Monthly Archives: February 2014

Tragic Deaths Result from Language Barriers

By Louis F. Provenzano Jr. and Eric Candle

Two recent disturbing incidents demonstrate the life-and-death importance of access to [qualified] interpreters.

In one circumstance, a deaf patient died without having access to an interpreter. According to the New York Post, Alfred Weinrib passed away on Long Island without even learning his diagnosis.  (

The incident, the Post said, started in September 2012 when the Long Island resident went to Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, N.Y., with seizures. According to a recently filed lawsuit, the doctor told the family that they didn’t provide interpreters for the deaf. Worse yet, the family was refused an interpreter in two other hospitals. A nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip laughed when the family showed her a sign in the facility encouraging deaf patients to request interpreters.

Their lawsuit claims that diagnosis and treatment options were explained to neither Mr. Weinrib nor his family, the procedures were performed without fully and clearly explaining the “risks and benefits”, and videophones which should have helped him communicate, were broken.

Tragically, Mr. Weinrib passed away in April 2013 of malignant melanoma.

Not doing enough to alleviate known health care disparities and outcomes may result in Civil Rights money damages in court that are not typically covered by malpractice insurance since they are not part of professional duty of care under provider’s insurance policy.

The New York Post also reported ( that a Queens, N.Y., woman who was murdered with her two daughters, (age 2 & 1) had filed a police report months earlier saying she feared her husband would kill them.

Deisy Garcia, an immigrant from Guatemala filled out the state-mandated domestic-incident report in her native language.  However, her warning was never heard as the report was never translated from Spanish to English for the police to act on her fears of being murdered by her husband.

New York City Police department regulations mandate that reports made in foreign languages must be translated into English.

Three people were killed as a result of language barriers not being properly removed so that police officials and emergency respondents could effectively provide the care and safety that is required in such situations.

There are two federal mandates that guarantee the provision of meaningful access to federally‐funded services for Limited-English-Proficient, LEP individuals,the 1964 Civil Rights Act that prohibits federally funded agencies and programs from discriminating against individuals based – among others – on national origin, and the President’s Executive Order of Year 2000 on “Improving Access to Services for Persons with LEP”

The Americans with Disabilities Act, ADA of 1990 prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities (including deaf and hearing impaired people) in employment, transportation, public accommodation (including medical treatment), communications, and governmental activities.  It affords the same protection against discrimination to Americans with Disabilities as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The federally funded agencies must provide a qualified interpreter, and can’t charge a person for the interpreting services.

With all the progress that the country has made ensuring that language access is provided when needed, these recent deaths, back to back, showcase the need for stricter enforcement and much more education and training on this issue.

We applaud the Department of Justice that prosecutes negligence in these cases.  Until hospitals, police departments and other agencies that receive federal funding realize the importance of providing qualified  interpreters, prosecution and costly ligation for wrongful deaths, sadly, will likely  continue.


About Eric Candle

Eric is the President of ECdata National Training Institute, a NY-based interpreting and cross-cultural communication training and language access consulting company and is the International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA) U.S. Coordinator and NY State Chapter Chair.

He is a qualified medical interpreter with 15 years of professional experience at the largest NY State hospitals, a credentialed translator, and a licensed Community Interpreter trainer.

Eric is a lecturer at the State University of New York and has studied and taught in Canada, Germany, Austria, Norway, Ukraine and Russia.

He is a passionate advocate of the meaningful LEP patient’s access to healthcare services and has delivered numerous presentations all over the world on professionalization of Medical Interpreting, National Certification and new modalities in delivering language services.

He holds a MS degree in Computer Translation and Computer Science, and an advanced Certificate “Creating and Leading Strategic Growth”. His college graduation work was executed and presented in English, German and Russian languages.

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A woman’s plea in her native language goes untranslated, three lives are lost –via CNN


New York (CNN) — New York Police Department officials say they can’t explain why a fearful woman’s domestic-abuse report — written in the woman’s native language of Spanish — was never translated into English for review, and for possible action.

The woman and her two daughters subsequently were stabbed to death. The woman’s husband, arrested as he tried to flee to Mexico, now faces charges of first-degree murder.

And a group that has a lawsuit pending against the city on behalf of six other Latina women says the case of Deisy Garcia and her young daughters is far from unique in New York.

The paper trail that ends with the January deaths of Garcia and daughters Daniela, 2, and Yoselin, 1, stretches back to last May.

On May 30, Garcia filed a police report saying she feared her husband would kill her and their two daughters. Garcia spoke Spanish, and it was in Spanish that she filed the report. According to the NYPD, that report was never translated into English for further review.

On January 18, according to authorities, Garcia and her daughters were stabbed to death in their Queens apartment, allegedly by Garcia’s ex-husband and the girls’ father, Miguel Mejia-Ramos.

Police say officers at the murder scene filed their own report, but the department has no explanation for what happened to Garcia’s report from months earlier or to another report from Garcia, again written in Spanish, after a November incident.

“I knew about the police report, and I knew about the police showing up at the house previously on one of the times where Deisy had called the police because she had been the victim of domestic violence,” says Roger Asmar, an attorney hired by Garcia’s family. “But we did not know that every time Deisy filled out a report — every time she went to the precinct or the cops came to the house — no one actually translated the text into English, so, apparently no one looked into it.

“No one translated it and they just put it away or placed it into the system … three complaints were filed by Deisy, and none of the times she filed a complaint did police actually arrest Mr. Mejia, her ex-husband.”

Police have confirmed the May 30 report, and CNN has obtained copies of reports dated November 27 and 28 from Garcia’s family, who found them among Deisy Garcia’s belongings after she died.

On November 27, cops responded to a call from Garcia.

“She said when her husband came home, he threatened to kill her. She was crying so she called the police and told them that her husband had threatened to kill her,” said Sara Alvarado, Garcia’s aunt, who was present during the police visit that time.

As she had in May, Garcia once again filed a domestic incident report and wrote in Spanish, “at about 2:40 am my husband came home and assaulted me, he pulled my hair and kicked me twice, then grabbed my phone. After he did that, I called the police, but he changed and ran out taking a phone that is not mine with him. Today in the morning, he was threatening me that he would take away my daughters.”

Police are unable to say whether that report was ever translated, either.

On November 28, Garcia made a follow-up visit to the precinct, filling out another complaint, but her claims did not lead to an arrest.

In statements to police following the slayings, Mejia-Ramos allegedly said he’d been drinking when he got home on the night of January 18, according to the Queens district attorney’s office. He went through his wife’s phone and Facebook account and saw a photo of her with another man, he told prosecutors.

According to the Queens district attorney’s office, Mejia-Ramos said he grabbed a knife and stood over Garcia and allegedly stabbed his wife multiple times before entering his daughters’ bedroom where he gave each of them a hug and a kiss, and stabbed them as he asked for their forgiveness.

The three bodies were discovered by Garcia’s uncle and a 12-year-old cousin the next day.

To read more of this article courtesy of CNN, click the link below.


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Tongue tied in Afghanistan –via PBS Newshour


Sardar Khan cradles his infant son in one arm as he considers a thick stack of his life’s most important documents on a glass table before him. The documents include medical records, letters of recommendation from U.S. military officers and five passports–one for Khan and each member of his family.

Khan is 26, an Afghan native, and has spent seven years working as a translator for the U.S. Army. He is proud of his work, but fears that it has put him and his children in danger. And the visa program designed to help Afghans like him escape such danger, he says, has done little to secure his safety.

I am living in a village where everybody knows me … who I am, who I am working for, where my house is, these things,” Khan says. “They are just waiting for a small chance, like if the security gets a little bit worse. I am really concerned about my babies especially. I love them more than my life.”

Khan says he applied for a U.S. visa in 2012, under a program designed to help Afghans like him escape the country. He had an interview with the U.S. Embassy in early 2013 and has been waiting for an answer ever since. The process has left him emotionally and financially drained.

“We did this much paperwork to…get an interview scheduled,” he says, holding the documents aloft.

“It cost me around $5,000 U.S. that I spent for a better future.”

To read more of this article courtesy of PBS Newshour, click the link below.


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NYPD failed to translate mom’s warning ahead of triple slay –via NY Post


A Queens woman who was butchered last month with her two young daughters had filed a police report in May saying she feared her husband would murder them, but her warning went unheeded — because it was in Spanish and never translated.

Deisy Garcia, an immigrant from Guatemala, filled out the state-mandated domestic-incident report in her native language after calling officers to her Jamaica apartment May 30 to say her husband, Miguel Mejia-Ramos, had assaulted her, police sources told The Post.

In the report, whose instructions are printed in English and Spanish, Garcia, 21, wrote that she was afraid Mejia-Ramos, 29, was going to kill her as well as their kids because she loved them so much, sources said.

Garcia called 911 on Mejia-Ramos again Nov. 28 and filed another report, although she didn’t repeat her worries about being killed.

Neither report was translated into English by either the patrol officers or the Domestic Violence Unit at the 103rd Precinct, where Garcia lived, until after Mejia-Ramos allegedly flew into his jealous rage and fatally stabbed her and their daughters — Daniela, 2, and Yoselin, 1 — on Jan. 18, sources said.

In response, police brass reminded all cops that NYPD policy mandates that reports made in foreign languages must be translated into English, sources said.

The NYPD is also looking into using computer software to automatically translate the reports, sources said.

Garcia’s mom, Luzmina Alvarado, lashed out at the NYPD when informed by The Post of the blunder.

“I’m in so much pain,” she said, adding. “I’m not sure how to go on.”

“I know she contacted them and told them he kicked her and abused her, but the police told her they needed to see proof of the abuse. They told her there was no evidence and left it at that,” Alvarado said.

“I told the cops, ‘Now that my daughter is dead, you’re hunting for this man like dogs, but if you did more earlier — if you had listened to my daughter — she might be alive today.’ ”

Garcia’s brother José Garcia, 19, added, “When someone comes to them with a problem but only speaks Spanish, find someone who speaks Spanish.

“They’re supposed to help us no matter who we are. My sister and her kids might still be alive if they had done their jobs.”

To read more of this article courtesy of The NY Post, click the link below.


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3 LI hospitals failed to help dying deaf patient: suit –via NY Post

Picture of Alfred Weinrib.JPG

Alfred Weinrib died of cancer but never knew his diagnosis after 3 Long Island hospitals allegedly did not have sign language interpreters on staff.

A cancer-stricken deaf man died without ever knowing his diagnosis after three Long Island medical facilities failed to get him sign-language interpreters — for seven months, his family charges.

Alfred Weinrib, 82, even attempted suicide after nurses at one geriatric rehab facility ignored his desperate pleas for help getting to the bathroom because they couldn’t understand him, his children claim in a Brooklyn federal court lawsuit.

The nightmare began in September 2012, when the longtime Flushing, Queens, resident went to Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, LI, with seizures. A doctor there allegedly told the family the hospital didn’t provide interpreters for the deaf.

Nothing changed after Weinrib, a printer by trade who once wrote for Silent News, a national newspaper for the deaf, was transferred to the Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Commack, his children say.

And a nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip, where Weinrib was also treated, laughed when the family showed her a sign in the facility encouraging deaf patients to request interpreters, according to court papers.

“Diagnosis and treatment options were not explained in a meaningful way to Alfred Weinrib or his family,” allege Lance and Melinda Weinrib, who are “Procedures were performed . . . without fully and clearly explaining . . . the risks and benefits.”

Videophones, which should have helped Weinrib communicate, were broken, his kids — who are also deaf — claim.

He died in April of malignant melanoma.

To read more of this article courtesy of The NY Post, click the link below.



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