Disability discrimination: court rules that deaf patient has grounds to sue hospital.


The patient is diabetic and has had a heart pacemaker since last year. The patient is also deaf.

He has recently had to go to the same local hospital three times for his fragile medical condition. It is likely he will continue to need the services of the same local hospital in the future. It is one of only two in the local community.

On these three separate occasions he specifically asked hospital personnel for sign-language interpretive services. His requests were all turned down.

Instead, the hospital's nurses tried to communicate with him through handwritten notes about his medical condition and the complex procedures he was facing. The notes were written both in English and Spanish. The patient does not understand Spanish and his English literacy is limited.

His most recent trip to the same emergency room finally resulted in transfer to another hospital which has interpretive services. This was done because the original hospital simply does not have a policy or the means to accommodate hearing disabilities.

That sparked a lawsuit against the hospital in the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas, which ruled he had the right to sue under the US Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the US Rehabilitation Act.

New Court Ruling Upholds Deaf Patient's Rights

Until now hearing impaired patients' lawsuits against hospitals over lack of interpretive services have faced an uphill battle in the Federal courts.

The Federal courts have been unwilling to order a hospital to change its practices unless the particular patient who was suing could prove the change will have a beneficial impact on the quality of care he or she will actually receive in the future at that same hospital.

In a nutshell, one patient has no standing to file a Federal...

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