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Deaf woman sues hospital for refusing to provide on-site interpreter

October 31, 2016

Dive Brief:
A deaf Florida woman who plans to give birth at Bethesda Hospital East is suing the hospital because it refuses to provide an on-site sign-language interpreter in the delivery room, instead relying on video-conferencing technology to utilize a remote translator.
The patient argues that video conferencing is insufficient because during labor she can’t see everything occuring on a monitor. She has given birth once before at a hospital that did provide an in-room interpreter, but is trying this time to use her local hospital.
According to the National Association for the Deaf, the case is far from unusual. It says many pregnant patients and some with other medical conditions have undertaken similar legal fights.
Dive Insight:
According to the letter of the law, an in-room translator is not required. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says hospitals must provide effective means of communication, but does not specify what constitutes “effective.”

“We receive complaints all the time from all over the country about hospitals refusing to provide on-site interpreters—or any interpreter—for medical visits, including labor and delivery,” says attorney Debra Pitkin of the National Association for the Deaf.

Given the lack of explicit direction, hospitals may do well to heed the concerns of their deaf patients. “When I’m giving birth I can’t see everything that’s going on with a monitor,” says patient Margaret Weiss. “What if I have to change position? Or close my eyes? What if there are technical problems? That’s not effective communication.”

Recommended Reading
Yahoo Parenting: Why a Deaf Woman Is Suing the Hospital Where She Plans to Give Birth



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