By Indhira Benitez
The story of Laverne Wilkinson has been a headlining topic in the media this past month. Unfortunately, the tragic, unavoidable truth has brought Wilkinson’s story to an end. According to hospital officials, the 41-year-old Brooklyn mother succumbed to the cancer that was left untreated and undiagnosed.
After learning about her cancer too late, Wilkinson was wronged yet again by an archaic state statute of limitations that gives patients only 15 months from the time of the medical error to file suit against municipal hospitals. By the time Wilkinson was properly diagnosed in 2012, that window of opportunity was already closed. Her lawyer is pushing for the law to be changed. According to her attorney, “Her wish was for … Gov. Cuomo to change the law so that this does not happen to anyone else.”
When Wilkinson went to Kings County emergency room complaining of chest pains, a radiologist spotted a suspicious two-centimeter mass in her right lung, but Wilkinson was never given the results. A first-year resident, who advised her to take Motrin, instead sent the church-going mother home. To Wilkinson’s surprise she was actually suffering from early stage lung cancer, which could have been cured with surgery. Wilkinson accepted a $625,000 settlement from the city, a fraction of the possible $10 million that would have come with a negligence lawsuit.
This story has touched the hearts of many and drawn tears from the eyes of people all over the country, especially members of Wilkinson’s congregation. Laverne Wilkinson’s story is a tragic and unfortunate one. Wilkinson’s supporters are hopeful that this sad story sparks a change in legislation, delaying the start of the statute of limitations until a patient is made aware of medical errors. Our partners tirelessly push to change these laws, which include traveling to Albany on Lobby Days to meet face-to-face with legislators and push for patient protections which the vast majority of states have. We urge every citizen to let their state representatives know that this should not happen. We all hope that Governor Cuomo now has the impetus to push for legal changes.