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Overlake Medical Center will pay $200,000, revise policies to settle alleged ADA violations

Complaint alleges hospital failed to provide an interpreter to deaf patient for a scheduled induced labor and delivery that escalated to a C-section.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

Washington state's Overlake Medical Center will pay $200,000 and adopt new policies and procedures as part of a settlement over alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Department of Justice announced Monday after the agreement was signed. The settlement stems from a complaint that the hospital failed to provide an American Sign Language interpreter to deaf patient as requested for a scheduled induced labor and delivery that eventually escalated, and resulted in a cesarean section. Her partner, who was present, was also not provided an interpreter, the DOJ said.

The DOJ said the investigation began after the delivery in June 2014. The complainant had scheduled an induced labor at Overlake Medical Center so that she would be guaranteed an ASL interpreter during her delivery; the interpreter was requested 10 days ahead of the scheduled delivery. However, when she arrived, authorities said she was informed no interpreter was available.

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An interpreter was later provided for part of the labor, but when the interpreter's shift ended, the hospital was unable to find another to assist, having failed to plan for a replacement, the DOJ said.

Subsequently, the complainant and her partner were able to communicate with hospital staff only through handwritten notes while her labor escalated and complications set in. The complainant's mother arrived, and knowing only limited sign language, attempted to interpret complex medical procedures and concepts, including during the actual cesarean section surgery, the DOJ said. The complainant's partner was excluded from the delivery room due to the presence of the mother, who was counted as the complainant's "choice" of companion during the birth.

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Following an investigation, the U.S. Attorney's office said they found the hospital discriminated against the complainant, her partner, and her mother by "failing to ensure effective communication and by engaging in associational discrimination."

According to the settlement, the hospital did not admit any violation of the law, or wrongdoing, but has agreed to adopt policies and procedures that ensure that individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing get auxiliary aids and/or services including sign language interpreters when necessary, and must train its staff on the ADA's effective communication requirements. They must also pay $200,000 which will be distributed among the complainant, her partner, her mother, and the United States.

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The complainant also claimed the provider of her prenatal care, Overlake Obstetricians and Gynecologists, violated her rights under the ADA by failing to provide an ASL interpreter for four of her nineteen office visits, the DOJ said.

The U.S. Attorney's Office confirmed this violation as well and said the clinic agreed to change its policies, procedures, and training, and will pay the complainant $3,500.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn

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