Point/counterpoint on New York medical malpractice reform

Recently, a doctor wrote an editorial for the Times Herald-Record in which he decried a recent effort to “effectively eliminate” the statute of limitations on medical liability. (A statute of limitations is a deadline for when a person can bring a lawsuit.)
Naturally, a doctor would oppose this. However, for victims of medical malpractice, eliminating or greatly expanding the statute of limitations would be a good thing and indeed would be in the service of justice.
First, to be fair, we should talk generally about the good reasons for statutes of limitations. They serve as an incentive for plaintiffs to get the ball rolling quickly and they also ensure the integrity of a lawsuit by not allowing evidence time to degrade.
However, in the context of medical malpractice, statutes of limitations do not work quite as well. For instance, not every injury is apparent immediately. Sometimes, it takes years to discover that what a doctor did a long time ago was wrong. Second, medical malpractice victims are scared and often in pain; their primary focus is and should be getting better. Although their right to sue is important and should be acted on expediently, the need to recover one’s physical health is a far greater priority. Finally, do we really want to endorse the idea that time makes an doctor’s mistake excusable? If someone commits a wrong, should they not be punished for it regardless of when the mistake is uncovered?
Once again, statutes of limitation serve legitimate legal purposes in many contexts, but we should not go overboard in applying them to the medical malpractice field.

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