Do You Speak English

Within the U.S. alone, there are approximately 37.6 million people who speak Spanish at home, and about 2.9 million people who speak Chinese at home. Other Indo-European languages, Asian and Pacific languages, and other languages are also frequently spoken in the homes of families who are residing in America. In fact, nearly 20 percent of people living in America speak a language other than English when at home. And what’s more, millions of Americans—and those living within America—are the victims of hospital errors and malpractice as a result of these language barriers. The attorneys at Lovenberg & Associates, P.C. can represent you if you have suffered from a preventable medical error based on a language barrier.

Language Barriers and Medical Malpractice – A Strong Correlation

In one study, 90 percent of hospitals said that they see limited English proficiency (LEP) patients frequently, and 97 percent reported that they see them daily. According to a 2010 study published by the School of Public Health at the University of California Berkeley, “healthcare providers report that language difficulties and inadequate funding of language services are major barriers to LEP individuals’ access to healthcare and a serious threat to the qualify of care that they receive.” Further, the study sought to identify malpractice claims in which language barriers had a direct or indirect impact on patient harm.

Rates of Language Barriers in Malpractice Claims

The researchers looked at 35 claims. In 32 of the 35, the healthcare providers did not use competent interpreters. In 12 of the claims, important documents—like informed consent forms—were not properly translated. And in many of the cases, the patients suffered irreparable harm or death as a direct result – two children and three adults died. One person had a leg amputated. A child suffered from severe organ damage. A language barrier problem was more common amongst Asian patients. In addition to language barriers, patients who are deaf also require special interpreter services.
When competent interpreters are not used, a patient may not be able to assess his or her symptoms with a healthcare provider, leading to an incorrect diagnosis or treatment. A patient may also not be able to give his or her informed consent for a treatment option to occur; failing to obtain informed consent is an act of malpractice.
Consult with a Medical Malpractice Attorney Today
It is the duty of all healthcare providers to communicate effectively with patients. When proper communication does not occur, a patient may suffer harm as a result, and preventable medical mistakes may be made. Hospitals and other medical facilities are required to provide adequate interpreter/translation services.
If you have suffered from a preventable medical error due to a language barrier and lack of proper translation/interpreter, you have the right to pursue a claim for damages. Attorney Doug Lovenberg of Lovenberg & Associates, P.C., can help. Call our Boston medical malpractice offices today at 617-793-9950.