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Death sparks Simi mother’s mission

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Death sparks Simi mother’s mission

By Adam Foxman, afoxman@VenturaCountyStar.com
August 20, 2005

Following her daughter’s death from cancer earlier this year, a Simi Valley woman has launched a campaign seeking more accountability for healthcare providers.

Hillarie Levy, whose daughter Robyn Libitsky died in February at age 29, has contacted state legislators in hopes of interesting them in her cause.

“I feel none of this would have happened — (Robyn) would have been diagnosed correctly and her life would have been saved — if there had been better legislation for oversight,” Levy said.

Libitsky died after a five-year battle with Ewings sarcoma, a rare form of pediatric bone cancer. Levy said a misdiagnosis of her daughter’s tumor as psychosomatically induced back pain and the later denial of certain treatments increased her daughter’s suffering and led to her death.

Levy wants legislation to make current oversight organizations, such as the Department of Managed Health Care, a watchdog agency that licenses and regulates HMOs, more responsive to the public, she said.

“They are not going to be more responsive unless they are being forced to,” Levy said. “That’s why we need the legislation.”

At least one state senator’s office is looking into Levy’s effort.

A staff member for Sen. George Runner, a Republican in the 17th Senatorial District that includes part of eastern Ventura County, has started to investigate Levy’s request, said Becky Warren, a spokeswoman for Runner. But since the Senate is nearing the end of its legislative session, the investigation will be continued in the fall, she said.

Some say, however, that additional oversight is unwarranted.

A package of state bills signed into law in 1999 expanded patients’ rights.

One bill created the Department of Managed Health Care to replace the Department of Corporations as the body that licensed and regulated HMOs. Other bills gave patients the right to sue their HMOs for suffering caused by delayed or denied treatment, while others give patients the right to a second opinion and established independent medical review.

Letter to the Editor printed on August 28, 2005

Accountability key

Re: your Aug. 20 article, “Death sparks Simi mother’s mission”:
     I fully support Hillarie Levy’s efforts to make managed healthcare more accountable.  Current oversight organizations, such as the Department of Managed Care, need to be more responsible to the public in their diagnosis phase, not only to patients and family members.  On Aug. 21, 2003, I lost my only child, Adams Calvert, age 18, to a rare fatal fungus infection called mucormycosis, which was misdiagnosed as sinusitis.
     I’ve read where others in the area have been disfigured by this fungus, caused by misdiagnoses.  How many more precious family members must we lose before accountability is taken?  I pray it’s not a member of your family who is next.

-Loretta Calvert,