Not Providing a Sign Language Interpreter is Neglect:

Julie and Matt Svatos gave birth to their first child, Stella, at the Fairview Range Medical Center in Hibbing, Minnesota. During the birth a sign language interpreter was provided to aid in facilitating communication for Matt because he is deaf. The following morning the doctor came in to talk to the new parents about Stella possibly having a brain abnormality. The doctor spoke to both parents without the aid of a sign language interpreter regarding the need to proceed with a CT scan as well as several additional tests. Julie was doing her best to hold the newborn child and sign to her husband while trying to process the information herself. “It was hard,” Julie recalled, “and I felt that I couldn’t communicate to my husband everything that was going on.” The Svatos’ were at the hospital many times within the following days and continually asked the nurses and doctors for a sign language interpreter, but were denied every time. “They would just kind of ignore me as if I wasn’t there,” Matt Svatos said. “And they would only talk to Julie, as if she was the only one in the room. I just felt like they were treating me like a piece of furniture just standing there in the corner.” The Svatos’ filed a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and sued Fairview Health Services.   

This case is one of many complaints filed against hospitals in Minnesota. Oftentimes in rural areas, deaf patients are not provided with the sign language interpretation services they so desperately need in order to make informed decisions regarding their healthcare. Despite it being the law, providing interpreters doesn’t seem to be a high priority for many hospitals. Rick Macpherson, an attorney with the Minnesota Disability Law Center, said, “It gets pushed way down the list of budget items, this isn’t a very expensive item to fix. But I think many entities just push it out of their minds.” Regarding providing sign language interpretation services, Macpherson stated, ”It’s not just a favor for the deaf person, but it’s necessary for the institution to make sure they’re getting information correctly as well.”

Interpretation Services Combat Substandard Care and Discrimination Faced by Deaf Patients:

Providing sign language interpretation services is a basic right for deaf patients and one that ensures they have a clear understanding of their health and the information being relayed them. It’s imperative for patients to understand what’s going on in a medical situation, how medicines work, treatment plans, the prognosis, medical history, information regarding surgery and tests. Improving the availability of sign language interpreting services in hospitals, can help to combat the substandard care and discrimination deaf patients face on a regular basis. Hospitals need to establish regulations and develop protocols in order to access interpretation services when a language barrier is present. “Communication is very critical so medical providers can understand what patients need and patients can understand what kind of care is being provided to them,” said Kelby Brick, director of The Governor’s Office of the Deaf & Hard of Hearing in Maryland, “Without that information the providers are operating in the dark, and that can have devastating consequences for the patients and increase liability for hospitals.”

Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) and On-site Interpretation Services:

Language services such as
on-site interpretation and video remote interpreting (VRI) are highly efficient solutions to combat language barriers. Developing a partnership with a language service company can greatly benefit your hospital in providing quality care to your deaf patients. If appointments are pre-scheduled, having an on-site interpreter attend the appointment is the best way to achieve understanding and facilitate communication between medical staff and deaf patients. On-site interpretation allows the physical presence of the interpreter, which is important when sign to spoken word communication is being interpreted. If the situation is an emergency an interpreter can be accessed using on-demand video remote interpreting (VRI). This remote interpretation service allows you to connect with the perfect interpreter for your needs, anytime of the day or night and with little to no wait time. Partnering with a language service company, educating and training medical staff on protocols associated with accessing an interpreter, can save your institute from being sued or much worse, putting a patient in harm because of a language barrier. Don’t allow your hospital to fall victim to a dilemma that can easily be handled and prevented with ease and confidence, interpretation services can ensure all patients are provided with optimal care.

Niki’s Int’l Ltd. is a WBENC-Certified Women Business Enterprise with 20 years of language service experience. A global network of highly skilled interpreters and translators are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for on-site, telephonic and video remote interpretation services. Our linguists are available in over 350 languages and dialects, and our network includes certified interpreters and translators. Our work is guaranteed with a $1 Million Errors & Omissions policy, so that you can be confident that your project will be completed with the highest level of quality and professionalism within the field. For more information contact us at 1-877-567-8449 or visit our website at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment