons via US Postal Service.  I immediately freaked. Since I am in active treatment, I was terrified it would be a week when I had therapy scheduled.  Then I realized since my lobectomy, not a day goes by that I don’t run out of energy by mid-afternoon and take a nap.  My first thought was, “how do I get out of this?”

I read the summons carefully to see what to do. I was required to go online and fill out an information page.  I completed that task, waiting for something to arrive in the mail telling me a date.  It was about three months later when I received my summons.

Talking to your care team

First and foremost, contact your oncologist's office immediately.  The nurse or even the secretary may be able to help you.  But don’t delay - most states have a short time period in which you need to respond.  Ask your oncologist’s office for a note (this can simply be on a prescription pad) stating that you are in active treatment and cannot serve.  Any type of "excuse from jury duty" goes to a judge for approval so you want to be as thorough as possible.

If you have access to your online medical record, I would suggest also include documents with your most recent diagnosis, written report of last CT scan and a document with your oncologist's name.  If you are on oxygen, include a document (a bill, a doctor’s order) that shows you carry a portable oxygen concentrator at all times.  If you are in a wheelchair, be sure to mention that.

Things to consider

Most courts are in a downtown area.  This may require a lot of walking, and we know how difficult that can be.  Do you have to use public transportation?  These are just a few questions to ask yourself to possibly use as the excuse to help substantiate your reasons for being excused

When I was summoned, I simply scanned the above documents, sent them to the email on my summons, and received an email 3 days later excusing me.

Again, it is different in every state so you may be required to submit additional documents, but this is a place to start.  For example, as mentioned before, the state of Ohio requires you to go online and confirm you received the summons.  From there, I was directed to "Excuse or Defer Jury Duty."

I realize this sounds like a lot of work to be excused. But, as we know, not much is simple when it comes to the government.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on January 28, 2020, Jennifer Toth passed away. Jennifer was a passionate advocate for the Lung Cancer community. She will be deeply missed.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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