On Your Side
Holding Doctors Responsible Hillarie Levy Simi Valley, Calif.
By Kate Ashford

(MONEY Magazine) – It took 13 doctor visits and several misdiagnoses before Hillarie Levy's daughter Robyn Libitsky was finally diagnosed accurately with a rare form of bone cancer. Libitsky sued her HMO for malpractice, but the damage had been done: She died of the disease in 2005 at age 29, after winning nearly $1 million in arbitration. For Levy, 53, grief mixed with fury when she learned that only one of the six M.D.s involved had been reported to the state Medical Board--and, worse, that the HMO wasn't legally required to name the other five, so other patients would have no way of learning about their records. Levy, a homemaker, bombarded legislators and the local media with letters detailing the problem and asking for a change in the law. Her efforts paid off: The California legislature passed a bill last fall requiring all doctors involved in a malpractice settlement to be reported to the board. Levy's advice for anyone fighting the health-care system? "Keep a paper trail, don't take 'no' personally and be persistent. Nothing happens overnight."