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STATE | ASPS & NYSSPS Help Defeat Date of Discovery Bill

The New York State Society of Plastic Surgeons (NYSSPS) has faced an uphill battle against the state's trial attorneys, who continue to pressure the New York state legislature to advance legislation that would extend the date of discovery for medical liability cases. NYSSPS strongly opposed this legislation, which would extend the current two-and-a-half-year statute of limitations in the state to ten years after the date of the alleged malpractice. The legislation would have a direct and detrimental impact on New York's physicians and would reverse critical reforms originally put in place to remedy the malpractice crisis experienced in the 1970's and 1980's.

Towards the conclusion of the 2015 legislative session, the New York State Assembly demonstrated the legitimacy of the interest in advancing this measure when it passed it on a vote of 96 to 24. Governor Cuomo publically stated that if the bill passed both houses he would sign it into law. The Senate Majority Leader, John Flanagan, continued to meet with key stakeholders to identify concerns and propose ideas that would make the bill more suitable to the medical community.

In January 2016, both houses reintroduced the legislation and all signs indicated that the bill would pass this year. It was apparent that the trial lawyers were not going to let this issue die at the end of the two-year session, but instead were going to press the bill's sponsor, Senator John DeFrancisco, to move the bill during the final months of the legislative session.

NYSSPS and ASPS conducted two grassroots efforts to engage the over 500 plastic surgeons in the state. On May 11, ASPS and NYSSPS sent an action alert out to NY members urging them to write to their state legislators. Through this initial alert, 27 members responded and submitted 53 letters to members of the NY legislature. On May 31, ASPS and NYSSPS drafted a petition for members to sign. This additional grassroots effort was critical, as it was a response to intelligence suggesting that the Senate sponsor was compelled to move the bill with only two weeks left in session. Fifty-four members signed the petition to the entire New York state legislature, including all six NYSSPS Officers and ASPS President, David Song, MD, MBA.

NYSSPS Executive Director and lobbyist, Babette Grey, took to the State House, where she met with members of the state legislature and explained the negative impact this legislation would have on physicians in the state. NYSSPS Officers also made phone calls to senior members of the state legislature to express their sincere concerns with the bill. The ASPS State Advocacy Grant awarded to NYSSPS assisted in financially supporting the society's grassroots advocacy efforts.

NYSSPS and ASPS were active partners in a coalition that opposed this legislation. The coalition, which consisted of the Medical Society of the State of New York, American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, New York State Academy of Family Physicians, New York State Chapter of the American College of Physicians, New York State Radiological Society, New York State Society of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Greater New York Hospital Association and the Healthcare Association of New York, met with the bill sponsors numerous times since the bill's reintroduction in January. In those meetings, the group focused intensely on the very direct and detrimental impact this bill would have on patient care in the state.

After countless hours of advocacy over the past few months, the date of discovery legislation did not progress this session when the New York state legislative session ended in the early hours of June 18. This was a tremendous victory for NYSSPS, ASPS and their coalition partners, and it exemplifies the potential impact ASPS and its local plastic surgery affiliates can have when they unite and work together to advocate on behalf of plastic surgeons and their patients. Congratulations and thank you to all members in New York who helped make this success possible through their engagement in the ASPS and NYSSPS grassroots advocacy efforts.