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. (http://nypost.com/2014/02/16/3-li-hospitals-failed-to-help-deaf-patient-who-then-died-suit/)
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 (http://languagetime.org/2014/02/17/nypd-failed-to-translate-moms-warning-ahead-of-triple-slay-via-ny-post/) 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.