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Letter: 'Date of discovery' for patients

Emergency room sign.

Emergency room sign. Credit: iStock

A hospital official's recent letter complaining about legislation to grant patients more time to bring civil actions implies that the bill is only supported by lawyers ["Malpractice reform tried piecemeal," June 24].

This is not correct. Nonprofit advocates for patients' rights support this law because it is in fact about patients -- not hospitals or lawyers.

The bill is known as Lavern's Law because of Lavern Wilkinson, a woman who died at 41 from cancer after a hospital failed to inform her about a suspicious mass in her lung. By the time the cancer was diagnosed, it was widespread, and the deadline to file a claim had passed.

Wilkinson left behind a daughter with disabilities. The bill recognizes that it is unfair to shut the courthouse door against patients simply because they suffer from a harm that took time to appear -- like cancer and many other health conditions.

Only five other states -- Arkansas, Idaho, South Dakota, Minnesota and Maine -- preclude such patients from seeking justice. New York should join the other 44 states that have a "date of discovery" rule for medical negligence.

Suzanne Mattei, Manhattan

Editor's note: The writer is the executive director of New Yorkers for Patient & Family Empowerment, an advocacy group.