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Medical malpractice defense more difficult for cancer doctors

Cancer is one diagnosis most everyone fears. From the day one learns of the illness, it becomes a fight for life, including surgeries, medications and treatments that take their toll in an effort to heal. However, doctors in New York may now find it riskier to treat cancer patients following changes in the law that may increase the need for medical malpractice defense.

This is because state lawmakers just passed a bill changing the length of time during which cancer patients can sue a doctor if they feel the doctor misdiagnosed them. Prior to the recent amendment, patients had two and a half years from the date of the medical mistake. Now, patients may take the same amount of time, but the clock starts ticking from the moment the supposed mistake is discovered. Patients whose time expired in the past 10 months may get an additional six months to file.

The law came about after a 41-year-old woman learned of her incurable lung cancer after the two and a half year window had passed. By the time she learned that she had terminal cancer, she had no medical or legal options available. She left behind a profoundly disabled teenager. The New York Daily News took up her cause and fought for the passage of Lavern's Law.

Doctors and medical societies largely oppose the law, saying it will make it even more difficult for them to afford insurance for medical malpractice defense. The law may also encourage more frivolous lawsuits. Additionally, it may drive dedicated doctors out of New York for fear of being sued. Those who remain can take comfort in the fact that there are dedicated attorneys to advocate for them when they face the threat of a lawsuit.

Source: NY Daily News, "Cuomo signs Lavern's Law, giving cancer patients have more time to sue for malpractice", Kenneth Lovett, Jan. 31, 2018

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