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Language Barriers Create Medical Errors

The Huffington Post is reporting that a Spanish-speaking patient had the wrong kidney removed during surgery after a clear communication error. This showcases that the medical community has an obvious problem when it comes to communicating with patients who are not fluent in English. There is a need for interpreters not only for major surgery, but all medical communication. Statistics have shown that language is one of the major factors in cases of misdiagnosis and can lead to delays in service. These studies show that patients who have limited English proficiency are almost twice as likely to suffer medical error in U.S. hospitals. This can lead to temporary harm or even death.

These studies prove that the medical system is failing when it comes to addressing the needs of those with limited English skills. Studies show that those individuals with limited English are at a much greater risk for medical error than those who are native to English. Census data shows that over 47 million speak a language that is not English at home. Of that 47 million people, 23 million are considered to be limited English proficient (LEP). There are more than 176 different languages and dialects are spoken across the country. It appears that a qualified medical interpreter is the bridge to saving the lives of LEP patients. Take a look at the medical malpractice study to learn more about these errors.

While interpreters have become commonplace in government entities, courtrooms and classrooms, it is remarkable that hospitals do not have a requirement for translators. In large cities like Chicago, there need to be interpreters in all major hospitals. This would help decrease the kinds of medical error as the study has shown. The independent National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters has launched a program to make certain that there are not only medical interpreters in hospitals, but that they are well versed in medical terminology. If you have been a victim of a medical error caused by a language barrier that led to serious injury, please consult a Chicago medical malpractice attorney to discuss your legal options.