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New York Legislature Rejects Law That Would Assist Medical Malpractice Victims

Despite strong support from the New York Assembly, State Senate, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, this past summer Senate majority leader John. J. Flanagan rejected a bill, Lavern's Law, that would have afforded many medical malpractice victims their opportunity to bring a cause of action.

New York law gives medical malpractice victims two and a half years from the date of the medical mistake to bring suit. The majority standard in 44 states provides a victim the two and a half years from the time the mistake was actually discovered or should have been discovered.

Lavern's Law, named after Lavern Wilkinson, a Brooklyn woman whose doctors failed to inform her of a cancerous mass on her X-ray three years before her death, would have adopted the more lenient majority standard in New York. The law would afford victims like Ms. Wilkinson a more fair opportunity to have their day in court.

The rejection of Lavern's Law reflects a trend of inadequate measures to protect victims of medical malpractice and improve hospital safety. Despite only a small number of cases falling outside of the statute of limitations under circumstances like Ms. Wilkinson's, the bill received strong opposition from the hospital and health care lobby over a concern over an increase in medical malpractice claims.

Additionally, claims which are brought rarely result in any sort of sanction for physicians. Only about 1 percent of medical errors result in a claim and of those claims brought only a small percentage result in disciplinary action against doctors.

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