Ruling favors patients' right to translators

Aurolyn Luykx aurolynluykx at
Thu Mar 10 16:07:29 UTC 2005

These people really have no limits, and no shame.
Amazing that they can put their argument in terms of
how providing translators would "hurt doctors' ability
to serve the poor." So it's speak English or die, is
it? May they all have attacks of appendicitis while
traveling overseas, and be taken to hospitals with no
English-speaking doctors.

--- "Harold F. Schiffman"
<haroldfs at> wrote:

>    From the San Francisco Chronicle,
> Ruling favors patients' right to translators
> Suit by doctors and others dismissed
> - Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
> Wednesday, March 9, 2005
> A federal judge has dismissed a suit by a group of
> doctors and the advocacy
> organization ProEnglish challenging a government
> policy that says medical
> providers risk losing federal funding if they fail
> to furnish translators for
> patients who speak little or no English.
> The suit, filed in August in federal court in San
> Diego, said policy guidelines
> adopted by both the Clinton and Bush administrations
> would impose financial
> burdens that might force some doctors to stop
> serving the poor. The suit also
> argued that the federal law banning discrimination
> based on national origin
> does not extend to languages.
> But U.S. District Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz, in a
> ruling made public Tuesday,
> said the claims were premature, at best, because
> none of the doctors involved
> in the suit could show they faced imminent harm.
> The guidelines, based on an August 2000 executive
> order by President Bill
> Clinton, tell doctors and health care facilities
> receiving federal funds that
> they must provide meaningful access to
> limited-English-speaking patients or
> risk losing their funding. Under the guidelines,
> oral interpreters are to be
> provided for the most urgent services, but
> facilities do not have to provide
> language services that cost substantially more than
> the benefits they offer.
> Moskowitz said the guidelines were flexible and
> allowed doctors to assess their
> obligations based on their patients and resources.
> He said none of the doctors
> in the suit had shown that they would be required to
> hire translators or that
> the government had threatened action against them.
> The judge also questioned arguments by the doctors'
> lawyers that translators
> were unnecessary because doctors could rely on a
> patient's family and friends
> or body language to communicate. Family and friends
> may be unable to help, and
> body language will seldom be adequate to convey
> questions and answers between
> doctors and patients, Moskowitz said.
> The Pacific Legal Foundation, which represented the
> plaintiffs, said they would
> appeal. The doctors "face civil rights charges if
> they don't provide translator
> services, and they face significant financial
> hardship if they do comply,'' said
> foundation attorney Sharon Browne.
> E-mail Bob Egelko at begelko at
> Page A - 6
> URL:
> ©2005 San Francisco Chronicle

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