Not Using Medical Interpreters Could Lead to Medical Malpractice

by,_attached_to_Naval_Health_Clinic_Hawaii,_awaits_a_response_from_an_elderly_Vietnamese_man_after_communicating_to_an_interpreter_at_Nai_Hiem_Dong_Ward_Station.jpgMany of us take for granted that when we walk into a hospital, doctor’s office or pharmacy that we are going to be able to clearly communicate with a medical professional. But what would happen if our native language was something other than English? For example:

In December 2012, a man entered the emergency room at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Maryland. He was suffering from shortness of breath, vomiting and abdominal pain. He spent two days in the hospital before he passed away. According to a hospital inspection report, the man spoke only Spanish and no one discussed his condition or care plan to him in his native language until just over an hour before he died.

The United States is becoming more culturally diverse everyday. Safety experts are concerned that those who provide medical care are not making interpreters available to patients as often as they should be. Instead, many medical professionals rely on patient’s friends or family members who do not understand medical terminology. This lack of availability of professional medical interpreters is thought to be putting about 9% of the population at risk for an adverse medical event.

In a report published in a 2014 issue of the Journal for Healthcare Quality, it was cited that a lack of informed consent and medication errors were more common among those who do not speak English.

In the past two decades, the number of people in the United States speaking a language other than English has climbed by 158%. The health and safety of these non-English-speaking citizens is at risk, simply because hospitals either do not have the funding to hire professional interpreters or do not have policies in place dictating the use of these men and women. Relying on friends and family members is not a viable or safe option when it comes to health care.

If you have been a victim of medical malpractice in New York due to a language barrier or for any other reason, call our office. A member of our team will review your case and advise you of the options available to you under state law. Call today or browse our website for more information about our firm.

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