Two deaf patients won the right to sue Baptist Health South Florida for discrimination after a federal appeals court reversed a lower court’s dismissal of their case. The appeals court published a detailed opinion that advocates say spells out the responsibility for all hospitals to ensure effective communication with patients who cannot hear, according to an article on the Miami Herald website.
The patients filed a lawsuit in 2014 under the Americans with Disabilities Act after they said Baptist Hospital Miami and South Miami Hospital — both owned by Baptist Health — had refused to provide in-person interpreters of American Sign Language.
The hospitals used handwritten notes, family members as interpreters, and a video system to communicate with the on repeated visits. But, according to the patients, the video system frequently did not work and for speakers of American sign, which is structurally different from English, family interpreters and handwritten notes were inadequate.
Until the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion, there was little clarity on a hospital’s legal requirement under the ADA to ensure that deaf patients have the same opportunity as those who are not deaf to participate in their medical care.
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