University of Vermont Medical Center settles lawsuit with deaf patients

Leo Vartorella - Print  | 

Burlington-based University of Vermont Medical Center reached a settlement with the U.S. attorney for Vermont over allegations the hospital did not offer deaf patients effective communications resources, according to VT Digger.

Vermont Legal Aid filed the suit with the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of four deaf patients who said the hospital failed to provide in-person sign language interpreters and could rarely get video conferencing technology for remote interpreters to work properly.

In one instance, a woman who required sign language interpretation spent only 22 minutes with a remote interpreter over the entire course of her three-day hospital stay. She was not able to give her informed consent for procedures that were performed. 

Two patients will receive compensation from the hospital as part of the settlement, which also requires UVM Medical Center to document all interactions with deaf patients for the next two and a half years and submit them to the state Human Rights Commission.

"Being able to communicate effectively with medical providers is fundamental to meaningfully accessing healthcare," said U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan, according to VT Digger. "This resolution agreement demonstrates our office's commitment to protecting the civil rights of all Vermonters and visitors to our state, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing."

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