While the current rate of medical malpractice in the United States places every patient at risk, some have a higher risk than others. Among them are non-English and limited English speaking patients and families (about 20 percent of the U.S. population, or about 57 million people). Just what is this risk, and what does it mean for limited or non-English speaking citizens? More importantly, what rights do people in these communities have if they do experience a serious error? The following explains further.
Understanding the Risks
Numerous studies have been conducted on the potential harm that patients face when doctors make critical mistakes and diagnostic errors. Among them are studies that have examined the potential effects of language barriers, which have found that non-English speaking and limited English speaking patients have an overall higher risk of experiencing:
- Longer hospital stays when an interpreter is not present during admission and/or discharge;
- Line and post-operative infection;
- Pressure ulcers;
- Certain chronic health conditions;
- Surgical delay (including delays caused by failure properly prepare for surgery); and
Many of these risks could be better managed by doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff if they took steps to acclimate to a nation that is becoming increasingly diverse. Examples of how they could do so might include hiring a more diverse work staff, becoming fluent in a second or third language, and ensuring that there are more interpreters are nearby and on call for when they are needed. This should be a priority in every hospital, in every city, and in every state.
When Language Barriers Lead to Injury or Death
Though it may not necessarily be the “fault” of a physician or hospital that a patient suffers an illness, injury, infection, or fatality because of a language barrier, it is their responsibility to ensure patient safety is made a top priority. Therefore, by failing to have – at the very least – an interpreter on-staff to provide services, they can and should be held accountable when a patient or their family experiences a medical error that leads to death or injury. As such, non-English and limited English speaking families should understand their right to pursue compensation, and they should do so with an experienced advocate at their side.
Contact Our Chicago Medical Malpractice Lawyers
If you or someone you love has experienced a medical error that resulted in death or injury, Hurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C. can help. Dedicated to your best interests, we serve as skilled advocates and protect your rights, every step of the way. We aggressively pursue the most favorable outcome possible. Schedule your consultation with our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers to learn more. Call [[phone]] today.