Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Price of Disability Law

Stephen Dubner, writing on the New York Times website, decries the consequences of ADA law when it comes to doctors and their deaf patients.

The example he cites as outragious is the LA doctor who had to hire a sign language interpreter for a deaf patient. Dubner says only $58 of the $120 an hour fee (with a two-hour minimum) was reinbursed by the woman’s insurance company. That left the doctor paying more to see the patient than he was getting back for his services.

Dubner considers this outrageous and wrong. He argues that the patient ends up the loser - suggesting that she will get poor care because the doctor is likely to give the patient the runaround and pass over her. He goes on to tell readers that was wrong for a woman to take a New Jersey doctor to court for failing to provide an interpreter. The doctor was made to pay $400,000. Dubner considers this was a frivolous lawsuit.

What he leaves out of his article is the fact that the patient in this lawsuit (Irma Gerena) made repeated requests to rheumatologist Robert Fogari for an interpreter while he was treating her for lupus. The doctor refused to even meet with an interpreter so that he could have ADA law explained to him. Gerena eventually switched to another doctor who immediately changed her treatmen. There were side effects to Forgari’s regiment that were unclear because of the communication problems.

Dubner fails to address the communication problems that take place when writing notes in English is used with deaf patients and what can happen when family members serve as interpreters for deaf patients instead of doctors providing professional assistance. He also doesn't explain why those who speak other languages (like French or Spanish) should be afforded the opportunity for interpreters but not those who are deaf.