On Dec. 14, it was reported that a bill that could make it easier for cancer patients to file medical malpractice claims was sitting unsigned on the governor’s desk. Called Lavern’s Law, this bill would extend the window of time that patients in New York and elsewhere around the country could initiate medical malpractice cases concerning cancer to when they discover the error. As the bill stands, the two-and-a-half-year time limit starts when the mistake actually happened.
The bill was named after a single Brooklyn mother with two children who, in 2010, went to Kings County Hospital for pain in her chest. Her X-ray showed that she had an unidentified mass in her chest, but the radiologist didn’t advise her to seek additional information about her condition. She ended up getting diagnosed with lung cancer after returning to the same hospital in 2012. By this time, the cancer had spread, eventually killing her. If she had been diagnosed during her original visit in 2010, she could have potentially survived. Her family could not file a medical malpractice claim as the statute of limitations had expired by the time they learned of the error.
Activists and labor unions worked together in 2016 to move Lavern’s Law forward. It was passed by the New York State Legislature in June. Once it is signed by the governor, a misdiagnosed cancer patient will have two and a half years to file a lawsuit upon the discovery of the medical error.
When it is believed that someone may have cancer, a delayed diagnosis or a doctor’s failure to diagnose cancer can reduce his or her chances of survival. Once an individual is diagnosed with cancer after mistakes are made, he or she must be diligent with not only seeking treatment but with filing a medical malpractice claim due to the statute of limitations. An attorney may look over the evidence and determine if a patient has a valid claim against his or her doctor.