Who isn’t nervous before surgery? Even if your condition is not life-threatening, it is always quite unnerving to go under the knife. One of the best ways to minimize your anxiety is to ensure that you and your doctor have a good relationship and are in constant communication – both before and after the procedure.
Unfortunately, that is not what happened to “B.W.,” who checked into Highline Medical Center in 2014 for a cervical laminectomy. B.W. was deaf, and according to the complaint he filed with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the hospital did not comply with his request to have an interpreter present both before and after the surgery. The interpreter was there beforehand, but not at any other time.
B.W. filed an ADA complaint with the U.S Department of Justice…and he won. Here is part of what the judge wrote:
“When the doctor tried to talk to him about his condition being worse than was thought, he was relegated to writing notes which B.W. had trouble reading because he was just out of anesthesia and had difficulty moving his neck. This included communications regarding the fact that the surgeon found more damage in Complainant’s spine than expected, necessitating a bilateral decompression.”
“Complainant was also unable to effectively communicate regarding the significant pain he was experiencing and was unable to effectively ask questions regarding his condition. Instead, the Hospital relied upon note-writing, despite the fact that Complainant was recovering from general anesthesia, was unable to move his head or neck, and was in significant pain, and was without the use of his reading glasses or hearing aids.”
“Highline Medical Center also failed to provide an ASL interpreter during Complainant’s discharge from the hospital. Further, Highline Medical Center failed to provide an ASL interpreter for Complainant’s companion, his wife, who is also deaf, during both of these times of critical communication. These failures caused significant distress to both Complainant and his wife.”
The DOJ put out a press release earlier this month, announcing that the case has been settled. Although the hospital did not admit any wrongdoing (which is standard in these kinds of settlements), it has agreed to rewrite its policies about interpreters and to also provide training to its employees about being ADA-compliant.
So B.W. was able to turn his traumatic experience into something positive, at least for future patients.
To read the settlement agreement, click the link below.