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Will New York change statute of limitations on medical malpractice?

When people are injured because of medical negligence, they face a number of challenges. These challenges include the loss of income, mounting medical debt, mounting financial debt and the need for further medical care.

Last year, lawmakers in New York sought to eliminate the 15 month statute of limitations that exists on medical malpractice lawsuits involving municipal hospitals. According to the New York Daily News, victims of medical errors must file a lawsuit within 15 months of the error occurring. The bill failed to attract the support it needed to pass.

Told to take aspirin

The bill attracted public attention in the wake of a Queen's mother who found out she was the victim of a serious diagnosis error two years after the error happened. The woman was experiencing pain in her chest and sought medical assistance at a nearby hospital in 2010. The emergency room physician told her that it was nothing to worry about and that she should take Motrin. Before she left the hospital, a chest x-ray was taken.

Unknown to the woman, the x-ray showed the existence of a nodule in one of her lungs. However as she returned to doctors over the next two years, no one followed up on that x-ray. She was told that she had asthma as she continued seeking treatment. In May of 2012, she returned to the same hospital with a chronic cough and experiencing shortness of breath. It was then the chest x-ray was finally looked at.

Terminal diagnosis

The nodule was the beginnings of lung cancer and over the two-year period, it had been able to grow unchecked. As a result of the doctors' failure to diagnose cancer in 2010, the woman's cancer had developed into stage 4, making her situation terminal and giving her six months more of life. She learned that if doctors had followed up on the x-ray, she would have been able to go through an operation to remove the cancer, giving her a chance of survival.

The woman decided to file a lawsuit and it was then she learned about New York's statute of limitations and the 15-month time period. While she accepted a settlement from the city of a little over $600,000, it is believed that she could have been awarded a much larger amount had the statute of limitations not been an issue, which would have ensured that her disabled daughter would be cared for. The woman died in March.

It was hoped that the woman's story would finally prompt lawmakers in the state to eliminate the time limit. Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, the bill's sponsor, expressed hope that lawmakers will pass the legislation in this year's session. When people suspect that they have been the victim of medical malpractice, they should seek legal counsel as soon as possible.

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